John TownsendWho am I?

Other John Townsends write books so if anyone wants to know, this is me

I was born on the stroke of midnight in a little house in the ancient Roman town of Caesaromagus (Chelmsford), but I don’t think I was to blame for the Romans leaving.

However, I was definitely to blame for a flustered doctor, wearing pyjamas under his coat, rushing round to bring me into the world and driving smack into the gatepost. I’ve been blamed for all sorts ever since.

Like most children, I soon began to love stories, the power of words and the magic of plays on the stage. I still love them, so maybe I’ve never really grown up.  I was soon writing my own little dramas to perform in the back garden, or silly poems & stories to tell the cat. While at primary school, my sister and I used to help in the children’s library every Saturday, where the exciting world (and smell) of books began to cast their amazing and enchanting spells.

Showing off the red socks
As a lad – showing off the red socks

Being a fan of hiking in the great outdoors, I was always keen on geography (or to be precise, geomorphology), so before long I found myself turning into a real live geography teacher. That meant I could spend summers on the beach pretending to study long-shore-drift and coastal deposition – as well as trying to fly.

After various adventures, I became a secondary school teacher in Gloucestershire and writing pantomimes and plays for the annual drama productions. At that time I drove an old Morris Minor which I sometimes had to crank up with a rusty starting handle. One day a boy asked me to tell a story about my old car. So I did – a sinister yarn based on a scary tale by Oscar Wilde.

I later typed up the story on a little old typewriter, with lots of correction fluid to paint over mistakes and carbon paper for extra copies (no computers then) and I sent it off to various publishers. Eventually, after a lot of waiting, rejections and more rewriting, it was finally published with a bit of a silly title but at last I was in print.

Many books, plays and oodles of years later, I became a fulltime writer to concentrate on nonfiction books, especially to encourage young people to enjoy such things as painful history or scary science and amazing animals


One of the fun things about being a writer is never quite knowing what the next project will be. It’s great to find out new things to put into stories, plays or unusual nonfiction books. After all, our world is an amazing and exciting place, full of wonderful things, people and stories – with books as shiny windows into this fascinating universe.

Someone, somewhere included me in a list of authors helping to get ‘boys into books’
and I’ve run a lot of lads’ literacy projects - but girls, you’re allowed my books too!

I’m even named a ‘Reading Champion’ by the National Literacy Trust so itís been a privilege to help get some young readers started. After all, it used to be the case that certain books werenít encouraged...


I joined the Public Library as I’m told I must read more.
They say a book, like prunes, does good (but I’m not quite so sure)
I said I’d like to choose a book, with pictures, about crime,
With gory, yucky, gooey bits, with fights and blood and slime.

They stared at me in horror and took me to some shelves.
“Try these,” they said, “they’re easy books – just right for under-twelves”
I told them I’m a growing lad and I like action books.
They said the book on sport was out – and gave me stuffy looks.

“Have you got some shorter books, I really like ‘quick reads’?”
They said, “Go to the toddlers’ section – or shelves marked SPECIAL NEEDS.”
I said, “I want a book on shark attacks, that’s up-to-date with fact.”
The lady at the desk then sneered, “You don’t want books like that.”

She said that Dickens wrote good books and a writer called Karl Marx,
So I said, “That’s all right by me – did they write books on sharks?”
She snapped, “Encyclopaedias – try Natural History Fact.”
I said, “For grisly tales of shark attacks?” She said, “You don’t want books like that.”

“But why?” I asked, “For these are things that switch me on to text.
I like exciting reading, never sure what’s coming next.”
She quivered, quite dumb-founded, open-mouthed at my remarks
So then I said politely, “Have you still no books on sharks?”

She murmured words unlady-like and said she’d yet to find
A writer stooping quite so low to be so ‘yuck inclined’.
I said “John Townsend’s yucky books have gory bits throughout.”
She twitched, she sneered, she stamped her foot and steaming screamed “Get Out!”

So I had to leave the library and I got all kinds of looks
A shame they didn’t know about John Townsend’s latest books.
It’s just as well my school librarian is clever, kind and cool
Cos I’ve asked for all his titles to be spread throughout the school!

PS Public Libraries are great places now and all librarians are fantastic
(who never sue!)