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The Magic of Terry Pratchett (Hardback)

Social History Biographies White Owl

By Marc Burrows, Foreword by Helen O'Hara
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526765505
Published: 30th July 2020

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The Magic Of Terry Pratchett is the first full biography of Sir Terry Pratchett ever written. Sir Terry was Britain’s best-selling living author*, and before his death in 2015 had sold more than 85 million copies of his books worldwide. Best known for the Discworld series, his work has been translated into 37 languages and performed as plays on every continent in the world, including Antarctica. Journalist, comedian and Pratchett fan Marc Burrows delves into the back story of one of UK’s most enduring and beloved authors; from his childhood in the Chiltern Hills, to his time as a journalist, and the journey that would take him – via more than sixty best-selling books – to an OBE, a knighthood and national treasure status. The Magic Of Terry Pratchett is the result of painstaking archival research alongside interviews with friends and contemporaries who knew the real man under the famous black hat, helping to piece together the full story of one of British literature’s most remarkable and beloved figures for the very first time.

*Now disqualified on both counts.

'The Magic of Terry Pratchett' is described as 'the first full biography of Sir Terry Pratchett ever written' by journalist, comedian and fan Marc Burrows. By his own admittance, Burrows has never met his idol but like so many (myself included) is a devoted and lifelong fan of the novelist.
Burrows has taken a chronological approach to his work and follows the life of Pratchett from his birth in Beaconsfield, and early life with his parents, through to his time at school and initial story-writing. Burrows has interviewed numerous people from Pratchett working life and goes into detail about his time as a journalist and how this work impacted on his development as an author. Following his approach, Burrows discusses each of Pratchett’s works from ‘Business Rivals’ (published while attending High Wycombe Technical School) to ‘The Shepard’s Crown’.
Burrows has an engaging, conversational style to his writing which makes the biography particularly easy to read. His addition of regular footnotes are reflective of Pratchett's own style. And indeed, some of the humour glimpsed in these footnotes are echoes of his style.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and even if I was not a fan of Pratchett, this book would have made for a highly engaging read. The chapter titles are amusing, and there are plenty of hilarious antidotes scattered throughout the book that will entertain existing and new fans alike.

NetGalley, Maria Flaherty

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

This is the story of Terry Pratchett, how he came in touch with sci-fi and fantasy, started to write, became a journalist and his growth as an author. Because he always was one.

Normally, I would not rate a biography, because it feels like I am somehow rating someone's life. If I do rate a biography, it's about the writing, how the author worked with what he had, and I feel like Marc Burrows did the best job possible.
This is not a scholarly version of writing a biography, this is a nerd who gathered all the information about one of his idols and invites you to nerd about them with you. It's fun - it even has footnotes!

We start out with a description of Pterry's parents, to get to know the environment he was raised
in, are shown how he fell in love with speculative fiction and became an author. How he was troubled at school because the system was too strict for creative minds, how he became a journalist just to flee the toxic environment he was placed in against his will. I didn't know all of this, and in fact I was told he had been a spokesperson for a specific atomic reactor before switching to full-time writing, which is plain wrong.
The parts about journalist-life were most boring, but still illuminating in regards to some influences we see in the Discworld novels.

Since I am in my twentys, I only saw the end of Pterry's career, and while I read all of the Discworld novels and some books beside, it was interesting to get some background - especially regarding the switch of the German publishing house, which I've always wondered about since I started reading in German before my English became good enough to switch to the untranslated versions. Heyne, you messed up very badly. Not as bad as the Australian publishers, but come on!

The bibliography is huge and I am tempted to look up some of these articles mentioned, despite having no time for any extra research outside my current projects.

The author of this biography tells you quite clearly if the information he gathered is unclear, and what are his own suspicions, while using every instance possible to make a joke that shows, well, that he spent a lot of time on Discworld. I can't remember when was the last time I laughed so much while reading a biography.
And then I cried straight from the Alzheimer's diagnosis to the end of the book. While it was hard to read, I liked the thorough and understandable explanation of that illness, what exactly is meant by "Pratchett had a rare case of Alzheimer's" and how it affected him and everyone around him.
I knew he switched to dictating his novels and then stopped writing more than his name when signing novels, but that's about it.

Having been treated with condescension for reading "those fantasy novels" because they're "not real book" even by my father, who adores Tolkien's work, it felt good to read the parts about how his image underwent changes over the years.

So, yeah, I got a lot from this one. I'd recommend it to every Pratchett fan, even if they normally wouldn't touch non-fiction or specificly biographies.
Now I want to re-read all the books. Well, I always want to re-read them, but now it's more urgent.

