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Blacker, Terence 1948-

Blacker, Terence 1948-

Personal

Born February 5, 1948, in Suffolk, England; married (divorced); children: Xan, Alice. Education: Attended Cambridge University. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, playing guitar with his group Something Happened, wildlife.

Addresses

Home—Norfolk, England. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Novelist and author of children's books.

Awards, Honors

Teenage Book of the Year award, for Homebird; writing fellowship, University of East Anglia, 1994; Angus Award, 2004, for Boy2Girl.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

If I Could Work, illustrated by Chris Winn, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1988.

Henry and the Frights, illustrated by Adriano Gon, Piccadilly (London, England), 1989.

Herbie Hamster, Where Are You?, illustrated by Pippa Uwin, Random (New York, NY), 1990, published as Houdini, the Disappearing Hamster, Andersen (London, England), 1990.

Homebird (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1991, Bradbury, 1993.

The Surprising Adventures of Baron Münchausen, illustrated by William Rushton, Knight, 1991.

The Great Denture Adventure, illustrated by John Eastwood, Pan (London, England), 1992.

Nice Neighbours/Nasty Neighbours, illustrated by Frank Rodgers, Macmillan (London, England), 1992.

The Transfer (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1998.

The Angel Factory (young-adult novel), Macmillan (London, England), 2001, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

You Have Ghost Mail, illustrated by Adam Stower, Macmillan (London, England), 2002.

Boy2Girl, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.

Parentswap, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Silent Night: Ten Tales of the Supernatural, Scholastic (London, England), 2002, and My Dad's a Punk: Twelve Stories about Boys and Their Fathers, edited by Tony Bradman, Kingfisher (Boston, MA), 2006.

Author's works have been translated into Welsh.

"HOTSHOTS" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

Pride and Penalties, Pan Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

Shooting Star, Pan Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

On the Wing, Pan Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

Dream Team, Pan Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

"MS WIZ" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

Ms Wiz Spells Trouble, illustrated by Toni Goffe, Piccadilly (London, England), 1988, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2008.

In Stitches with Ms Wiz, Piccadilly (London, England), 1989, Marshall Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2008.

You're Nicked Ms Wiz, illustrated by Toni Goffe, Piccadilly (London, England), 1989.

In Control, Ms Wiz?, illustrated by Kate Simpson, Piccadilly (London, England), 1990.

Ms Wiz Goes Live, illustrated by Toni Goffe, Piccadilly (London, England), 1990.

Ms Wiz Banned!, illustrated by Kate Simpson, Piccadilly (London, England), 1990.

Time Flies for Ms Wiz (also see below), illustrated by Kate Simpson, 1992.

Power-crazy Ms Wiz (also see below), illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 1992.

Ms Wiz Loves Dracula (also see below), illustrated by Kate Simpson, Piccadilly (London, England), 1993.

You're Kidding, Ms Wiz, illustrated by Tony Ross, Macmillan (London, England), 1996.

Ms Wiz Supermodel, illustrated by Tony Ross, Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

Ms Wiz Smells a Rat, illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 1998.

Ms Wiz and the Sister of Doom, illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 1999.

Ms Wiz Goes to Hollywood, illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 2000.

Ms Wiz, Millionaire, illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 2001.

The Secret Life of Ms Wiz, illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 2002.

The Amazing Adventures of Ms Wiz (includes Time Flies for Ms Wiz, Power-crazy Ms Wiz, and Ms Wiz Loves Dracula), illustrated by Tony Ross, Macmillan (London, England), 2003.

Totally Spaced, Ms Wiz (includes Ms Wiz and the Dog from Outer Space and Ms Wiz Banned!), illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 2008.

Fangtastic, Ms Wiz (includes Ms Wiz Spells Trouble and Ms Wiz Loves Dracula), illustrated by Tony Ross, Piccadilly (London, England), 2008.

The "Ms Wiz" books have been compiled in several omnibus volumes.

FOR ADULTS

Fixx (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1989.

The Fame Hotel (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1992.

Reverence (novel), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1996.

(Editor, with William Donaldson) The Meaning of Cantona, Mainstream (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1997.

Kill Your Darlings (novel), Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2000, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 2001.

You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End Up like This: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life and Times of Willie Donaldson, Ebury (London, England), 2007.

Contributor of biweekly column to London Independent. Contributor to periodicals, including London Sunday Times.

Blacker's books have been translated into eighteen languages.

Adaptations

Parent Swap was adapted as an audiobook, BBC Audiobooks America, 2006.

