Sunderland author Terry Deary celebrates 25 years of Horrible Histories

Sunderland born author Terry Deary with one of his books.
Sunderland born author Terry Deary with one of his books.

Blood, guts, gore and a lot of good fun proved the perfect combination for a Sunderland writer 25 years ago.

It was 25 years ago that Terry Deary first picked up his pen to produce Terrible Tudors and Awesome Egyptians, the first of what would become his famous Horrible Histories series.

Terry Deary and Horrible Histories at Sunderland Empire.

Terry Deary and Horrible Histories at Sunderland Empire.

Two and a half decades later the series has sold 30 million books which have been translated into 40 different languages.

Alongside illustrator Martin Brown, the pair offered children – and adults – something unique. History told, not through dreary dates and boring lectures, but via silly jokes, blood-stained battles and a lot of gore.

Terry said: “I published my first children’s book 40 years ago and I remember the publisher saying that writing is like a sausage machine – you have to keep putting it in one end to get the product out of the other.

“I spent my youth in my dad’s Sunderland butcher shop making sausages, so that is an image that has stuck with me.

I published my first children’s book 40 years ago and I remember the publisher saying that writing is like a sausage machine

Terry Deary

“Three hundred books later I’m still turning the handle to churn them out.

“The secret of longevity in this industry - since aspiring authors ask - is to create a “series” of books - a string of sausages.

“And I found that series in Horrible Histories. Twenty-five years after producing the first Horrible Histories book I’ve produced over 100 of those titles, selling well over 30 million copies in 40 languages.

“That’s an awful lot of sausage.”

Terry Deary taking part in a Poppy Run in Sunderland.

Terry Deary taking part in a Poppy Run in Sunderland.

Indeed, Terry and Martin’s work has gone on to become a multimillion pound industry, spawning TV programmes and stage shows.

The work of the Wearside-born wordsmith, who got three A-levels at school, and is an honourary graduate of the University of Sunderland, has proven to be the gateway into history and reading for young people across the world.

Today, thanks to Terry and Martin, millions of children every week engage with the past through the books and the CBBC TV series.

Mikeala Morgans, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education at the University of Sunderland, said: “The Horrible Histories books and TV series have helped children develop a passion for history for quarter of a century.”

Terry Deary

Terry Deary

Terry was born in Sunderland in 1946, his dad was a butcher in Hendon and his mum, a manageress of a clothing shop.

As well as writing, Terry is an actor and singer and is a keen charity runner.

The Horrible Histories TV series has gone on to win several children’s BAFTA and RTS awards.

In 2014, Horrible Histories – Villainous Victorians was named in the Sunday Times list of 100 Modern Children’s Classics, the only non fiction book to appear in the list.

Terry was awarded a degree as Doctor of Education from the University of Sunderland in 2000.