1st Publication date late August 2002
Hardback 1st Publication date August 2002 320 pages Severn House Publishers; ISBN: 0727857126
Paperback 1st Publication date late 2003?
From book cover
It is over six months since the West Sussex community of Pentworth became isolated from the rest of the world by a mysterious force wall. Beyond the strange, dome-like barrier lies the unreachable world of the bleak steppes of Europe of 40,000 years ago. Equally unreachable are the visitors responsible for the creation of the force wall, sheltering in their UFO in a deep swamp. The visitors have largely ignored the imprisoned inhabitants with the exception of sixteen-year-old Vikki Taylor. She alone holds the key as to why the visitors have come. But the revival of ancient superstitions in Pentworth have made Vikki and her friends fugitives, accused of witchcraft.
The Silent Vulcan opens with Pentworth on the brink of a bloody civil war between town and country and concludes with the visitors finally showing their hand and revealing the extraordinary reason for their arrival in their "Silent Vulcan".
The book follows on from Wicca & Temple of the Winds
Author James Follett comments 19.07.2004
Until now my experience of book readings
has been limited to licensing my books as talking books. Talking books are,
as their name implies, just that. They are not subjected to editing or abridgement
unless the occasional 'he said' or 'she said' is inserted for clarity.
As a consequence an average length English novel of around 90,000 words can amount to a ten-hour recording on about five or six compact cassettes.
When the BBC approached me with a view to producing readings of my 'The Silent Vulcan' trilogy totalling nearly half a million words my reaction was 'Blimey -- it'll have to be abridged a little.' Then, when they said about a week later that each book would be allowed only eight 20-minute readings, my reaction was 'Bugger -- they'll have to be abridged a lot!'
Anyway, for the money they offering with their new treasury-approved budget I switched on my pooter's word-cruncher -- never switched on for less than five grand -- and started work on the first book 'The 'Temple of the Winds'. The timing of a reading of one typical full page meant that as a talking book without editing the book would've taken about 1000 minutes to read. Compare that with the BBC's requirement of 160 minutes! It was going to be a long haul.
Editing is something I'm good at. The first pass took a day. It was mostly dialogue tightening and descriptive passages chopped, and resulted in a reading time of around 600 minutes. Dumping the salacious material brought it down to about 500 minutes.
This is when abridging starts to get more tricky because chunks of text have to re-written. For example, instead of reporting a heated meeting verbatim with all the dialogue and arguments set out in a complete scene, it is necessary to rewrite along the lines of: 'the meeting was stormy and it was decided that...' Sometimes such treatment, though brutal, can dispose of an entire chapter. This phase brought the reading down to approximately 300 minutes.
I was getting there and had reached the stage when some restructuring of the book was needed such as losing characters. After a lot of thought, I dumped two characters, one quite major, and rewrote several passages to accommodate the changes. This took some time, at least two days, but it did the trick and I ended up with a total reading time of 200 minutes. In other words, I was there.
All I had to do now was split the revised text into eight parts, look for suitable cliff-hanger episode endings, and carry out a few nips and tucks, with additional cuts bracketed for recording but which could be implemented during final edit to provide exact running times. All fairly routine stuff but it was done. I suppose it took about a week. I was about to print the scripts when the phone rang. It was the BBC to tell of a rule I no idea existed: that authors aren't allowed to abridge their own material! Perhaps they thought that writers would be too close to their own material to do an objective job. I don't know, but I was miffed because I thought I'd done a professional, workmanlike job, and I had had some experience of adapting material for Radio 4 in the past. Still, it meant that I had no further work to do on the project except cash the cheques.
The task went to Amanda Davis. The readings end next week after a six month run, and are scheduled for a repeat. She did an excellent job and it's interesting to note that she dumped one of the characters that I'd dumped. In places I felt she'd left out some important points that could've been covered with a few words, but she did an excellent job although there was a bit of a cringe-making howler in part 7 of The Silent Vulcan -- the final book, when she said that a showman's steam engine (a Charles Burrell beast) had about 300,000 watts output -- omitting to mention that most of that output came from a Centrax gas turbine generator. Fingers crossed, maybe no-one will notice
The reader was Nigel Anthony -- an actor experienced in talking books readings. He did a first class job, so well in fact, that with some scenes I ended up with the impression of having heard a play.
My only reservations about the production is that I feel weekly readings are wrong. It's asking a lot of listeners to stay with a programme over a period of six months. Perhaps I'll get a chance to do something about that showman's engine in the repeat.
Note that this book is part of a trilogy the books in order are
Temple of the Winds
The Silent Vulcan
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