Sidelights

In addition to writing such well-received young-adult novels as Homebird, The Angel Factory, and Boy2Girl, Terence Blacker is well known on both sides of the Atlantic for his picture books and his popular "Ms Wiz" series of middle-grade novels. His "Hotshots" series, also for younger readers, recounts the trials and tribulations endured by members of a girls' soccer team. In addition to earning legions of young fans in his native England through his writing, Blacker is known to adult readers as the author of the novels Fixx and Kill Your Darlings, as well as for the highly praised biography You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End Up like This: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life and Times of Willie Donaldson.

"I've heard many authors say that they had always known, from a very early age, that they wanted to write," Blacker noted in an online interview for Englishonline.co.uk. "Not me. I enjoyed reading when I was a child and used to write stories—but no more than most children. I didn't come from a very bookish family and the idea that one day I could earn a living from writing stories never occurred to me." Following college, Blacker worked with race horses as an amateur jockey, and then moved to a job at a bookstore. After a decade spent in publishing in London, he turned to writing. "Looking back, I can see that I was edging my way nervously towards writing over many years," he explained, "but it took a long time to realise that it was what I really wanted to do. I wish I'd seen it earlier."

In Homebird, Blacker tells the story of a teenager who flees from boarding school after meeting with violence from a vicious bully. As a runaway, the hero encounters a host of memorable individuals, including a thief, a drug dealer, and a prostitute, and he finds himself framed for robbery. The novel ends with the youth returned home, though he still suffers from nightmares involving the cruel classmate. A Voice of Youth reviewer deemed Homebird "short but potent," and Jacqueline Rose praised it in School Library Journal as a "riveting" novel that generates "plenty of action and suspense." Similarly, Horn Book critic Ellen Fader cited the novel's "can't-put-it-down quality" and "fast-paced action," and a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that Blacker's "wisecracking … narrative" helps render Homebird "an ideal book for reluctant readers."

The Transfer, another novel for teen readers, focuses on a fanatical soccer fan who magically transforms himself into a computer-generated player capable of saving a professional team from relegation to a lower division. The boy's plans go horribly awry, however, after he loses the magical device necessary for his extraordinary play. Further exacerbating matters, the hero discovers that his own teacher has become infatuated with his alter-ego. Books for Keeps reviewer Andrew Kidd stated that "this comic fantasy really hits the target" due to Blacker's "high quality writing." Another critic, Linda Saunders, wrote in School Librarian that The Transfer "offers action, humour and a few lessons about life," and Geoff Fox declared in the Times Literary Supplement that the novelist "plays wittily with ideas and language."

Blacker turns to science fiction in The Angel Factory, which introduces a British preteen who discovers that he is adopted and his parents are actually extraterrestrials. With the help of friend Gip, Thomas Wisdom learns about his parents' mission: to transform humanity so that human society becomes more stable and individuals more compliant. With this knowledge—and the realization that the aliens intend to use him to further their aim—Thomas is left to decide whether the fate of humankind under the sway of the alien "angels" is for good or ill. The Angel Factory was compared positively by Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper to Lois Lowry's classic novel The Giver, while a Publishers Weekly critic dubbed Blacker's story a "riveting futuristic tale" that "masterfully constructs an intriguing world of remarkable possibilities and chilling consequences."

Boy2Girl follows the experiences of a California transplant when his twelve-year-old British cousin Matthew Burton schemes to use him to infiltrate a gang of girls at his London private school. With his long hair and laid-back, West coast manner, Sam Lopez can pass for a girl, and when he comes to live with Matthew's family after his mom is killed, the California preteen willingly agrees to his cousin's scheme of attending his new school in drag. However, when "Samantha" is embraced by the school's all-girl gang, Sam realizes that his temporary role as the new girl is one he does not want to give up. Blacker organizes his novel as a collection of brief narratives by many characters, resulting in what Booklist critic Todd Morning described as "a fast-paced story" that explores "the ever-complicated world of sex roles." Noting that Boy2Girl "uses gender bending to explore the dynamics between adolescents of both sexes," Kliatt critic Michele Winship praised the book's "characters, complications, and comedic chaos."

Another young teen makes personal discoveries when given the opportunity to create a new identity in Parent Swap. Here thirteen-year-old Danny Bellingham is a daydreamer because life in his dysfunctional family gives him no real opportunity to experience life. When he decided to employ the services of a company that helps kids transfer into a new family, Danny becomes suspicious that the ParentSwap company is up to something fishy due to their insistence on hidden video cameras. Blacker's "humorous and ultimately tender" novel points up "the sense of powerless" teens experience "in a world … controlled by adults," wrote School Library Journal contributor Amy S. Pattee. In Kirkus Reviews, a critic dubbed Parent Swap "a satisfying, entertaining spoof on both a common teenage desire and reality show culture."

