spy agent Gambit inside the body of a dinosaur, the result is the world’s first secret agent dinosaur. Joining him on his missions at spy organization Department 6 is his daughter, Amber (she’s a schoolgirl, not a dinosaur) who’s training to be a secret agent just like her dino Dad. The high-octane action rolls along in the Spynosaur series – we’re up to book three already, book four due this summer – and the story is told in a canny combination of comic strip illustration (by artist Lee Robinson) and prose to keep the action zipping along.
‘They’re really good fun to write,’ Guy admits, ‘but then I’m a massive fan of the genre. When I pitched the first three chapters to my publisher, Stripes, my editor, Jane, suggested, instead of telling his origin, could you plot his origin story in some sort of montage? And then I thought, ah, why don’t I make this like a Saturday morning cartoon, but in book form? That’s when everything just fell into place.’
The combination of comic strip and traditional story has proved a big hit with children who might struggle with novels lacking in illustration.
‘As a kid, I found that books that were just text were quite
intimidating,’ Guy explains, ‘so I was quite conscious of including as much illustration as possible to break it up. Obviously I wanted to write this as a book, but I also wanted it to have the pace that you find in comics and animation. That’s why I liked the idea of a ‘theme tune’ that keeps recurring through the series – I wanted them to be singing it in their heads as they read. When you read prose you tend to read it at a steady pace, but when you read a comic you can pick your own pace.’
One of the most appealing aspects of the Spynosaur series is the close father/daughter relationship at the centre of the stories. Of course, with a book about a dinosaur spy, we can expect both hilarious antics and nail-biting action. But there’s also a tender, caring and occasionally touching relationship between Amber and her father that might surprise fans of the genre.
uy Bass has had a busy few weeks. He’s been out and about talking about his latest series, Spynosaur, and his services are in high demand.
As far as high-concept publishing goes, Spynosaur sets the benchmark. When scientists put the brain of super-
Guy Bass Interviewed by Damian Kelleher “You did it!” Amber said, pulling on her school
sweater. “Turn us around, before we end up back at headquarters!” “Not an option, I’m afraid,” replied Spynosaur, clambering into the pilot seat. “Even in stealth mode, Newfangle will be able to track us in the Dino-soarer.” “So, what was the point of getting control
back?” said Amber, leaping into the co-pilot’s seat. Spynosaur activated their harnesses to strap them in.
“Oh, that was just so that I could do this,” he
replied. He flicked a switch on his seat, and the Dino-soarer’s canopy ejected from the cockpit. Before Amber knew what was happening, rocket jets ignited beneath her seat and she was blasted out into the sky. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAA bit of warning next time!” Amber screamed as their jet-powered seats
‘Yes, Amber is very accepting of her father,’ Guy admits. ‘The thing I was most worried about with Spynosaur was that I wanted to create a story with heart. It would have been really easy to make it a funny, rollicking ride, but it had to be more than that. As the series progresses, their relationship shifts. In the next book that’s coming out in June, Amber’s father acknowledges that in time, she will be a better agent than him – it’s about her growing into the role.’
What about Amber’s mother, I wonder? Whenever her daughter sets off on one of her top secret missions, Amber is replaced in real-life by an adult older male – Sergei – who fills in for Amber at school by wearing the same clothes, and a frankly unconvincing wig of red hair. It’s surreal, preposterous, and very, very funny. But is Mrs. Gambit ever going to get wise? Guy laughs.
‘Oh, she’s perfectly happy to walk Sergei home in disguise! Sometimes I wonder if maybe Amber’s mother knows about the family’s secret life, but she’s fine with it. It all reminds me of watching Bugs Bunny when I was growing up; it’s the inspiration for all this. Elmer Fudd is always trying to kill Bugs, but if Bugs puts on a dress, Elmer thinks he’s a beautiful woman. So, despite the fact that Sergei is this crabby-faced old man – he makes no effort to look convincing – he can still pull it off.’
Even so-called ‘serious’ spy
movies and fiction doesn’t seem too inhibited by any form of reality,
so Spynosaur fits
neatly within that genre. But what are Guy’s inspirations for Spynosaur?
‘I love the Bond movies,’ says
Guy. ‘I tend to pick a genre and then give it a little tweak. I really like the spy genre because it’s so familiar – it’s been done a million times, but you can still keep it fresh. I like spy stories – you have everything from Le Carré through to Bond – and some of it is pretty ridiculous. So I knew that Spynosaur was in good company.’
6 Books for Keeps No.229 March 2018
propelled her and Spynosaur clear of the Dino- soarer. “Where’s the fun in that?” Spynosaur said with
a grin as they zoomed through the clouds. “Now, pull that cord on your left, will you?”
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