|Photograph: Robin McKinley|
'It is not part of fiction's job to tell the reader what to think. But it can be fiction's job to show the reader how it feels, because that can only be done with the imagination.'
It is an extraordinary achievement to be nominated no fewer than nine times for the Carnegie Medal (most recently in 2012 for In the Palace of the Khans), and to win it twice. There were endless other awards too, both here and in the US, and a nomination for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal as well. Peter wrote 60 or more novels, and yet, if you ask people outside the book business if they have heard of him, the answer is invariably 'who?'. Why is this? Is it because he was writing long before the days of Potter, when children's books were a backwater at best, long before the days of social media and the 'public persona'? Who could fail to want to read the books of someone who describes himself as:
'a tall, elderly, bony, beaky, wrinkled sort of fellow, with a lot of untidy grey hair and a weird hooting voice — in fact he looks and sounds a bit like Gandalf’s crazy twin, but he’s only rather absent-minded, thinking about something else, or just day-dreaming.'
After the sad death of his first wife, Peter married another writer - Robin McKinley - and together they wrote a series of stories about the elements, Water being the first, and Fire the second (he published his Earth and Air stories on his own account, Robin being busy with other things). It was a perfect pairing in both senses, and for me, to have two of my favourite authors in one book was a marvellous bonus.
If you haven't read anything by Peter, I urge you to go out and do so at the first opportunity. There is somuch to choose from, but my own favourites are The Blue Hawk, Merlin Dreams, The Lion Tamer's Daughter, Healer, A Box of Nothing and the two Ropemaker books. You can see all his books (and read about them) here. If you like them, tell others. Buy them for god children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. Read them to your own. That would be a most fitting memorial for a man whose life was filled with the joy of stories, and the desire to tell them to others.
My thoughts and sympathies (and I'm sure of many of those reading this) go out to Robin, John, Philippa and all the rest of his family. Peter, wherever you are now, I hope there are roses, peace, and a great plethora of books. Thank you seems a small and insignificant thing to say for all the immense pleasure you have given and continue to give me with your marvellous worlds and words. But I shall say it anyway. God bless your imagination.
OUT NOW from Orchard, Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out now: new Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review