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Jon Mayhew at GobbleDEEbook

November 3, 2011

Last Friday 28 October I saw Jon Mayhew speak as part of GobbleDEEbook – the Chester Literature Festival’s childrens’ festival.

Jon writes horror for children (or should I say, spooky tales, should the term ‘horror’ seem too strong!) and is the author of Mortlock and The Demon Collector, both published by Bloomsbury. Despite the fact that I don’t write for children myself, I do tend to read more childrens’ books than adult horror – I think because adult horror sometimes tends to rely more on gore and sexual themes for its shocks and can therefore lose a lot of the unsettling subtlety that’s often present in ostensibly ‘tamer’ kids stories.

I was prepared for a pleasant evening listening to readings from The Demon Collector, maybe a few party games, but I was in for quite a surprise. The gathering dusk and the beautiful backdrop of St Mary’s Centre made for a spendidly atmospheric setting for the event. There was no reading from any books at all, instead Jon – a confident showman – educated his all-ages audience on demons and entertained us with some good, old-fashioned storytelling, starting with a tale about how the only thing you should fear is fear itself.

There was more storytelling in the form of ‘Filling the House’ – a traditional fairytale based on Jon’s short story Jacob Carr and the Demon which is available as a free download from his website. Whilst Jon told the story, he got some (in one case a little reluctant and volunteered by his mate!) young volunteers from the audience to act it out. Then there were riddles to be solved by the children (and author David Whitley!) a creepiest laugh competition, plenty of chocolates being awarded for participation and Jon’s own True Ghost Story.

While the evening was engaging, interactive and fun, one of the nicest things I found was that Jon never patronises his young audience. His books, whilst definitely written with children in mind, aren’t sanitised and are in some parts really quite disturbing. Reading his writing is an experience rather like watching an epic adventure film set in Victorian London. I look forward to catching another one of his events as soon as possible.

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