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Dowswell, Paul 1957-

Dowswell, Paul 1957-

Personal

Born 1957, in Chester, England; married; children: one daughter. Education: Goldsmiths College, degree (history), 1978.

Addresses

Home—Wolverhampton, England. Agent—Ivan Mulcahy and Charlie Viney, Mulcahy & Viney Ltd., 15 Canning Passage, Kensington, London W8 5AA, England. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]

Career

Writer, editor, and researcher. Usborne, Wolverhampton, England, senior editor, 1992-99; freelance writer, 1999—. Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham, England, instructor in creative writing.

Awards, Honors

Geographical Association Highly Commended Award, 1992, for The Usborne Geography Quizbook; Times Educational Supplement Information Book Award shortlist, 1997, for The Medieval Messenger; Rhône-Poulenc Junior Prize for Science Books, 1999, for The Complete Book of the Microscope; Blue Peter Book Awards shortlist, 2002, for True Stories of Heroes, and 2003, for True Polar Adventure Stories; Warwickshire Book Award shortlist, 2008, for Prison Ship.

Writings

HISTORICAL FICTION

Powder Monkey: The Adventures of Sam Witchall, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2005, published as Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2005.

Prison Ship: The Adventures of Sam Witchall, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2006, published as Prison Ship: Adventures of a Young Sailor, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.

Battle Fleet: The Adventures of Sam Witchall, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2007.

NONFICTION

(With others) The Enterprise of War, Time-Life Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Animal Quizbook, Usborne (London, England), 1992.

(Coauthor) The Usborne Geography Quizbook, Usborne (London, England), 1992.

(Coauthor) The Usborne Science Quizbook, Usborne (London, England), 1993.

(Coauthor) Questions & Answers, Usborne (London, England), 1994.

Tales of Real Escape, Usborne (London, England), 1994.

Tales of Real Survival, Usborne (London, England), 1995.

Tales of Real Heroism, Usborne (London, England), 1996.

Tales of Real Adventure, Usborne (London, England), 1996.

The Egyptian Echo, Usborne (London, England), 1996.

(Coauthor) The Medieval Messenger, Usborne (London, England), 1996.

The Roman Record, Usborne (London, England), 1997.

(Coauthor) The Stone Age Sentinel, Usborne (London, England), 1998.

(Coauthor) Shock Horror History, Usborne (London, England), 1998.

(Coauthor) The Complete Book of the Microscope, Usborne (London, England), 1999.

The Encyclopedia of Animal, Usborne (London, England), 1999.

Genetics: The Impact on Our Lives, Hodder (London, England), 2000, Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2001.

Extraordinary Wild Weather, illustrated by Stuart Harrison, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2001.

Victorians, Hodder (London, England), 2001.

The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Space, Usborne (London, England), 2001.

World of Witches and Wizards, Anness (London, England), 2001.

History through Poetry: World War I, Hodder (London, England), 2001.

Paul McCartney: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2001.

John Lennon: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2001.

Transportation, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Entertainment, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Everyday Life, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Medicine Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

Weapons and Technology of World War I, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

The Vietnam War, World Almanac Library (Milwaukee, WI), 2002.

Hitler, Hodder (London, England), 2002.

Winston Churchill, Hodder (London, England), 2002.

(Coauthor) True Ghost Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

True Stories of Heroes, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

True Survival Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

True Escape Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

(Coauthor) True Spy Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

True Everest Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

True Polar Adventure Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2002.

Sea and Shore, National Trust, 2002.

The Western Front in World War I, Hodder (London, England), 2002.

(With Gill Harvey) True Adventure Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2003.

Hair Decoration, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Investigating Murder Mysteries, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

The Causes of World War II, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2003.

True Stories of the First World War, Usborne (London, England), 2003, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

True Stories of the Second World War, Usborne (London, England), 2003, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

The Russian Revolution: October 25, 1917, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2004.

The Chernobyl Disaster: April 26, 1986, Raintree Steck-Vaughn (Austin, TX), 2004.

Sutton Hoo: The Anglo-Saxon Way of Life and Death, National Trust, 2004.

Genetic Engineering, World Almanac Library (New York, NY), 2005.

Military Aircraft, Raintree (Chicago, IL), 2005.

The Usborne Introduction to the Second World War, Usborne (London, England), 2005.

Dictatorship, Evans Brothers (London, England), 2005, World Almanac Library (Milwaukee, WI), 2006.

Usborne Book of War Stories, Usborne (London, England), 2006.

True Stories of the First World War, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to The Illustrated Dictionary of Science, Usborne (London, England), 1999.

