has Dickens, Dublin has Joyce and now Swindon has best selling author
It's an unlikely adoption which has resulted from the critically
acclaimed author, Jasper Fforde, setting his series of 'Thursday
Next' novels in Swindon... yes Swindon.
But it's a Swindon in a parallel universe.
A surreal, 1985 Swindon where croquet is played at the County Ground,
a train system rattles underground, a skyrail runs eye-level with
the Brunel centre and home-cloned dodos are the household pet of
A Swindon which, according to Time Out, "is a really exciting
place to live".
cracks aside Fforde's surreal version of much-maligned Swindon has
well and truly put it on the literary map.
In return the unlikely location setting has been credited for helping
to make the books hits all over the world.
Many of Swindon's overlooked charms make an appearance: The Stratton
bypass, Oxford Road, Commercial Road and the infamous magic roundabout
as well as the County Ground.
And Swindon's streets could soon be returning the favour by bearing
some of Fforde's characters' quirky names including Thursday Next
and Penzler Pick.
We caught up with Fforde to find out more:
did you decide to set your books in Swindon?
"Well why not? is a good answer to that question.
"Many years ago, 20 years ago, I came here working as a runner
for a film company. We were making a film called Champions shooting
on the Lambourn Downs, and I was staying in what was then the Crest
Hotel, and I thought this a terrific place to set a book or a story,
airship over Swindon. From Jasper Fforde's website.
struck you about Swindon?
"I don't know it was just different.
"It's very obvious to set books in London or Bristol or somewhere
like that or Bath. They're all slightly elegant and that sort of
"But here, I thought, why don't we just create a place where
anything can happen and in my books anything does happen.
"The Swindon, that Thursday Next lives in, is a sort of parallel
Swindon which is sort of similar but different.
"I'm very much promoting an alternative sort of Swindon. You
can actually come here and see what my alternative Swindon would
look like but you have to sort of screw up your eyes slightly."
What are the similarities and the differences?
"The similarities are the layout. Certainly, you know, all
the road layouts and everything are the same.
"And the differences with my Swindon and Nextian Swindon, as
I call it, is that it has an underground system for instance. It
has a monorail system, it's very, very modern and lots of things
go on there. There's four
theatres and there's tons going on there all the time."
& Dave's dodo emporium. From Jasper Fforde's website.
do you come up with these character names?
Hicks, Bowden Cable, Thursday Next, I don't know, I love thinking
up new names.
"It's a long sort of British tradition, I think, in writing.
Dickens came up with ridiculous names, you know.
"I just see something written down and I go 'that sounds like
a really good name' because I like a name that could just be a name,
it isn't but it could just be a name.
"Bowden Cable is actually those cables that are the breaks
on bicycles. That's what a Bowden Cable is and it could just about
be a name. I just like them and they have a good ring to them."
What do you think of Swindon naming some roads after characters
in your books?
"I think that would be wonderful, absolutely honoured. That
300 years from now, when I'm completely forgotten, there will be
a road there named after a character is tremendous."