NetGalley, Kim Deinaß

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Magic of Terry Pratchett by Marc Burrows is a fantastical, engaging, and incredibly easy read for any fan of the man himself, Terry Pratchett. Burrows conversational and captivating style is suited for any fan - the casual Discworld devotee, a middling Lance Corporal of the City Watch, or a dedicated Pterry-head. There is something to be found for everyone in this biography.

Marc Burrows freely admits that he never met Terry Pratchett, which is just the level of irony for a Pratchett biography. To his credit, Burrows undertook an incredible amount of research to write this beautiful narrative of the man who brought us so many works of fantastic fiction. Of course, this will not be the definitive biography, but it will be a book to pair with some of Terry's work to get a better picture of the beloved author.

>From beginning to end, I enjoyed this book. The footnotes provided just the right amount of research (I love a good footnote) and humor to keep the lightness and serious, but not serious tone that Terry frequently used. The chapter titles made me laugh, and I found myself quite emotional at points.

I loved the quick dives into Terry's novels with parallels drawn here and there, showing the influence of his childhood reading on his work. Of course, Terry Pratchett did exist outside of Discworld, though it may be what he is most known for. Burrows would have been remiss if he didn't include those titles in this biography. There is, indeed, another world of literature beyond Discworld and I am so excited to experience it.

The nods to the publishing industry, it's ups and downs, and working with other media outlets really gives an inside look at the history of those industries as experience by Terry Pratchett and his peers. Licensing, publishing, film rights, etc. are all part of a world I knew existed, but had not understood to any real extent. All of these collected experiences offer us a glimpse into the world in which Terry existed professionally.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book and would recommend to fans of Terry Pratchett's work, those who have been fans for ages and those who don't know who Terry Pratchett is. As an introduction to Terry Pratchett's work, this book is par for the course. Marc Burrows brings us into Terry's life, while not quite touching it. As a first, in-depth look at our friend Pterry, this is a winner.

NetGalley, Katie Perkins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Magic Of Terry Pratchett is the result of painstaking archival research alongside interviews with friends and contemporaries who knew the real man under the famous black hat,

Immensely readable and echoing the warmth and humour of his writing, this biography of the esteemed author Terry Pratchett is a must read for fans of his works.

NetGalley, Julianne Freer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a child who was brought up in a house of Discworld stories, with a stepfather who (still) proudly displays the Clarecraft Rincewind figurine which bears an uncanny likeness to him, and a mother who has a matching Nanny Ogg (it bears no likeness but let’s just say encompasses a couple of her characteristics), this was an ARC that I was frankly desperate to read. I have to thank Netgalley and Marc Burrows for granting me this opportunity. My opinions are enthusiastic, and entirely my own.

As a 32 year old female, mother and accountant you may be forgiven for expecting my book reviews to be based around chick-lit or classical novels and, although it is the case that I own several very well-read copies of Pride & Prejudice, I am wholly a child of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Terry Pratchett novels sit alongside George RR Martin, Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Ursula Le Guin in my house; I owned and loved Discworld computer games and probably know every word to the film Labyrinth.
It could therefore be said that I would find Marc Burrow’s biography fascinating regardless: however, I am ashamed to say that, before reading this book, I knew very little about the life of the author whose books I admire so much.

Burrows structures his writing predictably enough, running through the life of Terry Pratchett chronologically, from his working-class upbringing; his career in journalism; the progression in popularity of his novels; his knighthood all the way up to his untimely death from Alzheimer’s. However, this is where an affiliation to any standard biography ends.
It is immediately apparent that Marc Burrows is an avid Terry Pratchett fan, even without reading his foreword, due to the inclusion of footnotes: a writing style which is synonymous with Pratchett. This allows Burrows, as it did with Pratchett, to provide little notes and details which cannot be in the main text without limiting the reading experience. It also allows both authors to inject a large amount of humour into their writing.
It should also be mentioned that no book has gripped me from the introduction in a long time, although I am fairly sure no other book would use the word “crotch” before we even reach Chapter One!

‘The Magic of Terry Pratchett’ is a clever, well-informed biography which perfectly encompasses the humour of the Discworld creator whilst educating the reader of his journey to becoming the icon that he is today. I have no doubt that this has been a labour of love for Marc Burrows: when the kindle says you have 20 minutes reading time left and you have reached the bibliography, you know that a whole lot of research has been done!
It is important to note that this book transgresses the existence of Discworld and “the business with the elephant” and encompasses all of Sir Terry’s work: from short stories in the local paper to his TV documentary on assisted death. The reader will also learn of the involvement of Rhianna Pratchett in her father’s work and discover that the “man in the hat” was not always the easiest man to work with.

