Hi Tim. Welcome to The Book Zone and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for us. First up: how would you describe the Blade books to someone discovering them for the first time?
The series is an urban thriller about a fourteen-year-old boy nicknamed Blade and his battle to find redemption for the things he has done in the past. He has a terrifying skill with a knife and he has used this weapon to devastating effect, but he is a victim of the hideous circumstances in which he grew up, and by the time we meet him at the beginning of the story, he is on the run with his enemies closing in. The series highlights his brilliant gifts of survival but also his vulnerability as an individual as he fights against the odds and struggles with his awakening conscience.
What was the original inspiration for the Blade books?
There were several things that inspired the Blade series. Firstly, I have always had a horror of knives as weapons and while I find them frightening in any context, I am particularly horrified by the thought of young people carrying and using them. Secondly, I wanted to know whether someone who has committed the terrible acts of violence that Blade has can possibly come back from that and even have a future. Thirdly, I remember driving through a town in Devon in the 1980s and finding myself at a pedestrian crossing with the light on green and wondering why the car in front of me hadn't started to move forward. When I looked more closely, I saw that a boy of about seven had placed himself on the pedestrian crossing right in front of this other car and was jeering at the driver and daring him to drive on, which of course he couldn't and didn't. Car horns started going off behind me and eventually, when the boy had had his fun and made his point, he sidled over to the pavement with a triumphant grin on his face and 'allowed' the traffic to move on. I forgot about this boy for over twenty years and it was only when I'd written the first scene of Blade, where the seven-year-old Blade is in trouble with the police for holding up traffic at a pedestrian crossing, that I recognised where he had come from.
Blade is a great protagonist. Can you tell us a little more about him?
He's complex, he's dangerous, he's full of contradictions, he's street smart, he's bright, he loves books, he has an inquiring mind, he's inventive with words, he's likable, he's courageous. He's also deeply damaged. He's been damaged since the day he was born and it wasn't till he was ten that he started to learn to love and to trust. But by then it was too late and when he fled from his enemies at the age of eleven to go to ground in a new city, he sealed his mind against the possibility of ever loving or trusting again. But he didn't seal it tightly enough.
When the Blade books arrived at the school library a few years ago my librarian was a little hesitant about putting them on the shelves because of their focus on knife crime. I managed to persuade her that they were fine for our students. Have parents, teachers or librarians expressed similar concerns to you? What would your answer be?
One librarian did say to me that she was worried the series might glamorise knives for young people, but she hadn't read the books. I suggested that she first of all read the books for herself, and then find me one paragraph, one sentence even, that glorifies knives or suggests they're a good thing. Within just a few pages of the first book, we realise that this boy has a life nobody would want, and things only get harder for him as the story progresses. Far from portraying the romanticised life of some devil-may-care teen buccaneer with swashbuckling knife skills, the story shows a boy haunted by fear and guilt and perpetually on the edge of death, a boy fighting not just to save his own life but to believe in the point of that life. Blade is not a preachy story but it is a deeply moral one and I fail to see how an urban odyssey of this kind with sympathetic character portrayals and fast-moving action can possibly damage student readers, provided they are willing to embrace its issues in a mature way.
I have loved reading books ever since I was a child. Were you like this when you were younger or were you a reluctant reader? Who encouraged you to read when you were younger?
I'm just like you: an avid reader. I started at the age of five and never stopped. I just dived into reading. The first story I read was a sea story (Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone) and I've been passionate about sea stories ever since: Arthur Ransome, C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian, Robert Louis Stevenson etc. I lapped them all up. I also loved Tintin books, which I read in French, and thriller writers – too many to name – and then in my late teens I started moving towards poetry too. Since my twenties I've read pretty much anything that interests me – fiction of all kinds, poetry, non-fiction, e.g. biographies, history, history of music, diaries, letters, philosophy etc.
Is there anything else you would like to say to readers of this blog?
Just that it's been a real pleasure talking to you and to wish you all well. Thanks for your interest in Blade.
Huge thanks to Tim for taking the time to answer these questions, especially as I know he has been very busy recently. If you have not yet discovered the Blade series then the books are perfect for teens who love realistic, gritty thrillers. You can find out more about Tim and his many books at his website http://www.timbowler.co.uk/