Julian on the inspirations and influences of The Phantasmic Detective Agency

A street scene in Edwardian London.

How a book came to be is always an interesting subject, and in the case of The Phantasmic Detective Agency, those inspirations and influences were from a variety of richly creative sources. Here’s a piece Julian wrote for us, for the Teachers’ Notes of the book, which reveals the moment when the idea for the story came into view.

Over several years I wrote a series of spooky, supernatural short stories for young readers including ‘Shadow Wolf’ (about a wolf who escapes a shadow-puppet play to hunt down the good citizens of Edwardian London) and ‘The Man Who Didn’t Like Getting Wet’ (about a man who is granted a wish by a water-fairy with terrible unexpected results). I also worked on the lyrics and story for a musical play based on the well-known Jewish legend of the Golem.

All these ideas came together in a most surprising way when I was rereading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. I imagined a casebook of mysteries for a Holmes-like detective hired to solve crimes involving the supernatural: ghosts, werewolves, faeries. He would stand astride the Old World of superstition, magic and folk wisdom (that feared but respected the mysteries of Nature) and the New World of science and technology (that laid bare the secrets of Nature while taming it to humanity’s control and use).

The setting of Edwardian London seemed perfect for such a story; ever since the mid-Victorian period the pace of technological change and invention (electric lighting, telephones, cameras and cinema, iron ships, aeroplanes) had sped up rapidly. This gave me the idea of two brothers – Alfred, the spirit-detective and Edmund, the stage magician – one performing magic for entertainment, the other for crime-solving. The main characters would be Edmund’s children, Leopold and Lily, who dream of being modern-day heroes, a pilot and a detective respectively.

I enjoyed researching this book from many sources but particularly photos. Images of London were found in Getty Images 1910s: Decades of the 20th Century and Edwardian London by Felix Barker. Several locations in Paris were drawn from the beautiful images of photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927): the windows of Madame Fernier’s children’s clothing store in Chapter 12; Le Cour de Dragon where our heroes enter the catacombs; Le Pain Agile theatre (Chapter 15) based on the Cabaret de L’Enfer, boulevard de Clichy.

You can find the full Teachers’ Notes, which include some fascinating information on the historical  and folklore background of the book, as well as discussion, research and creative activities, at the Teachers’ Notes page of this website, or at the United Publishers of Armidale website, here. 

Publication week for The Phantasmic Detective Agency

We are proud to announce the publication this week of Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful novel for middle-grade/YA readers, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, available now from all good bookshops around Australia.

Prepare to be swept into an amazing world….

London, Christmas Eve, 1911: the world is changing fast: giant warships, aeroplanes with bombs,  spies and assassins, fear of war with Germany. And the cosy lives of teenagers Lily and Leo Keeler,  who long for adventure, are about to be torn apart by secrets, espionage and monstrous creatures. When a shadow-puppet play unexpectedly releases the hungry spectre of Shadow Wolf, Lily and Leo get more adventure than they ever bargained for, as they battle the threat with their uncle Alfred, a brilliant, notorious Sherlock Holmes- like paranormal detective.

But that proves to be only the first mystery in a conspiracy that threatens the whole Keeler family, as Lily and Leo’s stage magician parents vanish for real in the middle of their latest spectacular magic act. From the Royal Naval dockyards of Plymouth to the bone-stacked catacombs of Paris, Lily and Leo and their uncle must confront eerie creatures and spine-tingling danger as they are chased by a ruthless spy-ring determined to harness the dark forces of Magick as weapons of war…

An exciting, inventive mix of adventure, fantasy, mystery and history,  written with a light, sure touch, and featuring engaging characters, atmospheric settings and many twists and turns, this is a novel to enthrall readers and keep them on the edge of their seats. As Michael Pryor notes in his cover quote: With bucketloads of colourful history, all the magic of the theatre and excitement galore, The Phantasmic Detective Agency is a cavalcade of imaginative steampunk delight.

As we mark the publication of this fantastic book, we mourn the loss but celebrate the brilliant creative achievement of its lovely author, Julian Leatherdale, who died last week. It was Julian’s first novel for young readers, after three acclaimed historical novels for adults, and though we are sad that we will not see more fabulous adventures from his pen, we hope that many, many enthralled readers are swept away into the riches and wonders of a truly special novel.

