Does the name Worzel Gummidge mean anything to you? Worzel was a scarecrow who could walk and talk, and who befriended two children who came to stay at Scatterbrook Farm, with resultant adventures.
If you were growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, you possibly remember the TV series with Jon Pertwee in the title role, and Una Stubbs playing life-size fairground attraction, Aunt Sally.
Far more recently, actor Mackenzie Crook—better known for his appearances in the UK version of The Office and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise—took up the mantle. Two episodes were broadcast in the UK over last Christmas. And a pure delight they were, too.
I know everybody didn’t quite get on with the look they gave the scarecrow—some unkind references were made to Freddie Krueger. Claims were made that some younger viewers were ‘left terrified’ but that simply makes me wonder who allowed them to see the horror movies from which the Krueger character originates in the first place?
But the history of Worzel Gummidge goes back much further than you might think. The stories were written by Barbara Euphan Todd, with the first published in 1936. A couple of years later, the rights were acquired by Puffin Books and WORZEL GUMMIDGE: THE SCARECROW OF SCATTERBROOK became the first fiction title published by that imprint.
Ms Todd wrote ten Worzel Gummidge books in all, with the last—DETECTIVE WORZEL GUMMIDGE—published in 1963, and illustrated by a number of artists. She also collaborated on turning the stories into radio plays for children in the 1950s. Five of the stories were narrated by Gordon Rollings for the BBC children’s TV programme, Jackanory.
The first time Worzel appeared on television was in 1953 in Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective. Another series—with Pertwee and Stubbs—ran from 1978-1981. It was revived six years later, based in New Zealand, as Worzel Gummidge Down Under and ran for another two years.
Mackenzie Crook’s decision to revive the character now may seem strange but in fact it reflects a growing trend in TV drama to approach the subject of the climate crisis. The latest series of the long-running sci-fi drama, Dr Who, with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, has had catastrophic climate meltdown at the heart of several episodes.
And the first of the latest Worzel Gummidge incarnation saw the countryside stuck in the perpetual heatwave of summer, with crops refusing to ripen and the seasons unable to change without some otherworldly intervention. This involved getting two old adversaries to work together for the greater good. A moral lesson, for sure, but delivered with a light touch.
It seems that TV drama is slowly starting to move away from the bad guys wanting to dominate the world and instead focusing on the good guys trying to save the planet. Is this a trend we’re going to see more of in novels as well? I wonder what influence it might have? And will it all be too late anyway…?
I’ve only had environmental issues as the focus of one of the Charlie Fox series so far—FOURTH DAY. At the time I wrote it, I wondered if anyone would believe that such a fuss might be made about the extraction of oil shale. And we know how that one has turned out!
This week’s Word of the Week is inchoate, which means something just begun and which is still rudimentary or not yet fully formed or developed. It is often confused with incoherent, meaning lacking in clarity. Only when the inchoate thing is completed can it be judged to be truly incoherent.
Today is the finale of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN. Day 10. Thank you for sticking with me this far. Today I’m honoured to have the book reviewed by the fabulous Noelle Holten of Crime Book Junkie. Noelle is a best-selling author in her own right, so it’s a little bit like asking a professional builder to give their opinion on the work you’ve carried out on your own house…
Set mainly in New Jersey in the US, Charlie Fox is back and takes the reader on an adventure filled with fear, control, protection, anger, payback, manipulation, power, corruption and a search for the truth…but there is so much more!
Hells BLOODY Bells! With an explosive opening that instantly grabs the reader, Bad Turn will have you racing through the pages! The premise of this novel was intriguing and I loved how the reader learns a little bit more about Charlie Fox’s backstory which is then sprinkled throughout the novel—teasing you to carry on if you want to know more. Full of suspense and tension, the author once again has nailed it—a brilliant narrative and action packed read—it was like watching a movie in my mind! Superb!
I absolutely ADORE Charlie Fox—and you see a little bit more of a vulnerable side to her in this novel which makes you like her even more! Charlie is doing what she does best and accidentally uncovers a sinister ploy to kidnap a wealthy woman—the wife of an arms dealer. If she was hoping for the quiet life while house-sitting, she should have known better…after all, she IS Charlie Fox! Determined as ever to see the job to the end, she comes up against some of the toughest characters, but they are no match for Ms Fox!
Read the whole of this review on Crime Book Junkie.
For the past ten days since the new Charlie Fox novel, BAD TURN, came out, I’ve been on the road—virtually speaking. I’ve travelled halfway around the world without ever leaving my desk. I’ve been Blog Touring—or perhaps that should be Tour Blogging?—rather than the physical kind of touring. And it’s been fun.
Of course, in the past I’ve travelled all over the place to libraries and bookstores for the publication of various books in the series, quite often using a trip to the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention to kick things off. As Bouchercon is held in a different city/state every year (even making it over to the UK several times) it means that the starting point has also always been different.