In addition to his novels, Blacker is also the author of a series of tales featuring Ms Wiz, a plucky witch who works as a teacher. The woman's spunky and imaginative nature is brought to life in cartoon art by Tony Ross and her lighthearted adventures play out in series installments such as Ms Wiz Smells a Rat, Ms Wiz and the Sister of Doom, and Ms Wiz Goes to Hollywood. Pamela Cleaver, writing in Books, called Ms Wiz "cool and clever," and Chris Stephenson, in a School Librarian assessment, dubbed Blacker's fictional witch "dashing."

In addition to the "Ms Wiz" stories, Blacker has written such children's books as If I Could Work, wherein a boy imagines himself in jobs ranging from firefighter to film actor. Nancy A. Gifford, writing in School Library Journal, contended that the book "just doesn't work,"

but a Booklist critic deemed it "a good choice for preschool story hours." Another tale, Henry and the Frights, concerns a boy who overcomes his nighttime fears with the aid of kindly nocturnal creatures. Jill Bennett, in her Times Educational Supplement analysis, called Henry and the Frights "appealing and accessible."

A more demanding book, Herbie Hamster, Where Are You?—published in England as Houdini, the Disappearing Hamster—features illustrations where the main character is hidden; readers are instructed to find the hamster in various settings. Booklist reviewer Denise Wilms proclaimed the volume "a fun exercise," Cliff Moon noted in School Librarian that the book calls for "rapt attention," and Pearl Herscovitch reported in School Library Journal that "children are challenged" by Blacker's hide-and-seek tale.

Blacker's writing for younger children also include The Surprising Adventures of Baron Münchausen, a recounting of the German folk hero's preposterous exploits. A Books for Keeps reviewer recommended the book as "irrepressible fun." Similarly, The Great Denture Adventure—wherein a grandmother accidentally expels her false teeth, thus sending them on a series of unlikely but amusing travels—impressed a School Librarian critic as "entertaining and enjoyable."

The first of Blacker's adult novels, Fixx concerns a deceitful opportunist who gets a job as an arms dealer at the behest of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. After entering high society via a marriage made through coercion and blackmail, Jonathan Fixx becomes an arms dealer and eventually engages in espionage on behalf of both the British and Soviet governments. Jane Dorrel, in a Books analysis, hailed Fixx as a "chilling and witty account," and John Melmoth wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that Blacker's novel is "flawless and funny."

In The Fame Hotel Blacker relates the police investigation that ensues following the fetishistic murder of a ghost writer whose journal provides unappealing insights into the lives of various public figures. A Books reviewer deemed the novel "beautifully written" and a "sheer delight from start to finish," while Ruth Pavey wrote in the London Observer that The Fame Hotel offers readers "plenty of opportunities for laughing."

In Reverence Blacker relates events in a small village plagued by the ghost of a woman who suffered rejection from her lover. Since being jilted by poet John Skelton, who died in 1529, the ghost troubles various citizens, including a child molester and several promiscuous teens. Patrick Skene Catling, writing in the Spectator, proclaimed Reverence a "very funny" novel in which "Blacker writes realistically, establishing believable ordinariness to maximise the impact of an outbreak of the extraordinary." In New Statesman & Society Laurie Taylor called the novel a "hectically enjoyable fantasy," and Times Literary Supplement reviewer Roz Kaveney deemed Reverence "an intelligent novel."

Kill Your Darlings tells of an unproductive writing teacher who drives a promising student to suicide, then appropriates his manuscript with intentions of assuming authorship. In Booklist Emily Melton summarized Blacker's novel as "literate, clever, and entertaining," citing its "witty digs at the world of the literary glitterati." A London Times critic noted "the scythe [Blacker] wittily takes to the fads of the book world," while Hugo Barnacle concluded in New Statesman that the story's "perverse humour exerts a horrible fascination." Sheila Riley, writing in Library Journal, commented that in Kill Your Darlings Blacker "delves … deeply and convincingly into the pit of narcissism, mayhem, and soul-destroying Faustian bargains," while a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that the novel "reveals far more than anyone should know about a writer's inner and outer lives."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1988, review of If I Could Work, p. 1672; August, 1990, Denise Wilms, review of Herbie Hamster, Where Are You?, p. 2169; November 1, 2001, Emily Melton, review of Kill Your Darlings, p. 461; December 1, 2001, Anna Rich, review of Ms Wiz Supermodel, p. 64; August, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of The Angel Factory, p. 1945; March 1, 2005, Todd Morning, review of Boy2Girl, p. 1151.

Books, March, 1989, Jane Dorrell, review of Fixx, p. 22; October, 1989, Pamela Cleaver, reviews of Ms Wiz Spells Trouble, In Stitches with Ms Wiz, and You're Nicked Ms Wiz, p. 22; September, 1992, review of The Fame Hotel, p. 27; October, 1997, review of The Meaning of Cantona, p. 17.