NetGalley, Lottie S

Although the wonderful Terry Pratchett is no longer with us, he still has a myriad of fans around the world and I hope they are going to love this work. It is a chronological look at his life and his work and we can see how his style and thought processes developed and changed over the years. Living in the south west of England I feel a strong connection to some of the backgrounds that he creates and it reminds me what a lovely part of the world it is. The author obviously has a great affinity to the great man and his love of the books shines through. we are shown Sir Terry as a real person; a true family man and yet someone who does not suffer fools gladly. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody who loves the great man and Discworld in particular.

NetGalley, Margaret Pemberton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Every once in a while, not often too often though, you come across a book that you can hardly put down. When you do, you can't wait to pick it up again and you just feel completely immersed in it when reading. This is one of those, I absolutely adored this book.
I learnt so much about Terry as this biography covers everything from his birth until he passed away. Along the way we learn of his relations, teachers, associates, friends, colleagues, assistants, fans and the effect they had on him and his career and vice versa.
The amount of research that must of gone in to this book was vast as could be seen from the appendix and acknowledgements and is really something to be marvelled at.
Right from the beginning I was sucked straight in learning that his many ideas for Discworld were inspired from his visit to a department store in London with his Mum when he was 5 to see Father Christmas. This place became a dream world for him and sparked his imagination whilst riding an escalator as to what could go on inside when it was closed. I laughed when we learnt Terry had also thought when passing an old quarry as a child about the prehistoric fish that would be in it, as the book stated "It showed his imagination added a unusual shape and spin to the world creating possibilities and scenarios quit different from the mundane reality" and that I think summed Terry up perfectly.
As a fan also of Neil Gaiman I revelled in the chapters that talked about there initial meeting, friendship and collaboration. Through this book I took so many screenshots of things I wanted to remember such as the history behind words used within the fandom or books and it was fascinating to read Marc Burrows dissect his books and offer his opinions and show the links to others or characters previously. It was so insightful. We got glimpses in to Terry Pratchett's personality with people relieving memories where he would show emotion, temper & quirks etc. The book talks of his favourite authors, artistic side, religious views, fashion, ethos, fathering, marriage, monetary views basically everything that makes you up as person is in here and to learn all that about one of your favourite authors is truly fascinating. This book has encouraged me to dip back in Discworld and when I do I am pretty sure my eye's will be far more open than ever before knowing all the background.
I am pretty sure every person who reads this book regardless of how much a fan they may be will take something from it, I for one took a huge amount. Word of warning though, just be careful of the onion fairies at the end!.
My thanks go to the publishers, author and Netgalley for providing this arc in return for a honest review. I truly am indebted to you for my favourite book read so far in 2020!.

NetGalley, Kelly Furniss

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An immensely readable survey of the great man's life and works, striking a good balance between revisiting old favourites and supplying new information (or new to me, at any rate, as someone who's a big fan but has never really engaged with fandom per se). Burrows has the sense to know that, while you can't necessarily write a 'comic biography' as such (not least because they all end the same way, and this one sadder than some – I still cry at those last tweets), a life of Terry Pratchett without jokes of its own would never do.

NetGalley, Alex Sarll

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

'The Magic of Terry Pratchett' is described as 'the first full biography of Sir Terry Pratchett ever written' by journalist, comedian and fan Marc Burrows - pretty much the perfect person to undertake this project given Pratchett's pre-Discworld career, and needless to say no biography of the man should ever be guilty of taking itself too seriously. As a fellow Discworld appreciator this is honestly a joy to read, Burrow's discussion of each of the Discworld novels has me itching to jump back in and continue with my quest to finish the series in publication order (as many do after beginning with some of the later installments.)

I'm looking forward to purchasing this title upon it's release as it's something I can easily see myself dipping in and out of as a companion to my Discworld reading adventure. A warm, affectionate, funny and thoroughly researched homage to the late great Sir Pterry. I recommend to any Discworld fan, it's most definitely a worthwhile read.

NetGalley, Erica Borland

About Marc Burrows

Marc Burrows is a London based writer, stand up comic and musician, writing regularly for The Guardian, Observer, Drowned in Sound, The Quietus and more. In 2014 he compiled and edited I Think I Can See Where You’re Going Wrong, a collection of the funniest comments from the Guardian website, published by Faber and Faber. People got it for Christmas and read it on the loo, and he was happy with that. He has performed several one-man shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, the most recent of which, Mind Your Head, focused on a lifetime of struggles with his mental health. He also plays bass in the cult punk band, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing and can be found regularly touring the UK and USA. He discovered the works of Terry Pratchett when his Mum lent him The Colour of Magic as an eleven-year-old, and spent the next week annoying his classmates by reading the funniest bits out loud. He has never looked back. Find him on Twitter at @20thcenturymarc.


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