But, this time around I knew I wasn’t going over to Bouchercon and work-in-progress projects are beginning to pile up. So, doing another blog tour, ably organised by the fearsomely efficient Ayo Onatade, seemed like a good choice.
I’m told that sometimes authors rely on their blogger hosts doing a series of reviews but I hesitate over this way of doing things. What happens if one of the reviewers involved really doesn’t like the book? After all, I would have thought they have far too many books on their teetering TBR piles to read it first, just to make sure.
So, I prefer to do guest posts and articles on topics related to the book, mixed in with a few reviews where blogger/reviewers are happy to do them.
Read the whole of this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.
For Day 9 of the Blog Tour for the launch of BAD TURN, I’m with the superb Sharon Bairden of Chapter In My Life. For this, I wrote a guest post on HEroes vs SHEroes, particularly in those old thrillers where the women were more decorative, shall we say, than useful.
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Bad Turn, the latest in the Charlie Fox series from the brilliant Zoë Sharp. And I think we need to give praise to that cover! Isn’t it stunning!
Thanks to Ayo Onatade for inviting me to take part. I’ve got a cracking guest post lined up for you all.
HEroes vs SHEroes
BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13
I’ve always loved to read thrillers, starting back with Alistair MacLean, Ian Fleming, and Arthur Hailey and reading just everyone in the genre from there onward.
The only problem I found was with the women portrayed in those old books. They tended to be a bit on the passive side. And even today, if you read action/adventure novels, you still come across female characters who seem to have no role other than to be rescued by the hero, scream in a firefight and tend to the wounded.
I wanted to read about women who would do their ownrescuing. If they screamed in a firefight it would be more by way of a war cry, and they would be more likely to deal outwounds than have to deal with them, thank you very much.
That was when the character of Charlie Fox really started to come to life in my head. I wasn’t sure, when I first began to write about her, that other people would have the same desire to read about such a strong, no-nonsense heroine. Fortunately, they did and still do—BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13 is just out. So far, the series has seen Charlie go from teaching people to defend themselves in a northern English city to working for a top New York close-protection agency. Although, this time out her employer—as well as her motivations—are a little harder to fathom.
It bugs me a little that I have to use the word ‘strong’ to describe Charlie. To me, she’s a capable woman who happens to work in a very male-dominated field. To succeed, she’s got to be not simply as good as the men, but demonstrably better. There’s no reason why she can’t be as skilled with weapons or why she can’t have the same mind-set as the guys she works alongside. No reason why she can’t fight on equal terms, either.
Read the whole post over on Chapter In My Life.
Today is Day 8 of the Blog Tour for BAD TURN, and today is another review stop, this time with the excellent Jen Lucas of Jen Med’s Book Reviews. And wow, what a great review! I’m thrilled by her take on the character and the story.
Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for the thirteenth Charlie Fox nove from Zoë Sharp, Bad Turn. My thanks to Ayo Onatade for inviting me to take part and to the author for providing an advance copy for review.
Oh how I do love a good action/thriller story, and one with a strong female lead is always an added bonus. Charlie Fox has to rate up there as one of those brilliant characters I can’t wait to hear more about. She is strong, determined, principled, sometimes helped along by a little luck, but more often than not saved by her own quick thinking and ultimate skill. I may have been late to the party, but I’m enjoying catching up. So when I heard that there was a new book on the horizon, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. And what a book it is.
Everything has changed for Charlie and when we meet up with her again she is down on her luck. Out of a job, she is living the . relative quiet life as a house sitter. Quiet that is, until she happens upon an ambush in the middle of nowhere and finds herself caught up in an unexpected gun fight. One thing leads to another and Charlie’s quick thinking and fast action leads to a job offer that she cannot afford to turn down. But nothing is quite as it seems with either Charlie, or the woman she is employed to protect and what follows is a mixture of mystery, action and high tension thrills that kept me hooked from the start to the finish of the book.
I really love the character of Charlie Fox. Author Zoë Sharp has created such a believable and, ultimately, likeable character that you absolutely want to go on an adventure with her. She is not infallible, capable of making the same mistakes as any other woman on the planet, especially when it comes to her feelings, but she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her skills in protection and defence. You can tell the author’s own experience, training and research has been put to perfect use here, giving you just enough explanation to put you, as the reader, in the heart of the action, but not so much as to bore you with the detail. It makes the action sequences more thrilling. Heightens the tension as you can practically feel every blow, hear the ticking of the cogs as Charlie works out how she is going to get out of the mess she is invariably in.
Read the whole of the review over on Jen Med’s Book Reviews.
My Day 7 stop on the Blog Tour following the publication of the thirteenth Charlie Fox crime thriller, BAD TURN last week, is with the splendid Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen read the book to review for today’s post. I always wait for the verdict with bated breath…
I think it’s safe to say she quite liked it!
I’m thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Bad Turn today, many thanks to Zoë Sharp and to Ayoola Onatade from for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.
I loved the previous Charlie Fox story, Fox Hunter and have been eagerly awaiting her return in Bad Turn. This is the thirteenth book in the series but Zoë Sharp certainly hasn’t let her protagonist stagnate and I was looking forward to discovering what she would be up to this time around.
