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  • The-Fabulous-Phartlehorn-Affair

M. L. Peel


I grew up in a house full of rabbits on the edge of Epping Forest. I was an imaginative child, who liked dressing up as the Bride of Dracula, more than Cinderella. When I was 6 and 3/4 years old I changed primary schools, had my reading assessed, and was sent to an after school club for remedial readers. At home, my dad asked me what I was struggling with and I told him that the book I’d been given to read (Roger Red Hat) was not too difficult, but too boring. My dad marched me off to the local library and helped me pick out something different. The book I chose was Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. That book changed my life forever. Reading, I discovered, could actually be fun. Over the next few years, I devoured everything Roald Dahl had ever written, including his less ‘suitable’ stories for adults …(and I’m still apologising to my mum for the number of her lipsticks which were destroyed in the making of Megan’s Marvellous Medicine). Yet this was just the start of my reading obsession. After Revolting Rhymes, there soon came Nancy Drew, and A Wizard of Earthsea. It didn’t take long for my love of reading to turn into a love of writing. One story in particular got me into trouble. I wrote a detective thriller in which my teacher Mr Austin turned out to be the murderer. He was not amused when I handed it in for my homework!


Twelve years after being made to join the ‘remedial readers club’ I went to Oxford University to study English Literature. I couldn’t quite believe all I had to do was sit around and read novels all day. It didn’t feel like work, it felt like pleasure! I never let go of my dream of becoming a writer, but after university I was worried that I’d better start earning some money, so I went to work in an advertising agency. Mostly my job was to help sell people things they didn’t really need, but one thing I am proud of is having worked on a campaign co-created by young people about the dangers of knife crime. After ten years of working in advertising, it was time to start writing again. I quit my job and went to live on a tiny island in Greece, where there was nothing to do but stare at the sea and dream up stories. All the fishermen who lived on the island had enormous bushy moustaches, and this is how the Knights Trumplar in The Fabulous Phartlehorn Affair grew their impressive facial hair. While I was staring at the fishermen in their boats, moustaches started to sprout in my story. It’s funny where ideas come from! Now I live in a farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales, with two cats we found in a dustbin in Greece and a hairy white dog that looks suspiciously like a Trumpenhund…


I work at an old desk in our spare bedroom. The desk is smaller than is comfortable and the windows are too high up, so I can’t see out of them, which is a shame, as I like to have a view when I write. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to move into an old coal shed in my vegetable garden, so that I get to walk to work in the mornings, even if it only takes a minute. My dog Nelly lies at my feet while I work. She is a good foot warmer but sometimes she starts to bark, which is a bit distracting. After breakfast, I take her out for a game of fetch, then try and sit down at my desk by 9.30 a.m. I stop writing at 6 p.m., with an hour for lunch and another hour off at tea-time for dog-walking (which helps with the barking...) One day, I would like to buy myself a gypsy caravan to sit and read and daydream in. The Fabulous Phartlehorn Affair is my first book. It was a lot of fun to write. My favourite bit was inventing all the characters, because after a while they start to feel like real people. If I had to pick my favourite characters (apart from Bruno) they would be Agent Frogmarch and Grace Chalk, and I am thinking one day I might write another book about them. I’m now working on a new story about a boy called Tom Paine, who wants to publish a Dictionary of Rare Rude Words. In fact, I’d better get back to it!


  1. I love to dance. The more wiggling and foot stamping involved the better. My favourite kind of dancing is pretend flamenco.
  2. Since I moved to the country and became surrounded by animals, I’ve started to like the idea of farming them for meat less and less, so now I mostly eat bread, cheese, vegetables and pudding.
  3. I didn’t really like any vegetables (except potatoes) until I started growing them in my own garden. Now I know even beetroots taste nice when you’ve planted the seeds yourself.
  4. My favourite colour is emerald green because it reminds me of forests in summer and freshly cut grass.
  5. If I wasn’t a writer I would like to work for the secret service, but I’m not really brave enough to go undercover, so I’d probably get fired.
  6. When I was eight years old, I used to sell rare rude words in the playground for twenty pence a pop.
  7. I had lots of different child-minders. My favourite was an exceptionally tall woman called Mandy. She had a mohican and a three-wheeled car with a hole in the floor.
  8. My cat Spartacus became famous after escaping from Athens airport as we were trying to fly him home to Yorkshire. He was found two miles away, cowering on the side of the motorway, by a Swedish supermodel.
  9. I once tried to start a rabbit circus. My dad bought me and my sister one rabbit each for Xmas. Soon we had 30 rabbits and were teaching them to do tricks for carrots.
  10. If I could choose how to spend my last day on earth, I’d spend it skiing, because to me it feels like flying.

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