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Charles Elton worked as a designer and editor in publishing before becoming a literary agent. Since 1991 he has worked in television and for the past ten years has been the executive producer in drama at ITV. Among his productions are the Oscar-nominated short Syrup, The Railway Children, Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and the recent series Time of Your Life, all produced in association with WGBH Boston's Masterpiece Theater.
Fifteen years ago I began writing Mr. Toppit when I was a literary agent representing the estate of A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh. I learned the story of Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who grew to hate the fame his father's books brought him. To reshape that idea in a modern context was the single idea that was the genesis of my novel.
During the years I spent writing, another phenomenon occurred in the world of children's book publishing that made Winnie-the-Pooh's fame seem parochial: Harry Potter. Suddenly, my idea of a modern series of children's stories that take over the world did not seem so far-fetched. What had originally been conceived as a small story about my boy hero, Luke Hayman, suddenly made famous by his dead father's books widened into both an examination of the mechanics of fame and a strange journey towards a literary tipping point that has devastating consequences for the characters in my book.
Mr. Toppit was published by Viking/Penguin in England last year and has been very successful and received an enormous amount of media interest, helped by being one of the Richard and Judy Summer Reads (the UK equivalent of the Oprah Book Club). It is being published in the US by Other Press and I wanted to explain why this means so much to me.
Although I only had the sketchiest notion of where Mr. Toppit was going to go when I started writing it, the one thing I was certain of was that the children’s books inside my novel would first become famous in America. I began to follow the story of a radio presenter named Laurie Clow, from her sad childhood in Los Alamos to her dysfunctional life in Modesto, California, and the trip she makes to England where she collides with Luke and his family and becomes the catalyst that changes all of their lives. What happens in America is crucial to the plot of my book, and its publication completes the strange circle that started 15 years ago as I began writing.
I really hope you like the book and thank you in advance for all your support.
He really is the only character with any dignity.
I am fine with some of that, but there was too much left unresolved and some characters just felt a bit thrown in without purpose (e.g. Wally Carter).
I recommend this to all readers who are looking for good writing, an engaging story, and characters who will stay with you after the story is over.
I've tried slogging through this one but I cant seem to get into the story and the characters fall flat.The premise seems interesting, at first. Read morePublished 4 months ago by A. Burkholder
I feel cheated having spent the time to read this book. The characters were unlikable, the storyline shifted so much one never knew what time they were in. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Susan Nock
I won't belabor the points made by other readers. The book starts welll and then circles the drain. Too many characters, tedious, dull. Undisciplined. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Tippydog
I put off reading this after seeing the "who is Mr. Toppit?" ads in The New Yorker with a Spy vs. Spy man peering over the collar of a trench coat. Read morePublished on July 27, 2012 by K. B. Fenner
Luke Hayman, the main character in Charles Elton's engrossing novel Mr. Toppit, was the title boy in his father's Potter-esque series of kids books called "The Hayseed Chronicles. Read morePublished on March 21, 2012 by William Merrill
Luke Hayman and Laurie Clow. Two characters and how they feel about a set of books and their parents and how much they think they know about their parents and yet we the reader... Read morePublished on February 11, 2012 by K. Cade
This wonderful story within a story is an engaging and atmospheric read. The story of a family defined by the posthumous popularity of children's books written by a quiet father... Read morePublished on September 27, 2011 by C. Quinn
This book is clever and very English. There is a ghost of HARRY POTTER in the tale. A closer model may be the works of A.A. Milne. Read morePublished on August 11, 2011 by Mary E. Sibley
This book reminded me of RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, although the characters in MR. TOPPIT were not quite so crazy. Read morePublished on May 31, 2011 by Judith C. Kinney