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Review: Ben Aaronovitch talks magic and mortuaries at Farsley Literature Festival

By John Baron

It was a major coup for the folks behind the inaugural Farsley Literature Festival to snag a a Sunday Times best-selling author like Ben Aaronovitch.

The Old Woollen, at Sunny Bank Mills, was chosen as the new – larger – venue for Ben’s visit as so many people wanted to see him. The decision to move to a bigger venue was a wise one as the place was packed to the rafters with fans of all ages eager to see the in-demand writer.

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His Rivers of London novel was first published in 2011 and each subsequent novel in this hugely popular Peter Grant series has also charted, with the last two – 2022’s Amongst Our Weapons and 2020’s False Value – going straight to No 1 on the Sunday Times bestseller list. He’s sold over five million copies worldwide.

Unsurprisingly, Ben started his hour with an admission to the expectant crowd. Like many authors he can pretend to be a bit of an extravert in front of audiences, but is really quite shy and introverted, needing to ‘lock himself away for a couple days’ after events like this.

As such, he had no set speech or agenda planned, but opened the floor up as an hour-long Q&A session so “I know at least one person will be interested in my answer”, he said affably. The session worked like a treat for fans of his work.

Questions ranged from character choices and continuity (he’s making the series up as he writes it, there’s no Tolkien-esque world creating going on here), through to tips for aspiring writers. Tips centred around the need for a good chair or, he warned, you’ll have a bad back!

His Peter Grant books are now set for a TV adaptation, but he has no opinion on which actors should take the roles and remarked that inevitably directors, producers and actors would bring their own creative take to the characters and stories.

This reviewer is a long-time Doctor Who fan and earlier in his career, his Remembrance of the Daleks serial for seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy is rightly regarded as a classic (hey, I quite like Battlefield too!). Given Farsley Lit is a festival of books I didn’t quite feel the audience (or Ben) was ready for a barrage of geeky questions about our favourite Time Lord. I’d have loved to have heard what he thought of Jodie Whittaker’s time in the Tardis and the recent Power of the Daleks finale. Perhaps another time (or a DVD extra).

Affable, entertaining and down to earth, spending only an hour with Ben Aaranovitch left me wishing we had another hour or three to get to know him better and discuss his other work.

He comes across as a down to earth bloke, full of magical stories about magic and mortuaries – and he’s inspired me to check out his Peter Grant series.

The event formed part of Ink Slingers – the first Farsley Literature Festival. Details about coming events can be found here.

  • John Baron

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