Paul Dowswell



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May 9, 2015

Historical Association shortlist for Red Shadow

My Bloomsbury book ’Red Shadow’ has been shortlisted for the Historical Association ‘Young Quills’ Award. My previous two books ‘Eleven Eleven’ and ‘Sektion 20’ both won and the book before that, ’Cabinet of Curiosities’ was also shortlisted, so I’m very grateful to the HA for their kind support. Congrats to the other authors on the Secondary School shortlist: Mary Hooper, Tanya Landman, Helen Watts and Philip Kerr.


May 7th, 2015


My new book is published by Bloomsbury today ’Bomber’. It’s also election day too, which might rob me of a few front page headlines. So far there’s been one lovely review by the ever generous Jill Murphy in Bookbag. Thanks, Jill.


April 10th – 23rd

South Africa

Just spent two marvellous weeks in Johannesburg visiting schools for book talks and writing classes and talking at a Schools Librarian Conference. It was a fantastic adventure. The country reminded me a lot of Australia – same lovely climate, and friendly, good-natured people who made me feel very welcome.

The librarians I spoke to were a redoubtable and very dedicated bunch and just the sort of people you’d want to have on your side if you were stranded on a desert island. (or encouraging your kids to read!) I left there hoping very much that South Africa does not go the way of Zimbabwe and there will always be a place there for whites as well as blacks.

Very special thanks to Charlotte Biesman-Simons, who organised my trip over, Nicki Sulter, who had me speak at the Conference, and HeronBridge, The Ridge, St John’s and Roedean Schools in Johannesburg who invited me to talk to their kids. And thank you too, to the residents of Charlotte’s street, not least Neels and Graham, for their very generous hospitality.

librconference Speaking at the Library Conference in Johannesburg.


Enjoying a lovely day with Charlotte and her friends and family.

April 10th

To Johanesburg…

…for two weeks, visiting schools and speaking at a Library conference.


Write your own Adventure Stories…

 … advance copy arrive. I love working with Usborne, and this book (due in June, I think) is a real departure. Great fun to put together with Editor Ruth Brocklehurst and designer Laura Wood. 


Kids who enjoy writing will find lots of practical and inspiring ideas in this excellent book, while those whose hearts sink at being asked to write a story will see just how much fun it can be.Lovereading4kids.

March 17

Light Hall School, Solihull

Great to visit a local school and really enjoyed talking to the pupils. Thank you to Helen Klejdysz for inviting me.

March 13

New Beacon School, Sevenoaks

It’s been a busy week. A pleasure to visit this great school. Thank you to Jackie Howe for inviting me, and  Linda Newbury for keeping me company.

March 11

Trinity Schools Book Award

I was really delighted to discover that my First World War novel ‘Eleven Eleven’ had been shortlisted for this award, alongside such classics as Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, Judith Kerr’s ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and Elizabeth Wein’s ‘Codename Verity’. I knew I wasn’t going to win with those three on the guest list but it was a pleasure to meet them and I had a magnificent evening afterwards with Latymer School Librarian Terri McCarger. 


Sharing a platform with Judith Kerr, Michael Morpurgo and Elizabeth Wein.

dinner Having a wild old night with Terri McCarger, Elizabeth Wein and Maggie Eckel.

March 5

Caldicott School, Farnham

A day at this outer London prep school, with some very able children. Thank you to Anna Elson for having me visit.

March 3


Down to the West Country for a day of talks and workshops at Hazlegrove School. Special thanks to the pupils for listening so intensely, librarian Naomi Warren for inviting me, and the head and his wife, Richard and Katie Fenwick, for making me feel so welcome. We had a lovely evening.


February 24

Maghull Library

Great afternoon at Maghull Library, Liverpool, where my book ‘Red Shadow’ has been shortlisted for the ‘Sefton Super Reads’.

Thanks you especially to Tony Higginson, for his book stall, Leslie Davies for inviting me, and Ruth Clarke and St Edward’s College for this lovely review:

February 21

Daring Adventures play Wolverhampton

Gig number two for my band who do Fairport/Richard Thompson covers. I can’t bear ‘tribute bands’ so we do our own versions of these fantastic songs. (Whether we do them justice is open to question.) Here are a couple of songs from the end of our set: ‘Tear Stained Letter’ and ‘I Wanna See the Bright Lights Tonight’.

