Quagga Books

    Becky: The latest good news! Anne McNulty's Review of The Confessions of Becky Sharp for the
 Historical Novelists Association has just appeared. The novel now goes forward for a possible award in
 June. Watch this space!

David James was born in London and has spent much of his life teaching abroad.  He attended universities in London, British Columbia and Leeds to obtain degrees in English Language and Literature, English and American Literature and Linguistics and Phonetics.  Originally a teacher of Art and Craft, trained at Goldsmiths' College, in 1961 he decided to brush up his English and enrolled at Birkbeck College.  Since then he has held school, college and university teaching posts in Britain, the United States, North Africa and the Gulf.


David has been published in such diverse places as The Times Literary Supplement, Essays in Criticism, The Brontë Society Transactions, The Thoreau Journal Quarterly, The Journal of Narrative Technique, Didaskolas, The Use of English, Children's Literature in Education, Peace and Freedom, Krax, Quartos, newbooks and The Freethinker.  


In 1977 he edited Eight American Stories for Longman.  His first novel, Boy Among Men appeared in 1988, followed by Paris Bound, a road novel of a journey from Morocco to England taken by a professor and his female Moslem student.  Punching Judy follows the progress of a female juvenile delinquent (as they were called in the 1950s) from a detention centre through  her career as a pugilist, taking on all comers, men and women, both in the ring and out.  In complete contrast The Confessions of Becky Sharp ( 2011)is told from the viewpoint of Becky, a charming and cunning adventuress who climbs the social ladder  into aristocratic circles.  It is a sequel, a prequel and an alternative version of Thackeray's Vanity Fair.


David James is now a full time writer of fiction, his latest works being Charles Dickens and the Night Visitors (2012) and The Scholar's Tale (2014). 


He has a grown-up family and lives in the United Kingdom in Sutton, Surrey with his second wife and two children, Ligaya, a Goldsmiths College,  University of London graduate, now working for her bar exams and John who  graduated in May this year at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.


Dave has conducted several self-publishing workshops at the Winchester Writers Conference.   S-P is the best way to get published NOW.  You set the agenda, the layout, the fonts, the appearance, the date of publication, the price. You then have to promote and sell it.  It takes energy, nerve and cash, but you are master of your own ship.


In July 2011 David was again a Speaker at the Winchester Writers Conference, this time delivering a talk on sequels and fictional biography.  He has given occasional  talks on writing and publishing  to writers circles and is currently a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli).

His latest success has been the launching of The Quagga Prize in January this year (2014).





Life on Maverick Street


On Being a Maverick

Breaking the mould has always been an exciting challenge for me as a novelist.  Like many of us I began writing by drawing on personal background.  Boy Among Men, a knockabout comedy based on my teaching of craft in London comprehensive schools in the 1960s, was fun to write. Twenty years on I drew on my experience of teaching in Morocco, writing Paris Bound (2002), a story of culture-clashed romance in which the road from Morocco to Paris takes many twists for two disparate lovers.

In Punching Judy (2007) the heroine is a butch girl boxer eager to take on anyone, man or woman, in the ring or out.  In 1950s London Jude, on release from a detention centre, returns to the life of crime and violence she knows and loves.  I’d never met anyone as abrasive and foul-mouthed as her until she seized me by the throat.  Of course by now I’d learned how to use research: reading about bouncers, bare-knuckle fighters at Sunday freak shows and the tough life of a young woman like Jane Couch, Britain’s first female world champion, fighting prejudice and making a living in a man’s world.

Friends looked askance when I told them I was writing about a girl boxer.  What did I know about butch women?  Not much from personal experience I admitted.  But the next year I entered the skin of that high-class whore Becky Sharp, and then eight members of the Dickens family.

 In 2011, the year of the Thackeray Bicentennial, I published The Confessions of Becky Sharp, a sequel, prequel and alternative version of Vanity Fair.  In 2012 it was Dickens’s turn and I read extracts from my novel Charles Dickens and the Night Visitors at the Dickens Bicentenary Festival in Rochester.  So if a favourite author is due a two-hundredth birthday or even a hundredth one that’s the ideal time to publish a sequel or fictional autobiography.  Why not keep an eye on the calendar and if you are a Victorian junkie like me you might note that Emily Bronte will be 200 in 2018 and George Eliot in 2019?

At the Annual Writers Conference in Winchester, where for several years I have been a Speaker on self-publishing, I often display my wares in the Bookfair - and even sell the odd copy from the backlist.  A year ago, with my Victorian hat on I spoke about the writing of sequels and fictional biography. So with this and readings at the local Writers Circle I’ve begun to widen my circle of contacts, culminating last year at the Rochester Bicentennial by giving nine talks about Dickens, supplemented naturally by readings from Charles Dickens and the Night Visitors.

I hasten to add that none of these activities have helped me to pay the mortgage, but at least they’ve drawn me out of the study and into the marketplace.  The same can of course be said of book reviewing, in which eleemosynary diversion I spend a fair bit of time, having over the years reviewed for the TLS, Children’s Literature in Education, The Use of English, newbooks, the Freethinker, Self-Publishing Magazine and more recently for Amazon and as ‘nonsuch’ on www.bookgrouponline.com  

Two more books are due out this year: The Scholar’s Tale, an intimate diary of a textual critic’s amorous adventures in three continents, and a manual on improving writing skills.  I dread getting stuck in a groove.  Such is life in Maverick Street!

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