Terry Deary reckons he can put his finger on precisely why his Horrible Histories have been such a monumental success.
The problem is that history books more usually are written by historians - and historians should never be allowed near children.
“I am a children’s author first of all,” says Terry whose Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors and Vile Victorians head for Horsham’s Capitol from Thursday-Saturday January 26-29, courtesy of Birmingham Stage Company.
Terry’s own multi-million selling dip into history came about when he was asked to write a Father Christmas joke book, after which he was approached to do something similar for history (“Where to the French buy their guillotines? The chopping centre!”), but with some historical information added in. Terry discovered the historical information to be more interesting than the jokes - and so he was off.
Terry admits he gets rather stroppy when a youngster “usually public school” asks him what “inspired” him to write Horrible Histories: “Usually it’s the posh kids that come up with the word inspire. But I wasn’t inspired. I was paid!”
Paid, in effect, to do what the historians didn’t: “Historians are out to make a name for themselves. If they are given 100 facts, they will take just the ten facts that will back up their theory. They will totally ignore the other 90 facts.”
Terry’s point is that people don’t write history because they want to inform us: “They write history because they want to persuade us. And very very often it will be right-wing conservative ‘don’t rock the boat, look at what happens to people that do’ type history.”
And even the more respectable historians don’t necessarily give the full picture - something Terry corrected in his own First World War book when he deliberately focused as much on the German view as he did on the British view.
Not that Terry would claim to be unbiased and unvarnished. He believes his books show what idiots and monsters we have had on the throne: “It is unbelievable that we have had such mentally deranged people on the throne over the centuries.
“At school we were taught that Henry VIII was a bit cruel but he was a strong king and therefore a good king. What! He was a psychopath. He was a spoilt brat. He was very much like Adolf Hitler. But historians don’t like it when I say that.”
As for the current Queen?
“What a waste of space and time. The French revolution had the right idea. A nice guillotine will certainly discourage them.”
Terry would happily have her whole family packed off back to Germany “or wherever they come from…”
Terrible Tudors and Vile Victorians are at Horsham’s Capitol from Thursday-Saturday January 26-29.
In Terrible Tudors you will hear the legends (and the lies!) about the torturing Tudors. Find out the fate of Henry’s headless wives and his punch up with the Pope. Survive the Spanish Armada as it sails right into the audience!
In Vile Victorians you will find out what exactly a baby farmer did. Can you survive the filth of the factories, the slums and the sewers – and prepare for the Charge of the Light Brigade?
Box office: 01403 750220 or www.thecapitolhorsham.com.