February 20

Chester Performs

A brilliant day back in my hometown doing workshops and a talk for Chester Lit Fest. Generously looked after by Paul Lavin and his very helpful and friendly staff. Thank you.

February 9/10

Glyndowr University, Wrexham

Two more gigs with the Hay Scribblers School tour. Great fun and a lively response, as I talked about my ‘Red Shadow’ novel. 


At Glydowr University with author Siobhan Curham, and Hay bods Paul Elkingham and Nessie Mason.

February 7,

Wolverhampton Central Library

Lunchtime talk with a nice crowd on ‘where I get my ideas from’. They came, they sat down, they stayed and asked lots of interesting questions AND my old friend Balbir gave me a bottle of wine at the end. Perfect little outing!

February 5

Daring Adventures…

…make their debut in the glamourous Stourbridge British Legion. Lovely crowd, most of whom didn’t know us, lovely beer and lovely staff. It’s great to be playing live again.


February 3

Harris Boy’s School, Pekham

Interesting to visit an inner-London comp, after a succession of very pleasant ‘Independents’ as they like to call themselves these days. Some lovely kids and some not-so lovely. Thanks to Mark Johnson for looking after me.

January 27-29

St David’s Camarthen

Marvellous three days bigging up my novel ‘Red Shadow’ in Carmarthen with Hay Festival organisers Nessie Mason, and Paul Elkington, Martin Daws, and the lovely Lydia Syson and Jeff Povey the Eastenders scriptwriter who is now also writing fiction.

January 22,

King’s School Chester

Grand day at my dad’s old school, and my brother George’s. Massive amount of reading going on here, and kids bought shedloads of books, so Thank You! Ros Harding looked after me very nicely.


Talking to pupils at the King’s School Chester   

January 20th, 2015

English Association Fellowship

The English Association, an academic body based at Leicester University, have asked me to become a Fellow – one of around 250 academics and writers who have ‘significantly enriched and promoted English in all its fields including creative, academic and educational.’

I am slightly flabbergasted to be on the list of their fellows, mostly made up of people with Doctor or Professor in front of their name, but I am really delighted to have been asked. Thank You!

January 2015 


Have been invited to South Africa in April 2015, to teach in schools and give a couple of talks at a School Librarian conference. Hugely exciting, and something to look forward to at the end of the winter.

December 23, 2014 


Hurrah! Deliver second draft of my new Bloomsbury novel ‘Bomber’. It’s about a Flying Fortress crew based in Norfolk in 1943, and is due to be published in May 2015. Now I can enjoy my Christmas.


Here’s the cover by James Fraser. Bloomsbury always do a great job on my book covers and I think this looks fantastic. Thanks, James, I know you put an awful lot into this.

December 9 

Cardinal Vaughan School in Holland Park

Back for four writing workshops. Thanks to librarian Alison Bugg for having me in again!

December 1-3

East London

Fascinating three days in the East End – unrecognisable from when I lived there 30 years ago. Flying visits to Stepney Green Maths and Computing College, Sir John Cass and Redcoat Foundation School, Morpeth School, Oaklands School and Bow Boys School, for talks and writing workshops on my First World War novel ‘Eleven Eleven’.

Thank you to Naomi Cooper at Authors Aloud for setting up this trip, and Gill Harris and Tower Hamlets School Library Service for having me visit. 

November 27

Leighton Park

Some exemplary writing from pupils at the Leighton Park School in Reading. Also, very much enjoyed giving an early evening talk for the local FCBG (Federation of Children’s Book Groups) on where I get my inspiration.

Thank you Chris Routh, for organising my trip.

November 24


Great to revisit this lovely Victorian town for talks and workshops on ‘Eleven Eleven’ at Whitcliffe Mount School, Cleckheaton, and North Huddersfield Trust School, and also a library talk that evening in the very impressive central library/art gallery.

