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Special Offer !  

While stocks last, the Joslin de Lay Mysteries, the Hare Trilogy and Out of the Mouths of Babes are sold as new, signed by the author and personally dedicated to the buyer if specified !  Click here for details



If you want to see want you can buy that is currently in print, there is an update to this section here.  For links to buy books secondhand through Amazon Marketplace, see the complete works here.





You can purchase all my current books at Amazon, and you can even get the older ones from Amazon marketplace.



Now available from OUP

The paperback edition of Mystery Stories - click on the picture.  From creepy school computers to bungling bank robbers; from lost villages to deadly Christmas presents :




Hare’s Choice, Badger’s Fate, Hawk’s Vision


Click here for the critics reaction


Click here for the publishing history


Or read on for an article I wrote telling how I first thought of them, what went into their making and some idea of what they are about.



About Hare’s Choice


Hare’s Choice is a children’s story and must be judged as such.  For most young readers the important section is the communal story and the process which creates it.   The story’s composition springs from the disparate suggestions thrown in by the children, each of which is consistent with the character of the child who makes it.   The final story is in part a fusion, a synthesis, of these elements into a unity and the whole progression is intended as a dramatisation of the process which underlines all art.   Each episode, however, is still an illustration of how the child who makes it thinks, so there is room for the individuality of each one to be expressed.   Nevertheless, I have tried to depict how the sheer act of creation and pride in that act not only identifies the children within the class but also unites them so at the end they become almost a single character.

It’s true that most readers, and indeed most reviewers, have seen the novel in this light. However, I meant more than this, and to express it adequately I must go back to how the novel started.  In 1984, when I was still County English Adviser for Hertfordshire, our primary colleagues set up an in-service day for the rest of us to discuss pre-11 education.  This was before the days of Key Stages.  During the day, several headteachers addressed us on particular aspects of work in their schools.   One headteacher, talking about writing in his rural and rather isolated school, told how one morning some children brought in a dead fox that they had found by the road.   This excited great interest in these country children inured to such sights. At first, they did the sort of things primary schools do - weighed it, measured it and drew it.   Then the head suggested they each write a story about the fox’s probable life before a car hit it.   He brought some of the results in: they were very, very good and I was deeply impressed.

A question came to me which I couldn’t get out of my head.    In future, to these children, which of these foxes was the real fox?   Was it the dead creature they only knew after its death or the make-believe fox they had written about, for indeed they were completely separate entities even though they were meant to be the same? The twenty or so separate imaginative creations could not possibly be identified with the one real fox even though an object of the stories was to do just that – and, of course, in a sense did.

This led me to consider the notion of truth and reality in fiction and a paradox which has always struck – and even amused – me.   Let’s take the Cob at Lyme Regis, a famous enough landmark.   What does everyone know about it?   Well, we all know what it is.   But what specifically happened there?   Unless we’re local, nothing.   But if we’re not, there are two.   A girl called Louisa once fell off it and a woman called Sara Woodroffe once waited on it in vain for her lover to return.   That’s what the Cob means to me and, I suspect, to many people.  The odd thing is that these events never happened.   The first is from Jane Austen’s Persuasion: the second from John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman.   Yet they stick in my mind – and in other people’s - as actual events because they are so persuasive and archetypal, like myth.   They become, in a real sense, true.

So the first motivation to write Hare’s Choice was to make a meditation on the nature of truth, both actual and fictional, to try to answer the question thus posed.   The image of the children composing a story around a significant object like the fox seemed a good starting point.   I had some years before been given The Leaping Hare by David Thomson, a remarkable book which told me everything there is to know about hares, including some things I’d rather not, and brought this wonderful, fascinating animal to life in a way which occasional sightings of it could not do.   A version of the incident of the fox, with a hare instead, seemed the best vehicle for my meditation, but I was not at all clear how I could use it.

It was then that I remembered a short story by EM Forster which had made a great impression on me, The Celestial Omnibus.    In this story, the boy one evening catches a horse-drawn omnibus driven by an ominous driver to a destination he does not know, but is told it is Heaven.   The journey takes him high into the clouds to a strange and wonderful place inhabited by fascinating people, Tom Jones, Mrs Gamp, Ulysses.   The bus driver that night was Dante.  The boy is so sorry to leave, but soon is catching the bus every night.  The drivers change.   One night it’s Jane Austen.   But Mr Septimus Bons, a stern man who keeps such characters locked between covers of bound vellum on his library shelves, has no truck with such nonsense.   One night he goes with the boy to show him such things do not exist.   But he recognises the driver, this time Sir Thomas Browne, and cries out in terror. Next morning his body is found on the local common, seemingly having fallen from a great height.   This notion of a heaven inhabited by characters from literature appealed to me (as it did to Woody Allen who once depicted a heaven composed of jazz musicians).    But what about another heaven inhabited by animal characters?   

Soon after the in-service day, we Advisers were called upon to make a full inspection of all the small schools in the county, those with rolls less than 100.   We knew there was a hidden agenda to this:  the County Council wanted to close them and send the kids to big schools in nearby towns.    So we made our inspection and came to a completely different conclusion.   Our final report, far from recommending closure, insisted on their retention and even wanted money put into them because they offered children a unique and remarkable educational experience.   It’s a measure of the wisdom of those now far-off days that the Education Committee accepted our report and no more was heard about closing these schools, at least, not in my time in the county.