Sidelights

British writer and editor Paul Dowswell is a prolific author of nonfiction for children and young adults, including such award-winning titles as The Complete Book of the Microscope and True Polar Adventure Stories. Dowswell has also published a number of critically acclaimed works of historical fiction, including Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor, which is set during the Napoleonic Era. "I love history and am constantly reading it, and getting ideas from it," the author noted in an interview on the Bloomsbury Web site. "When you write fiction you can just take a snippet of something real, and turn it into something or someone who exists only in your story."

Born in Chester, England, Dowswell earned a degree in history from Goldsmiths College. He then began working as a researcher for museums and publishing houses, including BBC Books, the Science Museum, and the National Sound Archive. He started writing nonfiction works while at Time-Life Books in London, and he later moved to Usborne, where he edited and wrote nonfiction titles for children. In 1999, Dowswell became a freelance writer he and has since published

more than sixty books. "History is my specialist subject, but I also enjoy writing about natural history, science, geography, in fact almost anything, apart from golf and mechanical engineering," he remarked on his home page. "I have a shamefully encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music, and seem to have picked up a strangely detailed understanding of the science and technology of warfare."

In 2005 Dowswell published his debut novel, Powder Monkey, which follows the adventures of Sam Witchall, a thirteen-year-old sailor aboard the British frigate HMS Miranda. In his Bloomsbury interview, the author discussed his inspiration for the work. "I was researching a piece on naval warfare and was struck by how young many of the sailors in [Horatio] Nelson's time were." He continued, "Boys whose voices had not yet broken were being sent to kill and be killed. I also thought it would be interesting to write the story from the point of view of a boy at the bottom of the ship's hierarchy rather than someone at the top."

Set in 1800, Powder Monkey follows Sam as he is abducted from a merchant ship and pressed into service as a powder monkey, a sailor who fetches gun powder from the ship's magazine below deck and delivers it to a cannon crew during battle. The job was extremely dangerous; as Dowswell noted on the Powder Monkey Web site, a boy like Sam "had just as much chance of being crushed by his own gun, or killed by flying splinters or an enemy cannon ball, as any other member of his gun crew." During his voyages, Sam also finds himself tested by fierce storms, thuggish bosun's mates, and the threat of severe punishments such as flogging. "Readers will be absorbed in the day-to-day life of young Sam," observed School Library Journal contributor Kimberly Monaghan, and a critic in Kirkus Reviews stated that "voracious fans of the nautical genre will happily sign on." Writing in the London Independent, Christina Hardyment described Powder Monkey as "more vivid than a Patrick O'Brian novel."

In Dowswell's follow-up, Prison Ship: Adventures of a Young Sailor, Sam and his friend Richard face death at the Battle of Copenhagen. Though they fight valiantly, the young men are falsely accused of cowardice by a corrupt midshipman and placed aboard a prison ship bound for Australia. "Historical details are seamlessly interwoven into the plot and the characters—which include Lord Nelson himself—are believable," Jayne Howarth commented in the Birmingham Post. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "the violence of the naval action … is sharp and vivid," and Monaghan called Prison Ship a "historically accurate and vastly entertaining sequel."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Birmingham Post, November 4, 2006, Jayne Howarth, review of Prison Ship: The Adventures of Sam Witchall, p. 53.

Booklist, November 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of The Vietnam War, p. 599.

Book Report, November-December, 2002, Jo Clarke, review of The Vietnam War, p. 56.

Independent (London, England), October 21, 2005, Christina Hardyment, "Nautical Tales of Knights and Northern Lights," review of Powder Monkey: The Adventures of Sam Witchall.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2005, review of Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor, p. 1078; October 15, 2006, review of Prison Ship: Adventures of a Young Sailor, p. 1069.

Magpies, March, 2006, Lyn Linning, review of Powder Monkey, p. 32.

School Librarian, autumn, 2002, review of The Vietnam War, p. 161; spring, 2006, review of Powder Monkey, p. 42.

School Library Journal, February, 2002, Elizabeth Stumpf, review of Medicine, p. 142; July, 2002, Todd Morning, review of The Vietnam War, p. 132; October, 2004, Elizabeth Talbot, review of The Russian Revolution: October 25, 1917, p. 186; November, 2005, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Powder Monkey, p. 132; July, 2006, Jody Kopple, review of Dictatorship, p. 120; December, 2006, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Prison Ship, p. 136.

ONLINE

Bloomsbury Web site,http://www.bloomsbury.com/childrens/ (October 31, 2007), "Paul Dowswell."

Paul Dowswell Home Page,http://www.pauldowswell.co.uk (October 31, 2007).

Powder Monkey Web site,http://www.bloomsbury.com/powdermonkey/ (October 31, 2007), "Paul Dowswell."

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