Thanks to Pam Chew for setting up my visit.

10-13 November

Northern Ireland

Fascinating three days in Belfast and Ballyclare, where I visited Ballyclare High School, Methodist College, Hunterhouse College, and Wellington College.

I had never been to Belfast before, and was knocked out by the kindness and hospitality shown to me. The staff and kids were very welcoming and I’d love to go back one of these days. Special thanks to Elizabeth McConnell and Elaine Patterson who organised my trip, and Tanja and Judith Jennings who took me out for a wild night.


With Elizabeth McConnell and Ballyclare pupil Kaye-Ann Geronimo.


With two pupils at the Wellington College. Thanks for the poster, lads!

November 10

King Edward VI

Pleasure to work with the very bright girls at the King Edward VI High School in Birmingham. Thank you to Sarah Alan the school librarian, and Shelley Lee at Authors Abroad, for organising this visit.

November 6-7

Flying visits to Bromsgrove Prep and Northampton Malcolm Arnold Academy…


Thanks to Bromsgrove Prep librarian Helen Talbot for this display! (And the digestive biscuit.)


Lunch at Malcolm Arnold with librarian Jane Neill and keen readers. Glad to see the ‘rabbit ears’ photo opportunity (front row left) is still alive and well!


Book signing at Northampton.

October 27-31

Summer Fields School

Once in a while, I’m asked to spend a week in a school as an ‘author in residence’. This is a real pleasure as I get to know the school, staff and pupils so much better. I had an especially enjoyable week in Summer Fields Prep School in Oxford, where I took a creative writing class with every form in the school. The staff and kids made me feel very welcome. They produced some beautiful writing too, and were really engaged and a pleasure to talk to. Special thanks to librarian Laurence Dardenne, head of English Paul Dean, and Louisa Symington of ‘Books at the Barn’ for organising my visit.


A class on writing spooky stories, with Miss Palmer of the English department.

Autumn 2014

More reviews for ‘Red Shadow’


Paul Dowswell’s historical novels are minutely researched but wear their knowledge lightly, never failing to entertain. This is no exception. Jane Sandell, The Scotsman

…a highly attractive and beautifully written novel, with pages full of suspense and in-depth characters. Avvenire (Italian daily newspaper)

In a nutshell, a brilliant novel that grips till the end. Tribune (Indian daily newspaper)

Having twice won the Historical Association Young Quills Book Award you know that Paul Dowswell’s novel will be impeccably researched, but more than that, you can expect a powerful and engrossing story and this is exactly what we get. Joy Court, School Librarian magazine

The reader is drawn into a world of political intrigue, suspicion and treachery. …an exciting story with the potential to both entertain and enlighten young readers. Ciara Ni Bhroin, INIS Children’s Books Ireland. 

This is a brilliant book I can recommend to any parent as a teenager’s present. It is a fascinating education in man’s inhumanity and political misdirection... Red Shadow gives an accurate flavour of Moscow at war, with radical political viewpoints and intelligent arguments. Historical Novels Society

The story seems so unreal and the main characters are fictional, but the events are not and that makes it so fascinating to read and sit with goosebumps. Boekenbijlage, Netherlands

… the story is compelling, supported by Dowswell’s usual narrative rhythm that always impresses. (This is an) effective description of Soviet Russia, in all its greatness and miseries. lettura candida blog, Italy

The atmosphere of fear and suspicion, the arrogance of power and terror, the looming war with Germany, everything is made to perfection… Dowswell is also an excellent storyteller, able to build beautiful and compelling stories. Paper Blog, Italy

I was awake all night reading this book, knowing that if I put it down I would be eaten up with curiosity. I ended up going to school the next day feeling like a zombie, but it was worth it. Book Enders, India (Blog)

October 17

Oak Meadow

Nice to do a school visit on the doorstep, in this case, a primary in Wolverhampton, to talk about my ‘job’, as part of the ‘Primary Futures’ programme.

Great to meet local MP Emma Reynolds, and an old Usborne colleague of mine Laura Howell who fulfilled her childhood ambition of writing and drawing for ‘The Beano’, which is brilliant!

