Put Out the Light book cover

Paperback £5.99
ISBN: 9781408130544
Publication Date: 9 September 2010

A&C Black Publishers
36 Soho Square, London, W1D 3QY
t: 020 7758 0200
f: 020 758 0222

Victory to friendship in tale of two countries at war

To be published on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Autumn 1940 Blitz

'You are safe unless a bomb has your name on it.'

Set in the three months up to the Sheffield Blitz on 12 December 1940, Terry Deary's novel explores friendship, loyalty and the unexpected connections that shape the destinies of young people caught up in war.

The creator of the Horrible Histories weaves his extensive knowledge of the reality of war into an exciting and often funny thriller for seven to thirteen-year-olds, which links the fates of children in Sheffield and Dachau.

Put Out the Light focuses on aspects of the Second World War that have been under-explored in children's fiction, including the bombing campaigns of cities outside London, the German labour camp system, the black-market and the opportunities for crime the war offered.

In Sheffield, policeman's son Billy and his mouthy, imaginative sister Sally become runners for the Shakespeare-loving ARP Warden Crane, a former actor. They soon turn detective to catch the blackout burglar, who strikes during air-raid warnings. Is the crook the sweetshop owner who trades in black-market chocolate, or the unpopular history teacher with the suspiciously expensive car? Billy tells the story of their chaotic investigation, in which they have maximum fun at adults' expense and have to face real dangers in order to solve the mystery.

Meanwhile in Dachau, Germany, schoolboy Manfred and his friend Hansl start to question the Nazi regime despite their Hitler Youth membership when they meet Irena, a Polish slave labourer at a munitions factory (the Dachau labour camp will later become part of the Nazis' extermination camp machine). The boys embark on their own after-dark activities, which they hope will help win the war for Germany as well as help Irena, and soon find themselves in great danger.

The English and German youngsters are portrayed as more alike than different: they all want victory for their country but do not want innocent civilians to be killed, and if any bombs have to be dropped on their town, they would like one to hit their school.

The career of Manfred's brother Ernst, a Luftwaffe bomber pilot, mirrors that of Paul from Sheffield, whose mother lives on Warden Crane's ARP beat. Paul, whose northern, working-class background means he suffers from the snobbery within the air force, bombs Dachau because his Wellington bomber has gone off course. Meanwhile Ernst transports a German spy on a mission that changes the fate of Sheffield: but his most important flight is yet to come.

Edge-of-the-seat, historically accurate accounts of air combat and gritty scenes of life on the home front on both sides of the war add up to a gripping story, which is honest about both the excitement of war and its effects.

In September 2010 Terry Deary reaches another landmark with the publication of Put Out the Light which will be his 200th book.

The facts behind the story

More than 700 people died, 1,500 were injured and 40,000 lost their homes in the air raids on Sheffield on 12 and 15 September 1940. The bombers were aiming for the steel factories and the Vickers works which made Spitfire parts, but destroyed the city centre instead because, as Put Out the Light explains, the RAF had found a way to interfere with the X-Gerat radio beam that the Germans used to find their targets.

Many provincial cities were heavily bombed during the Second World War, especially those with important docks or industrial capacity. Liverpool, Hull, Plymouth, Clydebank, Birmingham and Coventry were among the worst affected.