Time Machine Day & Other Stories - Leonard Jellicoe (Old Egret Books 1971)

TSP edition of Time Machine Day

This anthology of short stories by Leonard Jellicoe is valued by his fans as much for its rarity as its actual content. Due to proofreading errors, every single story in the book was found to contain at least one libel (in one case there were four on a single page). It was hastily withdrawn from bookshops after only one day on sale. Jellicoe resisted requests from the publisher to re-write the offending passages, claiming it should appear as originally intended or not at all. Copies still turn up at book fairs and in second-hand shops.

Legal matters aside, Time Machine Day & Other Stories contains some of Jellicoe's best work. In the title story, a world Time Machine Day is proposed - a day in which any potential visitors from the future will be encouraged to materialise upon a huge stage erected in Hyde Park. The idea is to make Time Machine Day such a well known event that any future time travellers will have heard of it and want to take part. The story is as much an affectionate parody of marketing, as the scientists invent increasingly unlikely schemes to publicise the day, as it is a standard sci-fi yarn, but the final twist is unexpected and entirely satisfying.

In The Summit of Fear, several of the world's most famous mountaineers are killed during a conference in Zurich. In typical Jellicoe fashion, the murderer turns out to be a mountain - St Gottlieb, a rogue Alp that tiptoes silently down the streets at night and strangles climbers with fingers of granite as they sleep.

Timmy the Hamster - Bryson Kinsey (Peacock & Sceptre Books 2001)

First edition cover of Timmy the Hamster

"Abject terror, twisted longings and the perversity of fate. These are my concerns." Bryson Kinsey smiles as he drains his cocoa, almost inverting the mug as he greedily devours the last few drops. He is Britain's second most successful children's author - after J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter.

A rambunctious, giggly man in his early seventies, arthritis may have slowed his movements but mentally he is as sharp - and as opinionated - as ever.

"There seems to be a notion these days that children need to be protected from the world," he explains. "What rot. Deep down inside, we all know children enjoy being frightened, terrified even. Terrified out their minds."

Timmy the Hamster is his fortieth novel. It tells the story of a boy who develops frightening psychic powers after the death of his pet hamster. It revisits themes of abandonment and power touched on in previous novels such as Richard's Holiday and Call Me Daddy. It has drawn comparison to Roald Dahl, something which Kinsey angrily refutes.

"The Dahl thing, yes. Have you read his books? Totally different. Twee rubbish. Stories for little girls in flowery dresses. If you want to send a child to sleep, read them Dahl. If you want to keep them awake all night, give 'em one of mine." He laughs and pads to the kitchen to make more cocoa.