The story behind the Tales of Ramion

Frank Hinks
Opinion - Books Thursday, 25 October 2018

QC Frank Hinks is also a writer, illustrator and publisher. He describes the journey from children's bedtime stories to illustrated colour editions

From a young child I wanted to be both a barrister (watching Perry Mason on TV, I told Great Aunt Dora: "That's what I want to be when I grow up") and a writer (no childhood illness or holiday was complete without starting a new book). Like other deluded fools, I had the unshakeable conviction that it was my destiny to make my fortune from books. In the event it proved easier to make money as a barrister.

With the birth of my sons Julius, Alexander and Benjamin I did at least gain an appreciative audience of three for my storytelling. Julius was particularly demanding. He wanted a new story every night. But he would help. "Dad, tonight I want a story about the witch Griselda" (who had purple hair like his artist mother) "and it starts like this ...." He would then give me one sentence and I would have to take over the story not knowing where it was going. The basic idea was that the witch wanted roast Julius, stewed Alexander and Benjamin on toast, that the children would get into seemingly impossible situations (where they had a 99.9% chance of being eaten) while also, somehow or other, arriving home safe and sound in time for tea: at the last minute Snuggle (the family's misnamed warrior cat) or Drago the Dragon (who had the dreadful habit of spitting) or Precious Plants (which had the power to reverse evil magic) came to the rescue.

Bedtime storytelling would have come to nothing but for the 1991 property recession, which (for a time) cost me 50% of my practice and 50% of my income. I consoled myself by writing the Ramion fantasy stories inspired by the bedtime storytelling. Once written, the stories needed illustrations. My wife (an abstract painter) would not have dreamt of doing the illustrations herself, but treating me like one of her art college students and finding in my illustrations every defect known to woman, through a process of stringent criticism enabled me to discover a talent for art I had no idea I possessed.

I first published the stories under the imprint Perronet Press between 1992 and 1995, on a very small scale, with black and white illustrations. In 1995, I turned to colour with gouache (opaque watercolour) illustrations. This brought small scale publishing to an end. In 2002, I was offered a one-man show for 117 of my gouache paintings at the Chapel Gallery, Hall Place, Bexley, and decided that this was the opportunity to publish my work in full colour on a commercial scale.

Between 2002 and 2005, I published 12 individual stories and three collections. In 2006, four of the stories were published in Korean by Marubol, a publisher that specialises in illustrated books: the Korean designer did a brilliant job. From 2006 my international practice as a QC really took off, and I appeared in court for billionaire or multi-millionaire families in Cayman, Bahamas, Bermuda, BVI and Hong Kong as well as England. It became harder and harder to continue the two activities, particularly since with the demise of Portfolio I lost the ability to sell and market the books effectively - the replacement distributor did not have the same sales and marketing capacity.

However, despite the problems, I never stopped writing, illustrating and publishing new stories: four individual stories and three collections were published between 2009 and 2017. This had no discernible adverse effect on my practice as a barrister, but proved fatal to a judicial career: when I went to see the then Chancellor about my application to become a High Court judge, his opening words were that while it was acceptable to continue to run one's landed estate when one went on the bench, it was not acceptable to remain in commerce! Despite a world-class practice, I did not even get an interview.

Things changed in 2017, when Perronet Press entered into a sales and marketing agreement with Saltway. Murray Mahon and Chris McLaren, while not being as challenging as my wife, have totally transformed Perronet Press with a new designer, new proof reader/editor and new production manager, although at least my Hong Kong printer was held to be of a sufficiently high standard. Saltway wanted a new uniform international co-edition of 18-plus books based on the Korean edition. The first four books (The Land of Lost Hair, Creatures of the Forest, The Dream Thief and Frankie and the Dancing Furies) are published on 24th October. At last I am beginning to fulfil my childhood destiny.

Frank Hinks is a Queen's Counsel, writer, illustrator, and (as proprietor of Perronet Press) publisher of the Ramion series of children's fantasy stories.

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