(1937- ) UK dramatist, translator and author who has spent considerable time in Germany, where he published his first adult novel in his own German translation, Ashmadi (1985 Germany; original English text as The Coachman Rat 1987 UK), a remarkable Beast-Fable which ingeniously interrogates more than one Fairytale (> Revisionist Fantasy). Much of his fiction for younger children is intriguingly fanciful.
The Coachman Rat is narrated by its protagonist, who has been born as a rat (> Mice and Rats) in the Wainscot interstices of a small medieval town, and who longs to associate with humans, despite family warnings that the human race rules the world because it is murderous. He soon arranges to be captured by Amadea, a young girl who turns out to be a Cinderella figure, and is further trapped into her Story, being transformed into a coachman by the "Woman of Light" who serves as the Fairy Godmother. At midnight, after the ball, though he returns to rat form he continues to understand human speech – and not the squeaks of his own kind. After Picaresque adventures, during which a scientist attempts to dissuade him from belief in Magic, he is taken over by a humane student; but both are tricked by a revolutionary agitator, with the result that Robert (as the rat is now known) inadvertently betrays Amadea, who is burnt at the stake. Transformed at this point by the Woman of Light back into a coachman, Robert enacts a savage revenge upon the agitator, who has become a corrupt tyrant. But his inhuman savagery, and the plague which now devastates both rat and human worlds, induces him to star in another Story, the legend immortalized by Robert Browning in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" (1842). He drowns his fellow rats to save the human world; and, himself stricken with plague, prepares to die. [JC]
other works (for younger children): Elephants Don't Sit on Cars (1977); The Fastest Gun Alive (1978); Getting Rich with Jeremy James (1979); Beside the Sea with Jeremy James (1980); How to Stop a Train with One Finger (1984); Superdog (1984); Do Goldfish Play the Violin? (1985); There's a Wolf in My Pudding (1986); Superdog the Hero (1986); Yucky Ducky (1988); Superdog in Trouble (1988); Gander of the Yard (1989); Little Billy and the Wump (1990); Gideon Gander Solves the World's Greatest Mysteries (1993); Please Keep Off the Dinosaur (1993).
David Henry Wilson