Christopher Fowler: The Once and Future King

This month, we are delighted to have a book choice from Christopher Fowler, multi award-winning author of nearly fifty novels and short story collections, including the Bryant & May mysteries.

His other novels include Roofworld, Spanky, The Sand Men and Hot Water. He has also written two acclaimed memoirs, Paperboy and Film Freak, plus The Book of Forgotten Authors. In 2015 he won the CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’ for his body of work. He lives in London and Barcelona, and blogs at

“When I first read T.H. White’s magnificent fantasy novel I had yet to divide reading into categories; a book was simply a book regardless of its elements. Before White’s five-part novel the legend of King Arthur had usually been treated as a rather wooden foundation myth. Here we’re recklessly thrown into the life of ‘Wart’, the young prince, as a time-travelling Merlyn transforms him into various woodland animals and teaches him the real lessons of kingship. It’s only later that the great tragedy of Lancelot and Guinevere unfolds.

Even though he was working from Malory’s ‘Morte D’Arthur’ template, the Bombay-born author had trouble settling on a definitive narrative; he rewrote and added and excised the text, so that for years there was no single version and even now there are two, one darker than the other.

I still recall being shocked by the way it spoke to me, not as a teacher to a pupil but as a fellow child imparting secrets both intimate and epic. ‘The forests rang with knights walloping each other’, White tells us in language we understand. The legacy of incest that will seal Arthur’s fate is treated with honest simplicity, but what we take away most is the sheer exhilaration of being young.”

A big thank you to Christopher Fowler for this wonderful choice, which sums up the joy of discovering a brilliant book for the first time.


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