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Tunnel Behind The Waterfall (Magician's House) Paperback – 14 Oct 1999
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It's summertime and the children are back at Golden House, enjoying the sun and relaxing on the banks of the lake, Golden Water. But news of development plans for Golden Water send worries round the house, and the magician warns that they must stop the destruction of the magical place.
From the Publisher
A Memoir by William Corlett
This book is part of "The Magicians House" quartet of books, as televised in the BAFTA and EMMY nominated BBC1 TV-series, starring Ian Richardson, Neil Pearson and Sian Phillips.
The author, William Corlett, remembers the inspiration for the stories, which began to unfold when he moved to a house in the heart of the Hertfordshire countryside soon to be joined by a black Labrador puppy named Charlie
" Charlie and I started going for solitary walks twice a day in the forest and, little by little, "The Magicians House" began to unfold in my imagination. The first of the quartet, "The Steps up the Chimney" was published in 1990. "The Door in the Tree" and "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall" followed in 1991, and the final book, "The Bridge in the Clouds" came out in 1992. A full-length novel every six months? Im not sure now how I did it. I was undoubtedly sustained by those long walks in all weathers, discovering secret paths and unexpected places with Charlie bounding ahead chasing rabbits, then tearing back to check on my progress, and sometimes (her particular bliss) swimming in a favourite pond.
"One early dawn we met two young badgers on a narrow path and the theme of "The Door in the Tree" was born; on another occasion we came face to face with a fox and Cinnabar arrived in the story. A dreary cleft through dying conifers became "The Dark and Dreadful Path" where, in the books, the creatures of the Golden Valley go to die. On a cold winter night I watched Charlie seeing the sparks flying up from the log fire in the sitting room hearth, and the idea of secret steps up the chimney came to me. At the top there would be a room. But whom would I find there? An earlier inhabitant of the house, perhaps? An Elizabethan alchemist, maybe, in his hidden study, beavering away at the magic of science?
"Years before my interest in the history of the Tudors and particularly Queen Elizabeth I had been stirred by reading about her connection with Doctor Dee, the alchemist. Alchemy, the search for mans pure internal gold, the elixir of life, the ability to travel through time what a character for a magical story. And so Stephen Tyler, the Magician of the title, materialised out of the glowing logs and what began as a series of random thoughts grew and exploded into full-grown books. The owls that swoop and screech round the house at night gave birth to Jasper, the Magicians owl, and Charlie with her dark brown eyes that tell you precisely what shes thinking took on a stirring role as Spot, the black and white sheepdog with the ability to talk if one knows how to listen.
"Rarely have I started work in a more fruitful position all my research was living and breathing around me. Meanwhile, my imagination was throwing up many paradoxes. One example; above the fireplace in our sitting room is a convex mirror. I moved the mirror to the Magicians study and transformed it into a concave bowl in which he dreams his spells. Later, after the books were finished, I was reading yet another biography on Queen Elizabeth I and discovered that Dr Dee used a glass bowl for meditation purposes There are times when imagination becomes uncanny!
"I was in the middle of book three of the quartet, "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall," when my father died after a brief illness. Then, quite suddenly, my mother utterly lost without him followed him two months later. Somehow I managed to get the book in on time, sitting at my desk in my study under the eaves with Charlie lying at the top of the stairs willing me to stop writing and come for another walk. But the final book was still waiting to be written and that one was hardest. Yet in some ways, it is for me the most successful, shaped and tautened as it was by the shock of the deaths.
"Now, all these years later, the books are taking a new life as a television series and I have been lucky to do the adaptation. Last year for Series One we amalgamated books one and two of the quartet. The new series is based on book three "The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall" the one I was writing when my parents died. And in that odd way that life has of repeating itself, it was during the final stages of post production on this series, while the finishing touches were being applied, that the only real begetter of the original idea, Charlie, died on night in her sleep having come to the end of her joyful life the forest. So, for me, this is Charlies series." William Corlett, 2000
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But, and this is a huge but, the three sibling heroes are just terrible. A tense know-it-all, a whiny know-it-all and a juvenile complainer know-it-all compete to see who can be the most childish and quarrelsome. From page one to the final page the poking, griping, complaining, teasing, insulting rudeness and shallowness never ever lets up. Had I been Uncle Jack or Phoebe, the couple who's babysitting these kids for winter break, I would have put them right back on the train home.
And the thing is, this problem could have been easily corrected. All of the superfluous whining could have been edited out. The basic characters are decent. The sibling dynamic could have been tweaked and toned down. Why wasn't this done? Don't know.
So, you have a great location, a compelling master plotline, a novel approach to fantasy magic, very creative incorporation of animals and nature into the story and mellow but satisfactory pacing. Depending on how much allowance you can make for the character problems, this could be a very satisfying read.