For this month’s read, one of our members, Caroline, recommended a recently released book penned by a friend. “Dodger” by James Benmore is a story using characters from the classic Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, from the eyes of the Artful Dodger, one of Fagin’s gang.
The general consensus was that this was a great book, very well written and in a very interesting style, reminiscent of the way people would have written serialized stories for newspapers in Dickens’ time. The characters were very well developed and not all straightforward, which left you loving them the one minute and then hating them the next, which makes for a gripping read.
Perhaps the most exciting element of reading this book, was that we had a Skype call with James, the author, for our monthly book club meeting! Here’s an overview of our conversation:
– How did the idea come about for the book?
I always loved the Oliver Twist book, but found myself wondering what happened to the Artful Dodger as Dickens does not go into his story very much. After completing an Open University course in Creative Writing, I was given the opportunity to attend Oxford University and further my literary studies. As our final project, we were tasked with writing 5 chapters of a novel, so it seemed like a good idea to finally answer the question on what happens to the Artful Dodger. When doing a reading of the book to a group of professors, I was approached by an agent who expressed an interest in publishing the finished book.
– One of the central characters Warrigal was a few of people’s favorite character, how did you come up with him?
I wanted Dodger to come back with something from Australia, and started playing around with ideas such as using Australian words in Dodger’s vocabulary. Then the idea hit me for him to come back with an Aborigine, so we could see London from a different perspective. I almost wanted him to be the opposite to Dodger who was a born and bred Londoner, always had something to say and was mostly very dishonest. By the end of the book, Dodger has learnt that all the people he used to call friends have turned against him, moved away or ended up in an opium den. Funnily enough, Warrigal is his complete opposite but his closest companion.
– Were these kind of relationships and characters predefined or did you come up with them as you went along?
Absolutely planned from the beginning. I knew exactly what I wanted each character to represent. I ended up cutting a lot of Warrigal’s story out of the first draft, because when we read it through it didn’t really fit with the rest of the story.
– Did you have to do much research?
Yes loads! There was a really useful book I found that contained stories collated by a writer in the 1800’s. He had gone around London speaking with criminals, thieves and the poor recording their stories. A lot of the tactics and methods you read about in the book for pick pocketing and so on are based on this. The Oliver Twist book I have also had a glossary in the back explaining what some of the words meant, such as ‘Cove’ for fellow and ‘kinchin’ for child.
– Is there going to be another book?
Yes, I am working on it no, and it will be released early next year.
Well you guessed it, we were completely under James’ spell and we all look forward to getting our hands on his next novel.
– – Above account written by faithful book club member Amelia.
NEXT BOOK CLUB MEETING: Tuesday 29th October
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