September 29-30


Almost down to the Isle of Wight for a visit to Walhampton, a really beautiful prep school outside of Lymington. Lovely kids, and made to feel very welcome by the staff. Thank you, especially to school librarian Chris Turner, for inviting me to visit.

September 22-24


Two days of workshops with pupils from Lingwood Primary, Fairhaven CE VA Primary, St. Edmund VC Primary, Cantley Primary, Reedham Primary, Freethorpe Community Primary and Fleggburgh CE Primary. 

Special thanks to Rachel Quick and her family for organising the visit and for having me to stay. It’s always lovely to come to Norfolk!

September 17-19

Appledore Festival

Down to Devon with the disgraceful Cross Country train network. Is there a more appalling train service is Britain? Never enough carriages so almost always overcrowded, which makes going to the loo or trying to get refreshments a chore, thin hard seats for five/six hour journeys, no proper baggage space where you can keep an eye on your suitcases… a perfect example of the failure of privatisation to provide a better service, and of big business’s contempt for customers.

Check out these reviews, and feel the hate!


… visit to Appledore Festival was huge fun and greatly enjoyed my trips to Braunton Secondary School and Community College, Pilton Community College, Holsworthy Community College, Ilfracombe Academy, South Molton Community College and Great Torrington Community School.

Special thanks to Torrington who bought class readers of my books ‘Auslander’ and ‘Eleven Eleven’.

Appledore is a wonderful Festival where authors are looked after very generously and get to meet and chat with each other at the magnificent Seagate Hotel. Big thanks, especially, to Janet Fisher, Carol and Al Smith, Penny Tomlinson and Pat Millner.


Pat Millner took me kayaking on the Torridge Estuary, an absolute highlight of my year.

September 16, 2014

Oswestry with Wilfred Owen…

… and Tony Bradman and Linda Newbury, to promote Orchard’s ‘Stories of WW1’ – a compilation of short stories. A pleasure to catch up with Tony and Linda after our Edinburgh Festival ‘gig’ last month, and a lovely visit to Marches School where we spokes to hundreds of kids in a booming sports hall. Afterwards we took a lovely walk in late summer sunshine through this beautiful Shropshire town, to visit Wilfred Owen’s home and memorial. I’m not a massive fan of poetry but Owen’s work still moves me to tears.

August 30, 2014

The Story of the First World War 


Although I mainly write fiction these days, I’m pleased to see my Usborne book ‘The Story of the First World War’ is one of six children’s fiction and non-fiction books recommended by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for their First World War Centenary Programme.

I love doing these information books with Usborne, not least because I get to work with a brilliant team – editor Jane Chisholm, designers Samantha Barrett and Tom Lalonde, and picture researcher Ruth King – who all worked with me on the companion volume ‘The Story of the Second World War’.

18th – 21st August

Edinburgh Book Festival

Four marvellous days in one of my favourite cities – and even the weather wasn’t too bad! Janet Smyth and her team at the Children’s Book Festival made me feel very welcome. I did three events – one at Loch Leven Community Campus, Kinross, and two at the festival site at Charlotte Square. Especially pleased to do an event with John Boyne – he of the striped pyjamas. John was a real gent and made some pertinent points about the need for stories to have a moral core – something I wholeheartedly agree with.


Signing copies of Hachette’s book of short stories ‘Stories of World War One’ with Tony Bradman and Linda Newbury after a v. interesting talk to 350 school kids.


A discussion with John Boyne, chaired by Jane Sandell, in the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre. The lady on the far right is signing.


Celebrating the end of the festival (for us at least) with (l to r) Jane Sandell, Josie Dowswell, and three good friends from Italy: Chiara Codeca and Riccardo and Barbara Servidori.

July 25, 2014

Summer issue of Carousel 

Really pleased to have been asked to contribute to much respected children’s books quarterly ’Carousel’. My article ’A Fresh Look at the Great War’ reviews the latest crop of non-fiction books.

Also delighted tosee a review of ’Eleven Eleven’ in Carousel’s WW1 fiction round up:

Paul Dowswell has crammed all the horror, fear, waste, cowardice and courage of that terrible time, into a powerful and meaningful read. ...It remains in the mind forever.