At the start of the book she has reached a crossroads in her career having quit her job in close protection with Armstrong-Meyer. Unfortunately the position also came with an apartment—and her former boss, Parker Armstrong had rubber-stamped her Green Card and firearms licence. Having been essentially blacklisted from the world of close protection, she is house—and cat—sitting in rural New Jersey. However, trouble has a habit of finding Charlie and when she becomes involved in the attempted kidnapping of Helena Kincaid, the wife of billionaire arms dealer, Eric, she quickly realises she has little choice but to accept the position she is offered working with the Kincaids as Helena’s protection.
It soon transpires that although the world of arms dealers is a shady one, the major players had at least reached an agreement to not involve their loved ones in their dealings. Therefore, the foiled ambush on Helena could trigger a war between some very dangerous people. Helena’s response to her new bodyguard is intriguing and not what I expected at all. After a terrifying encounter which resulted in bloodshed on both sides, it would have been understandable for her to be grateful for the reassurance of a highly trained companion but the situation with Mrs Kincaid isn’t that straightforward. At first she isn’t a particularly likeable character but revelations about her upbringing and her past experiences help to explain her attitude and I thought the relationship between the two women was absolutely fascinating.
Read the rest of Karen’s review on Hair Past A Freckle.
I’ve always said that when you write a continuing protagonist in a long-running series, you have to make a choice right from the beginning how much you’re going to allow them to change.
Keeping them static does have its distinct advantages, I must admit. For one thing, it doesn’t matter which book a new reader picks up first, as they’re not going to encounter any big spoilers for earlier stories. It’s also a lot easier for the character not to age significantly, although I think most readers accept that book-time works at a far slower rate than real time.
When I began writing the Charlie Fox series, I knew right from the outset that Charlie herself was going to develop and grow from book to book. Part of the fascination with the character for me is being able to set her personal as well as professional challenges in each story. I like to take her on a personal journey—one that she will learn from and grow in some way—quite apart from the dramatic events of the book.
At the beginning of the series, in KILLER INSTINCT, Charlie was not yet working as the close-protection specialist she later becomes. She was still very much an amateur when it came to her involvement with crime. By that I mean that she didn’t work for any kind of agency, private or government, who were paid to investigate. She gets caught up in events and has to deal with them as best she can to find a way out, protect the people she cares for, and to survive. It turns out to be very good training for what comes later.
Charlie is a little more raw at that point in her life, she’s still looking for direction and purpose after being kicked off the Special Forces training course she’d fought her way onto, and then being thrown out of the army altogether. At the start of that story she’s on the way back up from her lowest ebb, and I included a nod to her then-job working nightclub security in the latest outing, BAD TURN.
Read the rest of this article over on By The Letter Book Reviews.
Day 4 already on the Blog Tour for the launch of BAD TURN and I’m in New Zealand (virtually, more’s the pity!) with the wonderful Judith Baxter at Growing Younger Each Day. Judith has already reviewed BAD TURN on her other blog site, Books & More Books, but Judith asked me to write an article about the intricate relationships within the family Charlie is tasked to protect.
Judith Baxter: I had written and scheduled my post for the blog tour in advance as I was going to be away for a few days. Earlier I had asked Zoë about this, one of my all-time favourite, series and she generously agreed to write something for my post. Here she gives us a hint of how she gets into a book and bit of a background into Charlie Fox’s character and the effects some of the situations in which she finds herself, have on her. So a second post for today.
And a really big thank you to Zoë for this :
“Dysfunctional (Crime) Family
BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13
At their heart, the Charlie Fox novels are action-filled crime thrillers. But I hope that’s not all they are. Exploring the effect that the events of the stories have on Charlie herself, as well as on the other characters involved, has always been one of my main interests.
I like to know what makes people tick. How far they can be pushed. And, in the end, what makes them break.
It’s why my bad guys are rarely all bad. Everyone has shades of light and dark about them. After all, if you’re going to make your antagonists think they are really the heroes of their own story, you have to give them some reason to believe it. You don’t have to like them, as a reader, but you have to be thoroughly engaged by them.
Charlie usually arrives as an outsider into an already established group. Often she is seen as unwanted interference. She has to do her best to protect people almost in spite of themselves.
As was the case with BAD TURN.
Read the rest of this article over on Growing Younger Each Day.
Today takes the form of a review. Here’s Liz’s verdict on BAD TURN:
“Another pacy thriller from Zoë Sharp—there’s been a few feisty yet realistic heroines popping up in books and long may it last but Charlie Fox set the standard and is keeping it high 13 books later.
This was brilliantly addictive, chock full of action without losing coherence of story and with some unpredictable twists and turns along the way.
Charlie Fox is such a great main protagonist, clearly defined and engaging and every book flies by, page turning quality in every one. I love that you are never quite sure where they will end up.
Really excellent thrillers. Recommended.”
Read the full post over on Liz Loves Books.