ONCE UPON A WORLD

A bedtime book of Bible stories wot I wrote…

Back in 1976 when celebrity chef Lotte Duncan was ten (and so coincidentally was my wife Cathy) I put on my marketing hat to consider what has been the most successful book of all time. I settled on the Bible. It had the lot – exciting plots, goodies and baddies, adventures on land and sea, lots of magic, a wonderful garden, an ark full of animals, a coat of many colours, cities tumbling down at the toot of a trumpet, walking on water, changing water into wine ( a trick I’m working on) and, well… Almost everything. And yet I couldn’t find a book on the subject that had been given the silly cartoon treatment. This was it. I’d be rich and famous.

CD cover for Once Upon a WorldWork started immediately and I wrote what I still consider to be the best storytelling I’ve ever done. My childhood and education meant I could re-tell almost all the stories without any reference, but I had a good book to refer to if I got stuck. And it was way out of copyright. I finished the written bit (as us writers say) in short order, and I was soon able to present my mum with the typescript. I left her with it, praying she would not find my jocular style offensive. When she phoned up in floods of tears I was concerned for a minute, until I realised this un-British show of emotion was because I had touched her deeply. Aaah…

Anyway, I took far longer doing the thirty or so cartoon illustrations which, if you are an expert on my current stuff, are quite quaint. But never mind. John Adams Toys, who had just started a rather good publishing arm, paid me a handy royalty, and were accessible enough to let me produce the resulting book exactly as I wanted it.

To cut a long story short (if it’s not too late) Once Upon A World was a great success. It sold 70,000 copies, and then a further 25,000 on the back of an extraordinary order from Kuala Lumpur. What they did with them I’ll never know, but whenever I get the opportunity I say ‘I’m big in Kuala Lumpur.’

OUAW as I lovingly call it got fantastic reviews from all the religious press, bar none, and some great ones from the Evening Standard, Telegraph and Times Educational Supplement to name but a few. A good bloke called Clive Jacobs, who presented a religious programme on Radio 4 called Sunday heard extracts on various radio programmes and got in touch. He wanted to produce it as a double cassette for CTVC and started on the business of finding a suitable voice. Bernard Cribbins turned it down, so sod him, and so did Tom Baker. So sod him too. The favourite choice, who Clive hardly dared approach, was movie and Dad’s Army star John Le Mesurier. He loved it and everything was arranged. I went along to the studio and I still have a recording of me talking to him from the control room somewhere. He was a sweet kind man – and gave his all to produce a beautiful recorded work. We added sound effects from movie epic The Greatest Story Ever Told and the job was done.

Twenty years later I bought the rights to the recorded work, and the 1″ tapes gathered dust on my shelf for about as long as Methuselah was around. I finally got round to it, had the tapes remastered and converted to CD and set about re-releasing it. Well, Robbie Williams and One Direction haven’t got much to worry about, but it did ok. If this has given you an irresistible desire to have your own copy, it is available from Amazon (what isn’t?) Simply follow this link: http://amzn.to/1vlaHLB for volume 1 and this link http://goo.gl/j1PzpE for volume 2.

Another great man came on the scene a few years ago. James Blundell. He made an animated film of the Adam and Eve story – hopefully as a curtain opener to the whole event. Sadly this is as far as it’s got so far, but it’s really good. Take a look. Show it to the kids: http://goo.gl/j2T4nK
The book is no longer available anywhere apart from the back of that same shelf, but you can see some cartoons, done much later, of key moments in this Biblical extravaganza by clicking here: http://goo.gl/QuQeaj

Oh, and this masterwork was dedicated to Lotte, or Charlotte as she was then…