Taming Poison Dragons

Posted on: 17 June 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Debut author Tim Murgatroyd talks to 50connect about his novel Taming Poison Dragons, a tale of poetry and war.

Taming Poison Dragons is a tale of poetry and war, political turmoil and reckless love during the Chinese Sung Dynasty.  Yun Cai once a fierce lover and a feted poet is now exiled from the capital, a withered and weak old man. Away from the imperial court Yun Cai has grown bitter at the prospect of living out his days in the virtual anonymity of his family home.   

Waiting for the arrival of his old friend P’ei Ti, Yun Cai discovers a civil war on his doorstep and is forced to take action. Yun Cai must lead his village in combat against the rebel hordes, whose ranks his turncoat son has joined.  As the rebels advance on his family estate, Yun Cai discovers P’ei Ti has been taken hostage and is being held prisoner by the ruthless warlord General An-Shu. 

Bound by a debt of honour to free his oldest friend, Yun Cai knows it will take all of his wit, courage and guile to alter the destiny that these ‘poison dragons’ of misfortune herald.  In the past when he risked his life for the beautiful and unforgettable singer Su Lin, it cost him his freedom. No longer a reckless impassioned youth, Yu Cai must find the strength to rescue his friend and preserve his honour.

Tim Murgatroyd’s richly detailed narrative brings to life the beauty and brutality of 12th Century China. Laced with poetry, the narrative flows between past and present gradually unravelling an evocative and epic tale of love, honour and valour in the midst of civil war. 

The Interview

Why do you write?

There are lots of good reasons – to make sense of life, to entertain others, to create something from nothing. The truth is that I feel especially alive when writing.

Where and when do you read?

Not as often as I would like these days, due to the pressures of work and family. When I do get a chance to wallow in a good book it is usually conducted on the bed.

Which author did you most want to be when you were younger?

You can never be someone different from yourself, however hard you pretend. I suppose that must mean the author I wanted to become was myself. But that doesn’t mean I’m ever entirely satisfied with what I write.

Which book would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.

What book do you read to your children when you're putting them to bed?

‘The Astrosaurs’ series by Steve Cole.

Which book do you wish you had written?

Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.

Do you always finish a book or are there any that you haven't been able to finish (and why)?

I work on the basis that it’s the author’s job to grip me, not the other way round. As a result there are many books I haven’t been able to finish. Oddly enough though, I have often revisited books a decade later and found I love them. Circumstances greatly influence your enjoyment of a book, I think.

Which famous author would you most associate your own writing with?

Not one but dozens! I learn from every book I read.

Are there any books that have really influenced your latest novel ‘Taming Poison Dragons’?

Lots of Chinese poetry in translation, as well as many historical works about China.

What is the worst fiction book you have ever read?

See my answer above! If I don’t like a book I stop reading! 

How would you feel about reviewing a friend's book that you didn't enjoy?

There is a Russian proverb: ‘A good friend’s advice can hurt, a bad friend’s never.’  I would hope to be a (tactful) good friend. 

Which is better - writing or reading?

You can’t have one without the other.

If you could write your own epitaph what would it be?

That’s surely for others to do. But if I had to write my own, it would be: ‘Loving Father, Husband, Friend, and a bit of a laugh when he was in the right mood’.

Tim MurgatroydAbout Tim Murgatroyd

Tim Murgatroyd is an English teacher who lives with his family in York.

He has remained fascinated by ancient China since his teens, when he discovered a slim volume of Chinese poetry in a second hand bookshop. Taming Poison Dragons is his first novel.

He is currently engaged in writing a sequel chronicling the turbulent events of the Mongol invasion of China.

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