Delaney, Joseph 1945-
Delaney, Joseph 1945-
Born 1945, in Preston, England; married; wife's name Marie; children: three. Education: Lancaster University, graduated.
Novelist and educator. Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool, England, professor of English, film, and media studies for twenty years, then head of media and film studies department.
Manchester Book Award finalist, 2005, for The Spook's Apprentice.
"WARDSTONE CHRONICLES"/"THE LAST APPRENTICE" NOVEL SERIES
The Spook's Apprentice, illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith, Bodley Head (London, England), 2004, published as Revenge of the Witch, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Spook's Curse, illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith, Bodley Head (London, England), 2005, published as Curse of the Bane, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The Spook's Secret, illustrated by David Wyatt, Bodley Head (London, England), 2006, published as Night of the Soul-Stealer, Greenwillow Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Revenge of the Witch was adapted as an audiobook, read by Christopher Evan Welch, HarperChildren's Audio, 2005.
Joseph Delaney wrote his first novel for children over many months, getting up early to write before going to work. With the success of The Spook's Apprentice—published in the United States as Revenge of the Witch—Delaney was eventually able to leave his job as head of the media and film studies department at England's Blackpool Sixth Form College. The first volume in Delaney's "Wardstone Chronicles"—known to U.S. readers as the "Last Apprentice" series—The Spook's Apprentice has been followed by several more novels that combine history, ghosts, witches, and a generous dose of horror in a compelling saga that has won the author legions of fans.
The "Wardstone Chronicles" introduce thirteen-year-old Thomas Ward who, as the seventh son of a seventh son, is gifted with supernatural powers. Channeling his gift, Tom is apprenticed to Old Gregory, a "Spook" who works to rid the county of evil wherever it may appear. For Tom, the role of apprentice is challenging; twenty-nine young men have already tried and failed at the task of aiding the grim, black-cloaked Gregory, some losing their life in the process. In Revenge of the Witch, readers follow Tom's experiences as he learns the signs of evil, overcomes the challenges that help prove him worthy and confronts assorted boggarts. He also meets up with a powerful witch named Mother Malkin who tricks him into setting her free from the underground prison, where she is held by iron and salt. All the while, he is able to see vestiges of past deaths—as well as the terrors others cannot.
In The Spook's Curse—published in the United States as Curse of the Bane—Tom and Old Gregory travel to the cathedral of Priestown, where the Spook's arch enemy, the Bane, dwells in the catacombs. Soon the powers of evil are arrayed against the Spook and his apprentice, while a being known as the Quisitor also seeks to stop their work fighting creatures from the dark side. The saga continues in The Spook's Secret, as Tom follows the Spook to Anglezarke, a dark home on the moors where more challenges await. There the Spook has confined his true love, a witch named Meg, through the use of drugs, while Meg's crazed sister is imprisoned in the home's dark cellar. When one of Tom's predecessor apprentices threatens harm to Tom's father's soul in order to acquire the book of spells that will allow the evil man to send Earth into perpetual winter, Tom confronts his ultimate challenge.
Delaney's medievalesque "Wardstone Chronicles" were widely praised by reviewers and readers alike. Horror fans who enjoy "up-close encounters with the unquiet dead … need look no further," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor in an appraisal of Revenge of the Witch, while in Booklist Ilene Cooper maintained that the talented author "grabs readers by the throat and gives them a good shake." The novel's many gruesome scenes are "amply buffered by an exquisitely normal young hero," Cooper added, while Lesley Farmer noted in Kliatt that "Thomas is a likely and resourceful fellow."
While noting that the author "plumb[s] familiar subjects," a Publishers Weekly critic added that "expert storytelling and genuinely scary illustrations" by Patrick Arrasmith make for a "fresh" story line. In fact, Delaney's portrait of evil is more complex than that in many books for young readers, and this fact has attracted adult readers to his novels. Calling the "Wardstone Chronicles" "seriously scary," Amanda Craig noted in London's Times Online that the series "show us how close evil is to good, and how even witches can change for the better." "Beautifully produced and consistently surprising, the weird and wonderful ‘Wardstone Chronicles’ are an annual treat," Craig concluded.
Delaney discussed the evolution of the "Wardstone Chronicles" with interviewer Nikki Gamble for Write Away! online. "I have the Bram Stoker approach to writing," the novelist noted, referencing the author of the classic nineteenth-century horror novel Dracula. "He created Dracula by writing down his dreams, which took him seven years. It didn't take me quite as long. Before I started writing there were events that I knew were going to happen, but the bits in between came from dreams. Some people plan in great detail and flesh out the bones but I couldn't work like that. For me, writing is very much like reading. I have to write in order to discover what's going to happen next."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 2022.
Horn Book, November-December, 2005, Anita L. Burkham, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 715.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2005, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 846.
Kliatt, September, 2005, Lesley Farmer, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 7.
Magpies, March, 2006, Kevin Steinberger, review of The Spook's Curse, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, October 10, 2005, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 62.
School Librarian, winter, 2005, Sarah Merrett, review of The Spook's Curse, p. 192.
School Library Journal, November, 2005, Beth L. Meister, review of Revenge of the Witch, p. 132.
Times Educational Supplement, July 9, 2004, Jan L. Mark, review of The Spook's Apprentice, p. 37.
Times Online (London, England), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (July 29, 2006), Amanda Craig, review of The Spook's Secret.
Write Away! Web site, http://improbability.ultralab.net/writeaway/ (August 8, 2004), Nikki Gamble, interview with Delaney.