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Review: A Stroke of the Pen The Lost Stories by Terry Pratchett

A Stroke of the Pen is a collection of short stories that Terry Pratchett wrote in the late 70s and early 80s under the pseudonym of Patrick Kearns. They were recently discovered by long term Pratchett fans Pat and Jan Harkin after a tip off by Terry's agent Colin Smythe.

Black Cover of A Stroke of the Pen with

Pat and Jan spent many hours scouring the newspaper archives looking for one story called The Quest for the Keys. They eventually found the story but in the meantime uncovered this treasure trove of other lost stories.

If you've ready and of the previous short story anthologies when Terry was writing under the Uncle Jim moniker (Dragons at Crumbling Castle etc) you will already know what to expect. This new collection of old stories is very much of the same ilk.

What I realised while reading this collection is just how many ideas Terry was playing with that would later be fleshed out into ideas for Discworld or other novels. There are self-writing biographies, phrases like Cutting My Own Throat, places names like Morpork and a ghost plot that was probably the geneses of the story for Johnny and the Dead. There were probably many more but I didn't write them down at the time (I was too busy enjoying the stories).

Don't go into this book expecting anything profound. Theses are short stories usually designed with the aim to get to a punch line at the end of them. But they should not be dismissed. They are undoubtedly Terrys words, just a slightly younger Terry who hasn't quite become Terry Pratchett author yet. For any Pratchett fan discovering these little gems is fascinating. Quite a few of the stories are based around Christmas, one wonders if that holiday was important to Terry or is just made a easy place to write stories in.

I take my hat off to Colin, Pat and Jan and, of course, Chris Lawrence for cutting out and keeping The Quest for the Keys and for asking Colin if there were any more. Without this we may never had found these important bits of Terry history.

I've heard that, very recently, a 21st story has been discovered so who knows maybe the paperback will end up with one more story.

One has to wonder if there are any more forgotten gems out there waiting patiently to be discovered. If, like Chris, you have a short story pinned to your wall and you suspect it to be one of Terry's, don't keep it a secret.

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Article written by Jason Rincewind Anthony-Rowlands
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