DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery by Toni Brisland (Sid Harta Publishers).
Launch ‘speech’ by Jeni Mawter 25 July 2010
First, there was Nancy Drew (1930), a young female amateur detective, then came George, or Georgina as we came to know her, from the Famous Five (1942), closely followed by Trixie Belden (1948) and now we have DemiChat, with her trusty sidekick, Lord Flannery.
When Toni first asked me to launch her novel DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery I was extremely surprised but very flattered. To take a great idea, then hold a published book in your hands is a quantum leap. Only another author can fully appreciate that journey. Today we have several authors in the room who have come to celebrate the success of DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery. When I first met Toni, I did for her what some of these authors had done for me – offered the hand of friendship, welcomed her into a group of like-minded souls, and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Two such authors were Wendy Blaxland and Susanne Gervay. Susanne and I were talking one day and lamenting the fact that our writing journey had been hard – not just hard, gruelling in fact. We decided that a handful of writers started their writing careers with an elevator ride to the penthouse of publishing success. For the rest of us, we had to take the back stairs – blindfolded – and shackled. I’m sure there’s been many times along the way when Toni questioned the sanity of her back stairs journey. Well today Toni, finally, the blindfold and shackles have come off.
As one author to another I salute tenacity, ingenuity and courage that has gone into the publication of this first book in what will hopefully be as successful a series as that of that Sir Arthur bloke’s.
Toni tells us that this book and its characters were inspired from her own life, with her blue-point Himalayan cat assuming the role of DemiChat, and her niece’s beagles going by the name of Lord Flannery, the name borrowed from Toni’s other cat. But after reading this Sherlock Holmes spoof I realised that Toni has actually based this character on herself. Like DemiChat, Toni used her feminine intuition and wit in order to solve the publication problems placed before her. Like DemiChat she has the devotion of a Lord Flannery in her husband, Richard, and the devotion of a Jake in her daughter Deen, and like DemiChat she has a great penchant for mystery, although to all the members of the Diorio family I’m not sure why Toni put the Italians as the baddies!
Toni will say that the message behind DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery is about teamwork but to me, there is a much more powerful message in this story. Unlike most heroes of today who use magical powers to solve their problems, Toni’s characters do not. Her characters use skills that all of today’s children can relate and aspire to, those of acute observation and logical reasoning. In much of children’s literature today the message is that you can easily ‘magic’ your way to a solution and this has been of growing concern to me. I’m delighted that Toni has gone against this trend – there’s not a vampire or werewolf in sight! This courage to go with her own conviction is yet another DemiChat characteristic.
At this point I must applaud the exquisite black and white film noir-ish illustrations of Peter “Zane” Haywood. I can see why Toni fell instantly in love with the illustration that was to become the cover, and why Peter was chosen by the publisher, Kerry Collison of Sid Harta Publications. They certainly add a depth and quirkiness to the book.
And finally, to Sid Harta Publications. “Publishing is a competitive and difficult business. More people are writing and there is less room among the big publishers for consideration of newcomers. Opportunities for good writers and many good books are lost because of this. So what can replace the big publisher’s power and influence in selection of writers and success on the book shop shelf? The small team – dedicated to encouraging and supporting the development of fine writing.’ Recognition must be given to this publishing house of vision, and congratulations for helping to produce a truly beautiful book.
Before I finish up I would like to give Toni a small gift to help her with her school book launch and for what I hope will be the start of many public speaking engagements. Firstly, a Lord Flannery hat. I would have loved to be giving you a DemiChat hat but as I’ve discovered, Deerstalkers are a bit thin on the ground. There is also the obligatory, detective disguise kit as well as some modern-day weaponry which is great for ‘boy appeal’.
With its mysterious kidnapping, a missing secret formula, and the most delightful animal Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson partnering, it is elementary, my dear Toni, that this book can’t go wrong. Now Toni, there’s a few people you’d like to address so I’ll ask you to pretend this is a Champs Elysees catwalk, that you are a former jewellery model, and please come over here and speak to your adoring audience.