I first came across Talker Knock when his story appeared in Window: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Children’s Anthology 2018. I thought then that Steve Carr had hit upon something - a blend of magical realism and children’s fiction - which was unique.
Here was a character whose ‘birth’ was perhaps the most unusual of any protagonist - no spoilers, for those of you who haven’t yet read the book - a birth which harked back to the fairy tales or even nursery rhymes of childhood, and yet his life resembled that of the central figures of Saturday matinees and comic book heroes.
But I think the main appeal of the Talker Knock stories was not so much the lead character, intriguing though he was: it was the world in which his adventures took place. The idea that one could be in Arabia and yet come across a city in which birds talked and a genie lived, or have an adventure in Atlantis one day but in the time of the dinosaurs on another was fascinating. It was this variety of setting - in which Australian deserts and dragon-haunted islands, witch-haunted Scottish castles and penguin-ruled Antarctic wastelands occupied the same world - which drew me in.
The human mind seeks completeness. That’s how fiction works. Master authors like Carr make the most of that quest for wholeness all the time. They do it primarily through characters, giving us patchwork creations with wounds, scars, missing things, losses and threats which draw in our attention as we seek to ‘heal’ them or follow them on their quest to conclude things. They do it through plots, in which the reader is pulled along wanting to know what will happen next, what is really going on and whether the choices being made are the right ones. But they also do it using settings.
The power of Talker Knock’s world is precisely its variety and its inconsistencies: how can Talker be in Atlantis in one story and then be sailing down the Yangtse river in another? What kind of world could contain both places? That’s the magnetic pull - we want to find out, and so follow Talker on whatever quest he is engaged upon in the excited hope that the entire amazing world in which he has his adventures will develop for us like a photograph.
Reminiscent of Herge’s Tintin and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, with elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doctor Dolittle thrown in, Talker Knock is the perfect blend of colour and taste - quite literally, as you will read.
You can get a copy here.