In episode six, word nerd and crypto-cruciverbalist David “DA” Astle joins us to discuss our first non-Discworld novel: Dodger! Published in 2012, it’s set in Victorian London and is heavily inspired by the work and style of Charles Dickens, and also that of Punch magazine co-founder Henry Mayhew, author of London Labour and the London Poor – both of whom appear as characters!
In the first quarter of Queen Victoria’s reign, a young woman falls from a carriage during a London storm – followed by two threatening men. Out of a nearby sewer grate springs Dodger, street orphan and accomplished “tosher” (sewer scavenger), who fights them off before Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew happen by and take the woman to safety. Dickens enlists Dodger’s aid in investigating their mysterious charge, who is clearly on the run but refuses to speak of herself or those coming after her. Dodger will need to be sharp as a razor and to have all the luck the Lady of the Sewers can give him in this adventure – but will he be the same Dodger when it’s over?
In a spot of time travel, we leap forward to one of Pratchett’s last books. More serious than many of his other works, though still light in tone and written in a very Dickensian style – including chapters! – Dodger is quite a departure for Pratchett in many ways while still remaining essentially Pratchetty. (Pratchettesque?) What do you think of Dodger? Let us know! Use the hashtag #Pratchat6 on social media to join the conversation.
You can find David Astle online at davidastle.com, itself a haven of word puzzles and anagrams, and he’s on Twitter as @DontAttempt (a joking translation of his cryptic crossword-maker initials, DA, which some see as proof of difficulty!). His latest work is David Astle’s Gargantuan Book of Words, which is available now through publishers Allen & Unwin, but watch out for Rewording the Brain and 101 Weird Words and Three Fakes, appearing in 2018. You can also catch him on the wireless on ABC Melbourne.
You can read the full show notes and errata for this episode on our web site.
We return to the Discworld for our May 8th episode, though we are going slightly out of order to read Eric, the first illustrated Discworld book! And who better to discuss it than an illustrator? So we’ll be joined by Adelaide-based artist and comic book creator, Georgina Chadderton (aka George Rex)! This one is recorded hot on the heels of our April episode, so by the time you read this we may have already asked for your questions, but even if you missed that callout you can still join in on social media with the hashtag #Pratchat7.