McGowan, Anthony 1965-
McGowan, Anthony 1965-
Born 1965, in Manchester, England; married Rebecca Campbell (a fashion designer and novelist); children: two. Education: Earned Ph.D.
Home—Dumbarton, Scotland. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Worked variously as a nightclub bouncer, Open University philosophy tutor, journalist, and civil servant.
Booktrust Teenage Prize, 2006, for Henry Tumour.
Stag Hunt, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2004.
Mortal Coil, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2005.
Hellbent (for teens), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.
Henry Tumour (for teens), Random House Children (New York, NY), 2006.
Anthony McGowan has written books for both adults and teenagers. His second novel for teenagers, Henry Tumour, won the Booktrust Teenage Prize in 2006. McGowan's first two novels, 2004's Stag Hunt and 2005's Mortal Coil, are mystery/thrillers geared toward an adult audience. In Stag Hunt, the main character seeks revenge twenty years later on the gang of boys who tormented him as a child. Whereas Mortal Coil's main character, who has hit rock bottom after crossing local London gangsters, finds himself in a precarious position after taking up a lucrative offer to find a missing friend.
McGowan's first attempt at a novel for teenagers, 2005's Hellbent, chronicles the journey of sixteen-year-old Conor in Hell, which is where he ends up after being run over by an ice-cream truck. Conor comes to realize that all of Hell's inhabitants are experiencing their own personal version of Hell; his version happens to involve a tedious existence in a room chock full of ancient books of philosophy, with a radio continually playing scholarly documentaries or classical music. Armed with the idea that one person's Hell could be another person's Heaven, and accompanied by his dog Scrote (who is now able to speak), Conor sets out to find his match so they can switch places in Hell. School Library Journal critic Nancy Brown felt that while this novel is "over-the-top," McGowan is still "an author to watch."
McGowan's next novel for teens is the award-winning Henry Tumour, published in 2006. The novel tells the story of Hector Brunty, a nerdy teen-aged boy with a talking brain tumor, Henry Tumour. While the brain tumor is killing Hector, it is also committed to helping him experience the fullness of life while he still can, including convincing him to stand up to his school's bullies and to go after the most desired girl in school, Uma Upshaw.
Several critics praised McGowan's depiction of teenage life in the novel. For example, critic Jill Murphy in her review of the book for the Bookbag Web site, relayed that McGowan's "observation of adolescent teen life is just spot on." And, Guardian reviewer Mal Peet felt that "McGowan is excellent on the anxieties of teenage life and writes scalpel-sharp dialogue, especially the ongoing internal debate between Hector and the amoral, self-serving lodger in his head. Henry's voice is perhaps the richest pleasure in the book, veering unpredictably between gross lasciviousness, erudition, modern slang and Jacobean verse." Booktrusted Web site contributor Madelyn Travis remarked that "many of the school scenes are cringingly realistic," and she goes on to say that McGowan's "depiction of a teenage boy's inner struggles are so convincing that one can't help but suspect that Hector's voice closely resembles that of McGowan's younger self." In an interview with Travis, McGowan confirmed her suspicions by revealing that "Hector is basically me." McGowan also divulged to Travis that he had never read a book for teenagers until he started writing for that age group.
Because some of the subject matter was deemed inappropriate for a teen audience, the book stirred up controversy, and sales to several purchasers were lost as a result. In his interview with Travis, McGowan noted: "I was astonished that it was controversial. … It's got a nice message: be nice to each other. The thought that people could think it might be corrupting young people is astonishing given the violence all around." Travis remarked that while the novel "contains plenty of schoolyard violence and vulgar humour … it is also genuinely funny, deeply romantic, and intellectually and linguistically sophisticated."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookseller, November 3, 2006, "Anthony McGowan Takes Teenage Prize," p. 7.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, April Spisak, review of Hellbent, p. 182.
Guardian (London, England), November 18, 2006, Mal Peet, review of Henry Tumour.
M2 Best Books, November 7, 2006, "Anthony McGowan Wins Book Trust Teenage Prize."
School Library Journal, January, 2007, Nancy Brown, review of Hellbent, p. 132.
Times Educational Supplement, August 18, 2006, Fiona Lafferty, "From Top Shelf to Bottom."
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2007, Daniel Antell, review of Hellbent, p. 543.
Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (November 27, 2007), Jill Murphy, review of Henry Tumour.
Booktrusted,http://www.booktrusted.co.uk/ (November 27, 2007), Madelyn Travis, "Anthony McGowan Talks to Madelyn Travis about His Novel Henry Tumour, Winner of the 2006 Booktrust Teenage Prize."
Lovereading4kids,http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/ (November 27, 2007).
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/ (November 27, 2007).