Butler, Charles 1963-(Charles Cadman Butler)
Butler, Charles 1963-(Charles Cadman Butler)
Born January 25, 1963, in Romsey, Hampshire, England; son of Thomas Crawford (a teacher) and Isobel (a teacher) Butler; married Nathalie Isabelle Blondel (a lecturer), September 10, 1994 (separated, 2005); children: Cecily, Nathaniel, Charlotte. Education: University of London, B.A. (English literature), 1984; University of York, M.Sc. (computer science), 1988, D.Phil. (English literature), 1989. Religion: "Quaker (if anything)." Hobbies and other interests: Science, soccer, recorder playing, the supernatural.
Home—Bristol, England. Agent—Caroline Sheldon, Thorley Manor Farm, Thorley, Yarmouth PO41 0SJ, England. E-mail—[email protected]
University of the West of England, Bristol, senior lecturer in English literature, 1990—.
The Darkling, Orion (London, England), 1997, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Timon's Tide, Orion (London, England), 1998, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Calypso Dreaming, Collins (London, England), 2002.
The Fetch of Mardy Watt, Trafalgar Square (North Pomfret, VT), 2004.
Death of a Ghost, Trafalgar Square (North Pomfret, VT), 2006.
The Lurkers, Usborne (London, England), 2006.
Author's work has been translated into Danish.
(Editor) Female Replies to Swetnam the Woman-Hater, Thoemmes Press (Bristol, England), 1995.
(Editor) Teaching Children's Fiction, Palgrave Macmillan (Basingstoke, England), 2006.
Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Children's Literature Association Quarterly, and to anthologies, including Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom, edited by Teya Rosenberg, Peter Lang, 2002; and Children's Fantasy Fiction: Debates for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Nickianne Moody and Clare Horrocks, 2005.
In addition to lecturing in Renaissance and fantasy literature at Bristol's University of the West of England, Charles Butler established a parallel life as a novelist when he tapped into his long-held interests in both writing and fantasy literature. While continuing to publish books that reflect his academic pursuits, Butler also writes gothic fiction for children and young adults. The dark, mysterious vein shared by his Y.A. and children's books is reflected in their titles: The Darkling, Timon's Tide, Calypso Dreaming, The Fetch of Mardy Watt, Death of a Ghost, and The Lurkers. A more scholarly work, Butler's Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper was cited by School Library Journal critic Margaret A. Chang as "highly readable, commandingly intelligent, and refreshingly jargon-free."
In his first Y.A. novel, The Darkling, Butler introduces the theme that runs through most of his fiction: a British teen is confronted by an eerie manifestation or other trigger that ultimately causes him or her to cross the
boundary between the real world and a darker, supernatural world. As Butler explained in an interview with Michele Fry for Edge of the Forest online: "Quite a lot of what happens to us is beyond our control … because it comes from outside, from the forces that push the world in its course without reference to our wishes. … A lot of my protagonists reach a point where they realise they must take action rather than passively watch events unfold. It doesn't often come easily to them."
In The Darkling, fifteen-year-old Petra is menaced by a shadow on her bedroom wall that gradually morphs into the spirit of an elderly widower who, prior to his death, had become infatuated with the teen because of her similarity to his long lost love. Sixteen-year-old Daniel, haunted by guilt due to his involvement in the death of his older brother, is the central character in Timon's Tide. Six years ago the body of Timon washed up on shore miles from the family's home, the identity of his killers clouded by Timon's mysterious behavior and suspected drug use. When the boys' mother and new stepfather reveal that they are now expecting another child, Daniel is confused by his reaction to the announcement. While spending time alone at the seashore, he becomes haunted by the spectre of his brother, and threatened by a group of supernatural, seabound creatures that appear to Daniel's elderly relatives and then attempt to lure his stepsister into sharing Timon's fate.
A four-year-old child living in the secluded island community of Sweetholm and haunted by dreams of the future is the focus of Calypso Dreaming, as two mainland teens becoming enmeshed in a plot to harness the girl's dreams for evil. In The Fetch of Mardy Watt a British schoolgirl learns that the school she attends is not at all what it seems. When a "fetch"—an otherworldly being whose job it is to take over and transport another's physical body—is empowered to take control of twelve-year-old Mardy's human form by mystical means, she gains the ability to see life in the supernatural dimension. Learning that both she and her brother Alan are slated to have their spirits enslaved by the Mayor of Uraniborg, the sinister leader of her school's supernatural counterpart, Mardy joins with Alan, several friends, and a local witch to stop the evil. Another teen has to cope with a supernatural manifestation in The Lurkers, as Verity's younger brother John is threatened by a ghostlike companion that is using the boy's imagination for its own sinister purpose. Death of a Ghost, the most complex of Butler's books to date, follows the fortunes of sixteen-year-old Ossian as he is pursued by a jilted and vengeful goddess in a village on the Hampshire coast. The chase takes place in three different historical periods: the Iron Age, the fifteenth century, and the present day, and even draws Ossian into the realm of the goddess Sulis herself.
