Lit Review: Terry Pratchett @ Chiswick Book Festival

Sir Terry Pratchett

Chiswick Book Festival kicked off on Friday in fine style by giving Sir Terry Pratchett the chance to promote his latest book, I Shall Wear Midnight aimed at his younger readers.

He was in a sprightly mood and didn’t disappoint the faithful West London fans at St Michael & All Angels Church with tales from his youth, describing how libraries helped him fall in love with the written word when education failed him. He drew us wonderful mental images of his much younger self begging the Head Librarian for, and getting, a volunteer job in the library so that he could take home as many books as he wanted.

He was asked about his early influences and he pointed us to Punch, its co-founder Henry Mayhew and his book London Labour and the London Poor written in the 1840s. Pratchett was also glad to see how his love of E. Nesbit was shared by his audience.

He revealed that the team behind the recent TV adaptations of his works (in which he appeared in cameo roles) were Discworld geeks after his own heart. For the last production, Going Postal, a working pair of clacks were built in the studio.

When Pratchett struggled to remember a piece of software he used on a daily basis, we’re pretty sure we weren’t the only ones who were reminded of and concerned about the progress of his early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. He no longer writes dedications due to his arthritis; instead he signs the book with a pen or his thumbprint and an assistant adds a stamp. Despite this, he is still an astoundingly intelligent man who is still writing about his own magic world and has given pleasure to tens of millions of young people (and many not-so-young).

The Sunday programme for the Chiswick Book Festival includes a session on local writers, plus talks by Adele Parks, Claire Tomalin, Rebecca Frayn and Sadie Jones and a crime fiction tea celebrating Agatha Christie’s 120th anniversary and featuring Val McDermid and Kevin McNally.