Thank you! 

16th - 17th July

More visits down South

Final two school visits before the Summer holiday, at the Bennet Memorial School in Tunbridge Wells and Bishop Luffa School in Chichester. Lovely end to the school year, where, despite wilting heat on both days, kids produced some excellent work writing about soldiers in the trenches of the First World War. Thank you to Jenny Gleaves and Margaret Bone for looking after me so generously.


With pupils at Bishop Luffa in Chichester.

July 16, 2014

News from the Netherlands

Delighted to hear my new novel ‘Red Shadow’ is picking up good reviews in the Netherlands, where it’s called ‘Kameraad’. This is from the Dutch Equivalent of the ‘Radio Times’.

 ‘A realistic and exciting story about a 15-year old boy who moves to the Kremlin with his parents right before the Second World War... a brilliantly written novel, with a believable mix of fiction and non-fiction, that will certainly entertain the target group, but adults as well.’

Thank you to Sabine Joppe at Callenbach for keeping me in touch!

July 14-15 July

Salisbury Cathedral

I was last in Salisbury as a teenager in the ’70s and it was wonderful to see this beautiful Cathedral again.


The city was barely bombed during the war, and local legend has it that this was because several top Nazis wanted a house in the close that overlooks the Cathedral.

This was a really exciting two days, working closely with staff at Sarum Academy, and the Cathedral Learning and Outreach Department, to encourage children to write stories based on a day out there. Special thanks to Sarah Rickett and James Oldham for inviting me to take part.

July 9, 2014

Chair Historical Association Young Quills Award

Fascinating few weeks reading through eight books on the ‘Young Quills’ shortlist with fellow judges Mel Jones, Alf Wilkinson and Dave Martin. We were pretty unanimous on the winners – Sawbones by Catherine Johnson, Sally Prue’s Song Hunter and Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Middle of Nowhere. All three were fresh and eminently readable and, most importantly, all made history exciting and accessible.

July 8-11 July, 2014

A week down south…

…with visits to Cardinal Vaughan and Beauchamps School in Essex. Thank you to Alison Bugg (again - I’m always pleased to visit Cardinal Vaughn) and Sally Perkins, for asking me to visit their schools.  

July 4, 2014


A lovely visit to Outwood Academy, for their ‘Literacy Celebration’. Thank you to Leanne Holmes for inviting me, and buying a great caseload of my books for the school, and also to Rosie, the school librarian. It’s so important to encourage children to read, something Outwood are doing fantastically well.

July 3, 2014

Eleven Eleven makes the Guardian…

… in Tony Bradman’s round up of the best Great War novels for children and teens. Thanks Tony, you’re a geezer!

There’s nothing like a ticking clock to add plenty of tension to a story, and the run-up to the Armistice – 11am on 11th November 1918 – was probably the most lethal countdown in history. Paul Dowswell’s utterly gripping, award-winning novel follows three young combatants in the last hours of the war, when survival could only be seconds away.

July 2, 2014

Norwich Children’s Book Festival

A great couple of days in Norwich where Cheryl Wood and Andrew Murray had organised a magnificent day where I spoke alongside Cathy McPhail, Marcus Sedgwick and the Radio Two DJ Simon Mayo. Fascinating to see all three of them give very engaging talks to hundreds of kids in a great big tent. Cathy and Marcus were a real pleasure to meet.


Norwich Book festival in full swing!


With two prize winners from the Creative Writing Contest, which I was asked to judge.

June 23-25, 2014

International School, Groningen

Three days in the Netherlands, at the International School at Groningen. Lovely part of the world and a very warm welcome from staff and students, who amazed me with their multi-lingual writing talents. Thanks, especially to Caroline Bennett, for arranging my visit. 


Round the corner from my hotel. 

June 17, 2014 

Article in Times Education Supplement…

 …by me on Historical Fiction and Russia. Very curiously edited by someone in a hurry, but hopefully still worth a read. Here’s the link: 

June 13, 2014

More reviews for Red Shadow

... from the Netherlands and the UK.