Books for Keeps, July, 1990, review of In Stitches with Ms Wiz, p. 10; March, 1992, review of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Münchausen, p. 10; July, 1993, review of Time Flies for Ms Wiz, p. 13; May, 1994, review of Ms Wiz Loves Dracula, p. 12; November, 1996, review of You're Kidding, Ms Wiz, p. 9; May, 1998, Andrew Kidd, review of The Transfer, p. 27.

Books for Your Children, spring, 1991, C. Haydn Jones, review of You're Nicked Ms Wiz, p. 21.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2003, review of The Angel Factory, p. 189; March, 2005, Deborah Stevenson, review of Boy2Girl, p. 281; October, 2006, Loretta Gaffney, review of Parent Swap, p. 57.

Children's Book Service Review, October, 1990, review of Herbie Hamster, Where Are You?, p. 13.

Horn Book, July-August, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of Homebird, p. 464.

Junior Bookshelf, October, 1989, review of Henry and the Frights, p. 210.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of Kill Your Darlings, p. 1378; August 1, 2002, review of The Angel Factory, p. 1122; February 1, 2005, review of Boy2Girl, p. 174.

Kliatt, March, 2005, Michele Winship, review of Boy2Girl, p. 6; July 15, 2006, review of Parent Swap, p. 720.

New Statesman, July 10, 2000, Hugo Barnacle, review of Kill Your Darlings, p. 57; April 9, 2007, Alexander Larman, review of You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End Up like This, p. 60.

New Statesman & Society, February 17, 1989, Sean French, "First-Person Thatcherism," p. 39; January 19, 1996, Laurie Taylor, review of Reverence, p. 40.

Observer (London, England), February 12, 1989, John Spurling, review of Fixx, p. 50; August 30, 1992, Ruth Pavey, review of The Fame Hotel, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1993, review of Homebird, p. 79; October 15, 2001, review of Kill Your Darlings, p. 44; July 22, 2002, review of The Angel Factory, p. 180; January 15, 2005, review of Boy2Girl, p. 56; August 7, 2006, review of Parent Swap, p. 61.

School Librarian, February, 1989, Chris Stephenson, review of Ms Wiz Spells Trouble, pp. 19-20; August, 1990, Shona Walton, review of In Control, Ms Wiz?, p. 106; November, 1990, Cliff Moon, review of Houdini, the Disappearing Hamster, p. 141; May, 1993, Katherine Moule, review of The Great Denture Adventure, p. 53; August, 1993, Chris Stephenson, review of Ms Wiz Loves Dracula, p. 105; summer, 1998, Linda Saunders, review of The Transfer, p. 76.

School Library Journal, August, 1988, Nancy A. Gifford, review of If I Could Work, p. 78; November, 1990, Peal Herscovitch, review of Herbie Hamster, Where Are You?, p. 85; April, 1993, Jacqueline Rose, review of Homebird, p. 140; August, 2002, Sharon Rawlins, review of The Angel Factory, p. 182; March, 2006, Rhona Campbell, review of Boy2Girl, p. 206; August, 2006, Amy S. Pattee, review of Parent Swap, p. 114.

Spectator, February 17, 1996, Patrick Skene Catling, "Let Me Go, Lover," p. 32.

Times (London, England), October 28, 2001, Trevor Lewis, review of Kill Your Darlings, p. 46.

Times Educational Supplement, June 2, 1989, Jill Bennett, "Means of Escape," p. B8; April 18, 1997, reviews of Pride and Penalties, On the Wing, and Shooting Star, p. 12; October 31, 1997, Geraldine Brennan, "Wild and Wonderous Witchery," p. 8; February 27, 1998, Geoff Fox, "Call of the Wild," p. 10; June 8, 2001, review of The Angel Factory, p. 20; January 17, 2003, "You Have Ghost Mail," p. 26; July 29, 2005, Michael Thorn, review of The Parent Swap, p. 26.

Times Literary Supplement, May 5, 1990, John Melmoth, "Up and on the Make," p. 483; October 2, 1992, Mark Sanderson, "Trash by the Tranche," p. 21; February 2, 1996, Roz Kaveney, "Little Local Difficulties," p. 23; July 21, 2000, Sam Gilpin, "Creative Writing," p. 22.

Voice of Youth Advocate, August, 1993, Eleanor Klopp, review of Homebird, p. 148; October, 2002, review of The Angel Factory, p. 292; April, 2005, Ed Goldberg, review of Boy2Girl, p. 35.

ONLINE

English Online Web site,http://www.englishonline.co.uk/ (October 15, 2008), interview with Blacker.

Independent Online,http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/ (October 10, 2008), "Terence Blacker."

Terence Blacker Home Page,http://terenceblacker.com (December 5, 2008).

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