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10 Ian Flitcroft

Ian Flitcroft is an author, eye surgeon, alumnus of Oxford University and a long-term member of the Slow untitledFood Movement in Ireland. He has also published Journey by Starlight, an illustrated guide to life, the universe and everything. The Reluctant Cannibals, Ian's first novel, was a winner of a place at the legendary Irish Writers' Centre's inaugural Novel Fair in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Ian mostly travels by jetpack. I have it on good authority that he does not eat people.

1) What is your name? What is your quest?

Ian Flitcroft. My quest is to see if it's possible to write an entertaining yet erudite book on a topic that most civilised people might consider revolting – cannibalism.

2) Okay, tell me about your book.

It's all about a rather eccentric dining society at Oxford who end up exploring one of gastronomy's fundamental questions – what do we taste like? Several people die, several ghosts appear and our hapless would-be cannibals are pursued by the police and university authorities. But none of this stops the members of this dining club exploring the world's most unusual foods from a beaver's tail to a professor's leg.

3) What was the most difficult bit to write?

Oddly enough, once I got into it this book turned out to be rather easy to write. The two rewrites it took to convert it into a publishable novel were rather more like hard work.

4) What surprised you about writing it?

How characters/sideplots that I never imagined at the outset suddenly appeared during the writing and took on a life of their own.

5) First line: (or so).

"It took two men to lift the dismembered carcass. The departure of its copper coffin was met with a brief but respectful silence. Respect that derived from the fact that it contained the mortal remains of what was undoubtedly the largest turbot ever to grace a dining table in Oxford."

6) What's the next project?

Working on a collection of culinary flavoured and rather dark short stories.

7) Your three main characters are trapped in a barn during the zombie apocalypse. What's the outcome?

Well that's fairly simple. They'd have a long debate about how best to catch and cook a zombie. Since zombies are the living dead I would assume that, like a pheasant that has been left to hang for a week or so, they would be rather 'high'. So the best recipe for a zombie might be a based around a game pie, though as the characters might not have much in the way of cooking implements they might need to go for a simple roast. It would need to be accompanied by a fairly robust but elegant red wine, perhaps from the Rhone valley. Even during a crisis such as this my characters would have made a detour via the wine cellars and brought some decent wines with them into the barn.

Hmm. If this site had a zombie question contest, I think I'd have a winner now...

8) Your book's been made into a movie. What's playing over the opening credits?

Being set in Oxford almost 50 years ago, it would need to be something classical. The college chaplain is rather fond of Bach so I think it would have to be an orchestral arrangement of Bach's Cantata 208 – Sheep may safely graze. (No sheep or lamb are served up anywhere in the book).

9) When and where is the book available?

Right now. I would hope in all good bookstores and, of course, online.

My two cents: A great book. Augustus and his friends are easily the most charming fictional cannibals you're likely to encounter. There's a certain innocence about these men; they are kind, decent people who enjoy life, food and each other's company, and although they are horrified by certain requests in Arthur's will, they will also do anything to fulfill his last wishes - even if it means chewing on bits of him. My friends back away when I tell them the title of the book and add that it's made me appreciate good food, but the descriptions of inventive and lavish meals, and the participants' joy in sharing them, is one of the book's chief pleasures. Light, deft, witty and masterfully told, I can fully recommend this tale of a nourishing friendship.

And here are those lovely opening credits. But stay tuned...

What a fine choice! But of course I have my own ideas about what should be on the soundtrack to this book, and in my opinion, the late 1960s setting seals it.

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