Anyone who has read a novel by Dowswell will never look at their history books in the same way again, …and that is his power as a writer. Kinderboekenpraatjes  

Fear creeps through the story giving the reader a real sense of life in communist Russia,. (It…) leaves the reader stunned by the atmosphere (the author) has recreated. For most young people nowadays Soviet Russia is in the past but recent events remind people all too well of how things were. so this is a timely novel. Books for Keeps 

June 3, 2014

Rome and Bologna

Four baking hot days in Italy, where ‘Eleven Eleven’ (L’ultima alba di Guerra) has been shortlisted for two book awards. It didn’t win, but who’s complaining!

Two events at the Rome Book Festival: meeting with the jury for the Scelte di Classe Award in a scorching hot room at Villa Borghese. Despite the drowsy heat, none of them went to sleep during my talk, which counts as a victory in my book and it was a great pleasure to meet them. And then off the next day to Biblioteca Pasolini in Viale dei Caduti, where I met a class from a local school. Thanks to them for coming along and for the library staff who provided me with a fabulous lunch.

Off to Bologna that afternoon for the Hamelin Book Awards. Thank you to Barbara Servidori and her colleagues for their marvellous hospitality and for inviting me to visit Bologna again.


With the jury for the Scelte di Classe Award at Villa Borghese in the middle of Rome. My great editor at Feltrinelli, Francesca dal Negro, is second from the right. Far right is Claudia Quaglieri, who translated with aplomb.


With students at Biblioteca Pasolini in Viale dei Caduti.


With the Hamelin staff in Bologna, after an ill-advised liquorish liquor. This restaurant has been with the same family for four generations! 


With Barbara Servidori and Chaira Codeca in a marvellous medieval bar which lets you bring your own food. 

May, 2014 

 More reviews for ’Red Shadow’

Dowswell paints a gritty, realistic and well researched portrait of the political intrigue that seethed behind the Kremlin walls just prior to the Nazi invasion. The plot twists and turns carrying the reader on a rollercoaster ride that seems destined to end in darkness... Dowswell’s well-drawn characters draw the reader into the midst of the chaos and paranoia as the bombs begin to fall. Friends and neighbors disappear, spirited away by the ‘Black Ravens’. The story plays out against a rich background of vivid images and memorable secondary characters. Nancy Bell, Historical Novel Review

 …an evocative account of Moscow 1941 just before and at the beginning of the German invasion. The appeal of this story lies both in its humanising of a totalitarian regime, as well as in its attention to detail and authenticity. As with all good historical fiction the reader has a sense of reading a true accountReadplus

‘Red Shadow’ Book of the Month

  …in Literature Works.

 More books awards for ‘Eleven Eleven’

Thrilled to hear my First World War book ‘Eleven Eleven’ has been shortlisted for both the Rome Book festival  Scelte di classe prize and also the Hamelin/Xanadu Prize in Bologna. I’m going over there for the ceremonies at the end of May, so wish me luck!


The Italian edition of ’Eleven Eleven’ published by Feltrinelli.

Trinity Group of Schools Award

Also very pleased to hear that ‘Eleven Eleven’ has been shortlisted for this award – from schools in the Guildford area. 

Young Quills Book Award

The Historical Association have asked me to chair the panel of judges for the Young Quills Book Award. Currently expecting eight books to arrive, which I will then have to read at top speed. (Cue one of my favourite jokes, from Woody Allan. ‘I’ve just been on a speed reading course. I read ‘War and Peace’ in two hours. It’s about Russia.’ 

Red Shadow launch


My new Bloomsbury novel is published on May 8

Here’s a selection of early reviews from the UK and the Netherlands, where the book was published last month.

Red Shadow is fascinating to read because it is so beautifully researched… But don’t think that it’s a worthy book beyond all else. It isn’t. It’s utterly gripping. As the climate of suspicion and series of denunciations closes in on Misha and Valya, you feel a real sense of dread. I really was on the edge of my seat. So this one comes highly recommended by me. Jill Murphy, Bookbag

The writer did a remarkable job with this book. From the first page you wi