Praising The Darkling in Publishers Weekly a reviewer cited Butler's creation of a "clever, self-sufficient first-person narrator," while Heather Rader wrote in Kliatt that readers of The Fetch of Mardy Watt will "enjoy" Butler's "juxtaposition of the ordinary with the extraordinary." Reviewing Timon's Tide for School Library Journal, Vicki Reutter cited the novel's "exciting and dramatic climax," adding that Butler spins "an evocative mystery that will appeal to most supernatural fans." While a Publishers Weekly reviewer described the plot as "not entirely comprehensible," the critic noted that the author serves up "chills aplenty" for teen fantasy buffs. Characterizing Butler's fiction as a suspense-filled coming-of-age story, Booklist contributor Roger Leslie deemed Timon's Tide "a deft, surrealistic story [that is] never burdened by affectation and always driven by suspense." Linda Newbery, reviewing Calypso Dreaming for the Times Educational Supplement, noted Butler's effective evocation of the island setting, commenting on the "beauty and danger, changeable weather and tides, the past's long shadows." In Viewpoint, Anna Ryan Punch praised The Fetch of Mardy
Watt as a "clever fantasy" and Vector critic Andrew M. Butler noted that the novel's intricate plot "moves in unexpected directions with more twists and turns than a twisty-turny thing."
Butler once commented: "I was born in the market town of Romsey, in Hampshire. My family background is mixed: Welsh, seafaring, and Methodist on my mother's side; Quaker, vegetarian, and mildly eccentric on my father's. But they all loved words, and I grew up in an atmosphere where books were read and discussed as a matter of course. Even when my parents separated, it was into houses with adjoining gardens, and across the fence the conversations seemed to go on much as before. At that time I was more interested in soccer, having become a Manchester United fan at the age of seven (because I liked their strip—it still seems as good a reason as any).
"So, despite everything, I came to reading late. I was about ten by the time I discovered C.S. Lewis. Ever since, I've been drawn to books involving magic, ghosts, and the supernatural: what's generally called ‘fantasy’ (a term I dislike). Later I became a fan of Susan Cooper's ‘The Dark Is Rising’ series, Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, and E. Nesbit's books (the magical ones). Alan Garner, Margaret Mahy, and Diana Wynne Jones have all been strong influences. In general I like my magic to have its source in our own world, rather than some fantasy alternative. As Alan Garner remarked long ago, if you dig up a screaming mandrake root in El Dorado, no one will bat an eyelid. Things like that happen in El Dorado every day. But dig it up in Acacia Avenue, and not only will the mandrake root scream—the reader may, too. That's an insight I've tried to use in my own work.
"One of the ways that fiction justifies itself—other than by giving pleasure—is by providing a means of seeing. I put a lot of effort into what's loosely called ‘atmosphere’ but is really a way of allowing the reader to perceive an aspect of reality that doesn't normally show itself. The back of the mind, the corner of the eye, the tip of the tongue: these are the tantalizing places. With Timon's Tide, for example, I tried to write a story in which the supernatural and ‘ordinary’ aspects of life both have a strong presence, but where the border between them is often blurred, so that the reader (and the main character) sometimes seem to see double. If I have succeeded, the result will be a new kind of experience."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April, 1998, Anne O'Malley, review of The Darkling, p. 1312; June 1, 2000, Roger Leslie, review of Timon's Tide, p. 1880.
Book Report, January-February, 1999, Patsy Launspach, review of The Darkling, p. 59.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1998, review of The Darkling, p. 276; September, 2000, review of Timon's Tide, p. 9.
Children's Bookwatch, October, 2006, review of Death of a Ghost.
Choice, December, 2006, P.J. Kurtz, review of Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper, p. 645.
Horn Book,July-August, 1998, Terri Schmitz, review of The Darkling, p. 483.
Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1998, review of The Darkling, p. 76; July 3, 2000, review of Timon's Tide, p. 73.
School Library Journal, May, 1998, Susan L. Rogers, review of The Darkling, p. 138; June, 2000, Vicki Reutter, review of Timon's Tide, p. 142; October, 2006, Margaret A. Chang, review of Four British Fantasists, p. 192.
Times Educational Supplement, July 19, 2002, Linda Newbery, review of Calypso Dreaming, p. 25.
Vector, September-October, 2004, Andrew M. Butler, review of The Fetch of Mardy Watt, p. 20.
Viewpoint, spring, 2004, Anna Ryan Punch, review of The Fetch of Mardy Watt, pp. 36-37.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2001, review of Timon's Tide, p. 10.
Charles Butler Home Page,http://www.charlesbutler.co.uk (December 19, 2006).
Edge of the Forest Online,http://www.theedgeoftheforest.com/ (December 1, 2006), Michele Fry, interview with Butler.
HarperCollins Children's Books UK Web site,http://www.harpercollinschildrensbooks.co.uk/ (December 19, 2006), interview with Butler.