>autumn 2006#2 Mike Bignold – The Raptor Man

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Mike Bignold who lives in Beeston Regis, has one reason for writing his as yet unpublished ‘Candlestick Hill’ series, comprising of five books, namely The Doomsday Tree’, ‘Gin Trap at Smoker’s Hole’, ‘The Abandoned Village’, ‘The Trial at Candlestick Hill’ and ‘The House of Square Moon’. They were all done as a means to an end. Not finan­cial mind you, as we all know that writing and money are in many cases highly allergic to each other, but primarily as a tool for learning. (Though in exception­al cases it does pay.. .one hears.) No, Mike decided the best way to get his audience to really empathise with the animal and bird world was by anthropomorphising them, basically giving them human characteristics. In the opening chapter of the series a wise man turns 53 medieval villagers into animals with a spell in order to afford them safety from a lethal enemy. This gives them the opportunity to melt away into the forest as a selection of most of our familiar countryside animals such as badgers, foxes, squirrels, weasels, otters, stoats, hedgehogs, hawks, owls, crows, rats, mice and moles.

In effect, Candlestick Hill’ series has something of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ or ‘Watership Down’ about it.

And in common with both of those titles, it features a society, good friends, mortal enemies, mishaps, merri­ment and not a little sorrow. Whilst the animals have experienced being human, they very rapidly have to get to grips with the conditions and expectations of the animal that they have become, and behave accordingly. After all, survival in this new guise proves just as challenging as in the human world, if not more so. With good nature writing arguably in crisis with urbanisation and technology taking priority over almost everything else these days, it is refreshing to have a book about nature and every generation should have one. Debate. No, no, don’t bother. It’s quite simple as I see it, a book that literally smells of wet, torn, green grass, translates forest life and transports you to a hillside bathed in the glow of a full moon night sky in your mind’s eye is an essential for the sanity of childhood. However Mike’s book is not just for chil­dren, it is a universal story to be enjoyed by all age groups. Any publishers reading this should be minded to have a good look at this one.

Twenty three cows for your baby boy Ma’am?

Mike Bignold was born in Blantyre, Malawi (110 in the shade) to parents running a failing tobacco plantation. Decisions were made and passage home was found, with Mike lucky to be on board having caught the eye of a local chief wanting a (novelty) white baby, purchase price twenty three cows. Once the family had returned home Mike’s father became a priest, but this decision proved a complex one as he ended up committing suicide. After this,

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