Julian at the Historical Novel Society of Australasia conference, Sydney, October 2019

A tribute to Julian Leatherdale, author of The Phantasmic Detective Agency

Julian at the Historical Novel Society of Australasia conference, Sydney, October 2019 (photo taken by Sophie Masson).

We were very sad to hear the news of the death, on Wednesday this week (April 22), of Julian Leatherdale, author of our wonderful upcoming title, The Phantasmic Detective Agency.

As well as being a brilliant writer, Julian was a lovely, generous person and a delight to work with, and truly professional in the best sense of the term: flexible, hard-working, courteous and always considerate. We sent him his author copies some weeks ago and are very glad that he got to see and hold this, his first children’s?YA novel (though not his first novel of course, as he wrote three gripping, elegant adult historical novels too). His response to receiving the book was characteristic of his grace and warmth, even at a time when he was desperately ill: ‘I struggle to find the right words to describe how moved I am to see this beautiful book in its finished form. It is everything and more than I could have imagined when I wrote it….How perfectly has my vision as writer been realised by your team. I count myself very fortunate that my book found its way to you!
We count ourselves fortunate indeed that Julian’s fabulous book found its way to us, and that we had the chance to get to work with him so closely and happily. We mourn his loss, but are so proud to be publishing The Phantasmic Detective Agency. Next week, when it is officially released, we will be celebrating Julian’s magnificent creative achievement and hoping that many, many readers will find their way to his book and love it as much as we do.
We extend our deepest sympathies to Julian’s wife and fellow writer Claire Corbett, their children Sam and Leo, and all the family, in this time of great grief.
Vale, Julian: you will be greatly missed.

The Phantasmic Detective Agency a Featured Book on United Publishers of Armidale

Eagle Books is very pleased to say that our upcoming(May) title, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, Julian Leatherdale’s wonderful historical fantasy adventure novel for middle-grade readers, is one of the Featured Books for the newly-launched United Publishers of Armidale website.

As well as details of the book, including buying links, on the page you will find some great activities and resources centred around the book.  We invite you to check them out!

All welcome to celebratory Newcastle launch of The Girl in the Mirror!

On Saturday November 30 , 4pm-6pm, our latest title, Jenny Blackford’s fabulous The Girl in the Mirror, will be officially launched at MacLean’s Booksellers in Hamilton, Newcastle, NSW. The book will be launched by celebrated  Newcastle-based illustrator Liz Anelli, and Jenny of course will be in attendance to sign copies of the book. All welcome!

This is a free event but you should register your interest in attending here. 

Our authors at the 2019 HNSA conference

Jenny Blackford and her new novel, The Girl in the Mirror, (Eagle Books 2019)

Stephen Hart, author of The Lighthouse at Pelican Rock(Eagle Books 2018) and his wife and fellow writer Pamela Freeman, author of The Fastest Ship in Space(Second Look, 2018)

Julian Leatherdale, author of The Phantasmic Detective Agency(Eagle Books, coming in 2020)

 

 

 

 

 

Over the weekend we were at the 2019 Historical Novel Society of Australasia(HNSA)’s excellent conference, held this year at the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta South Campus. Eagle Books was a conference sponsor, donating books for delegates’ goodie bags and as prizes for shortlisted writers in the HNSA/ARA short story contest. As well as enjoying the conference and its fabulous program of great speakers and presentations, it was great to catch up with several of our authors attending!

Publication day for The Girl in the Mirror!

Today is the official publication day of our latest Eagle Books title, Jenny Blackford’s gripping, spooky novel,  The Girl in the Mirror.  

Available in all good bookshops around Australia, The Girl in the Mirror is an enthralling mix of mystery, time slip and ghost story, with atmospheric cover and internal illustrations by Fiona McDonald, and we are delighted to have it on our list. Congratulations and happy publication day, Jenny and Fiona!

You can read more about the book here.

 

 

First advance review for The Girl in the Mirror!

An excellent first review of our forthcoming title, Jenny Blackford’s The Girl in the Mirror, has just appeared in Buzz Words magazine, here’s a short extract:

There is a mystery to be solved and lives to be saved and an evil force to be overcome. This time-shifting tale hooks the reader into the mystery with its clever storytelling. The reader wants to join the girls in their quest to remove the evil that lurks in the shadows of both their lives. 

You can read the whole review here.

(The Girl in the Mirror‘s official release date is October 8, but you can order it already from your favourite bookshop.)