The book’s structure seemed to develop without any need for thought because it seemed so natural.   A section about the hare as a hare, giving the reader a privileged view of its animal life denied to anyone-else in the book, secured Hare’s actual life.   The section of Hare’s finding and the process of her story followed naturally, as did the story itself.   But the final part was difficult.   The differences between actual and fictional truth meant that Hare had existed on two planes, both equally real to the children.  However, the fictional truth was what affected them more because it was a truth they had given her and, when they buried her, their sorrow was more for their creation that the actual animal they never knew.   That’s why their memorial said RIP THE QUEEN OF THE HARES.

As it seemed to me, though, the real question was not simply which of the two truths was more valid, but which one was truer to the hare, who now possessed two different sorts of knowledge.   This is where the idea of the Choice came in.   The concept of the limbo in which Hare meets the Overseer was a hard one to make, but the views she is given of the two possible destinations present her with an almost impossible choice.   Nevertheless, she has to make it.

So she does, but only she and the Overseer know what it is.  I did not, and could not presume to, make the choice for her (not then, anyway), so we leave the story on a question mark, which seemed the only conclusion possible.  This story, it seemed, had an ending but no closure.   Nor did I have an answer to my question.



The Hare Trilogy


After Hare’s Choice was finished I had no intention whatever of writing anything like it again.   When asked, I replied that the choice Hare made was to us – and certainly to me – unknowable.   I stubbornly said this for three years.   Then I received a letter from a headteacher.    She told me that her pupils had really loved the book but they were “very distressed” at not knowing where Hare finally went.    Well, I thought, I’m certainly not in the business of distressing children, though I couldn’t quite see what there was to be done about it because I certainly not going to reply with a glib solution.

Not long afterwards, Meg Rutherford, who did the superb illustrations, rang me up and said, “Dennis, I’ve got badgers digging in the garden.”   I asked her what she thought I could do about it, shouldn’t she get in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture or someone, but she said, “No, I want to draw them.”   I said how pleased I was and could I have one of the drawings, but she persisted and said, “No, I want you to write something about badgers for me to illustrate.”

Well, I wrote her a poem, which went in Meg Rutherford’s Book of Animal Poems (Simon and Schuster) and then wished I had a story about badgers for her.   It was then that the idea, in fact the need, for a trilogy first dawned on me because the glimmerings of an answer to the question of the choice were dawning on me.

So I started Badger’s Fate, in which, a year after the events in Hare’s Choice, the children tell a new story, once again brought about by something found by a pupil, this time about Badger.  Badger’s Fate is a much darker story and this time I consider another aspect of the first question, the notion not of the nature of the two truths but what the two truths actually are, whether one must be “true” to the other and whether telling stories, far from bringing us to truth, can take us away from it.   This demanded examination of the nature of endings, of closure.   

The children’s story here has two endings, one true to the whole thrust of the story and the other not.    One ending is made by the children in the school, except for one.  Emma, who made the first discovery of the badger, is profoundly disturbed by the ending the others gave because she knows it is not right.    Composing the ending she wants  is a hard process for her, but she must do it.   I remembered Hardy’s tart foootnote in Return of the Native saying that the published ending was what the publishers wanted, not what he intended, and he wanted readers with “a more austere aesthetic code” to supply the real one for themselves. For myself, I wish that the ending in the book was “true” because it’s really “feel-good.”   But I know Hardy’s preferred tragic ending is truer to the story.

For Badger though, the choice truly is impossible, however much Hare tries to persuade him, and the book ends on an even more pressing question mark than the first.

The emphasis in the third, Hawk’s Vision, is different again.   This time Hawk is not dead at the start and is still flying at the end, untroubled by any such doubts.   The story now is more about the children.   Things in the educational world had changed since the days of our report, there was a cold wind blowing and our small schools were now fast being closed. So I decided the school in the story must close as well: the prospect for the children was imminent upheaval and the end of their tight-knit group.   The story, though the children talking about the hawk starts it, after Jamila, who is Asian, has seen it and been deeply affected by the sight – is really about the children and the problem they are grappling with.   

In a sense, the choice between their two possible lives (though this choice has already been made for them) is the same as the animals’ choice between the two heavens.   Badger and Hare are waiting for Hawk to join them one day, but for now there is their own choice to consider – or at least, Badger’s, for we left him undecided.    But now the choice is finally made and what it really is should have been obvious all the time: I cursed myself for not having thought of it at once because then the three parts of the trilogy could have been written together instead of with a three-year gap between Hare and Badger.    

In Hawk’s Vision, the last section is about the children, not the animals.    The children have moved on, their own choice is made, their stories have helped them make it by enacting it for them and - I hope - the whole trilogy now can have final closure.


Yule Logs now out !

Click on the cover to order from Amazon UK

Christmas has always been and always will be a special time of year, a time either of great happiness or great sadness and sometimes both.   Here are eight stories of different Christmases, all of which are memorable in their different ways.

The stories are arranged in order of age: the first for young children, the last for adults.

There are two World War 2 stories, one which refers to it and one which refers to another war.  There’s a football story, a ghost story and  two stories with carols in them - and a lot more besides.   There’s a story about a really weird Christmas guest and another about a tumultuous family row.   All ordinary Christmases to start with, but which turn into being anything but ordinary.

Each story has a postscript telling what real memory lies behind it and how it came to be written.



Many of my earlier books are back in print via the Back-to-Front imprint of the Solidus Press. I have chosen some of my favourites to be rereleased by this new publisher. Here are some that you can read now :


The Great Football Treble

All three books are now available.  You can buy them by clicking on the titles :

Haunted United

Beautiful Games

Death Penalty


Two chilling ghost stories

You can buy them by clicking on the titles :

The Ghosts Who Waited

The Railway Phantoms