Book Jacket

 

rank 3245
word count 76708
date submitted 01.02.2010
date updated 15.02.2010
genres: Fiction, Fantasy, History, Comedy
classification: moderate
complete

Robin Who

Andrew Fish

A time-travel comedy adventure that brings a new slant to the Robin Hood legend.

 

Robin Hood was a crook! But was he as good a crook as he's cracked up to be? That's what Erasmus Hobart, teacher of history and physics wants to find out. In this, his first adventure, Erasmus takes his time-travelling privy back to mediaeval Nottingham in his quest for knowledge. But with homicidal knights, amorous female outlaws and mischievous squirrels all proving an obstacle to his progress can he really get to the truth and still get back in time to mark 4A's history homework? A comic fantasy writer in the tradition of Adams, Pratchett and Holt, Andrew Fish brings a new slant to the classic legend.

 
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tags

adventure, comedy, douglas adams, history, pratchett, robin hood, time travel

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Chapters

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The room was small, dark and dusty, the small amount of moonlight from the window revealing its contents to be a desk strewn with papers, two wardrobes, some steel racks and a single, bare light-bulb, currently switched off and hanging from the ceiling more from habit than from any desire to cling on to life. It was also silent, as one would expect from a disused store room in a school after the children had long since gone home. A draught from under the door wafted in, toyed with some of the paperwork then left, evidently finding little to occupy its interest. Eventually, even the moon disappeared behind a cloud, as if popping off to find something more significant to illuminate.

It was whilst both wind and moon were absent from their posts that the room came to life: at first it was just a gentle breeze that seemed to blow from every corner of the room at the same time, then as the paperwork began to rise from the desk and distribute itself across the floor there was a sound like a box of firecrackers being dropped into a furnace. As the echoes of the sound died away the paperwork fell to the floor and in the room stood a large, wooden structure where no such item had previously been.

After a few moments, the door to the structure opened and a man dashed out, reached for the light switch and flooded the room with a warm, yellow light.

Erasmus Hobart, to his knowledge the first time traveller in human history (or at least the first to depart – there was no telling where subsequent travellers might arrive), wiped the sweat from his brow and made a half-hearted attempt to gather up some of the scattered paperwork from around the room. Somehow the mundane nature of this task was made all the worse by the fact that what had gone before had been in such stark contrast.

He turned back to the stout, wooden privy that stood conspicuously in the middle of the room. It wasn’t an obvious addition to a teacher’s store room – even a school as old as St Cuthbert’s had plumbing - but were any inquisitive soul to guess at the reason for its presence, it was remarkably unlikely that they would have guessed remotely correctly. Erasmus’ experiments in time had remained a secret for almost two years now, from the earliest experiments with sending inanimate objects through time, right up to his first personal trips, and the teacher had managed to avoid all questions, even when the topic of conversation moved to the distinct lack of 2B pencils.

He ran his hands over the surface of the time machine: it was warm, but not unduly so. Erasmus had often been concerned about the potential thermal effects of time-travel: his early experiments, when he had sent small, unmanned devices a few minutes backwards or forwards in time, had invariably resulted in the machines getting extremely hot, which Erasmus assumed to be due to some kind of temporal friction. The chance occasion on which he had, due to budgetary restraints, made one of his experimental models out of wood he had been pleasantly surprised to find it was entirely unaffected. Pleasantly surprised because not only did it mean he could build a machine which wouldn’t spontaneously combust the moment you went farther than a week from home without having to find some exotic and undoubtedly expensive metal, it also allowed him to build one which wouldn’t appear out of place through most of recorded history. An admantium time machine might well be extremely cool and wonderfully durable, but it didn’t stop it sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of tenth century village.

He gave the machine a final pat then let out a violent exclamation as he snagged his thumb on a rough edge, giving himself a splinter. Hurriedly closing the privy door, he headed out into the classroom, his thumb in his mouth. He rummaged through the drawers of his desk, looking for something small and sharp to extract the splinter. Eventually, he located a pair of tweezers and was just closing the drawer when a shadow fell across his desk. He looked up into the wrinkled, frowning face of the school’s headmaster.

‘Evening, Clarence,’ Erasmus greeted him politely.

The headmaster bristled visibly: he hadn’t spent thirty years studying, teaching and clambering his way up the greasy pole to be referred to as Clarence. Particularly not by young teachers who were barely out of university. Feeling that complaint would achieve little, however, he reserved his indignation for a particularly loud snort.

Erasmus gave a concerned smile. ‘Are you coming down with something?’ he asked.

Clarence chose to ignore the comment. ‘You’re here rather late, Mr Hobart,’ he observed; his manner clipped and deliberately formal like a sergeant major striving to resist a speech impediment.

Erasmus looked up at the clock, which gave the time as a quarter to nine. Time had obviously passed in the present whilst he was in the past, which was interesting. Perhaps there was some kind of chronological concept of now for a given lifeform? He wondered whether the relationship was a one-to-one affair, or whether he could expect to go away for a week only to find that a year had passed in his own time.

Clarence tapped his foot impatiently until Erasmus regained his concentration and returned his gaze. The teacher looked at the headmaster with curiosity, as if only just aware of his presence.

‘I said, “you’re here rather late,” Mr Hobart.’

‘I know,’ said Erasmus. ‘But you know how it is. You start on the marking and before you know it the kids are back.’

‘And have you been here all the time?’

‘Hmm?’

‘Have you been out?’

Erasmus considered this, then gestured towards the door which separated the classroom from the school beyond. ‘I assure you, Clarence, I have not been through that door all evening,’ he said.

The headmaster’s expression flickered between doubt and satisfaction. Despite his misgivings over Erasmus’ sense of decorum, if the teacher’s claim was true he could only wish the rest of the staff would show the same level of dedication – perhaps then the school would be higher in the league tables. He glanced at the blackboard: it was covered in squiggles which, to his eyes, were an unintelligible mess. He felt no shame at his inability to comprehend the information – after all, he’d studied Latin at University, not this newfangled nonsense.

‘Is that for your history class?’ he said.

Erasmus looked at the board himself, as if seeing it for the first time. ‘No,’ he said. ‘That’s physics.’

‘It looks very complicated,’ said the headmaster, caught between trying not to sound ignorant and wondering what Erasmus was doing scribbling physics notes on the blackboard of the history room.

‘Yes. I presume you didn’t come here to compliment me on my level of education, Clarence. What can I do for you?’

‘I was wondering if you’d seen anybody lurking about.’

‘This evening, you mean?’

‘Yes.’

‘Anyone in particular, or are you just hoping for company?’

The headmaster wrung his hands awkwardly. He wished that, of all his teachers, he could have found someone other than Hobart on the premises. The others might have been less dedicated, but they at least answered questions when prompted. Hobart could be astoundingly vague, and it was never clear if this was an act.

‘It’s just that Botch-’ he stopped himself from using the man’s soubriquet just in time, ‘that Mr Bulcher has reported a burglary.’

Erasmus nodded. The school caretaker, known affectionately to the students as Old Botchit, was a long-standing fixture of the school. Even Mr Salmon, the ancient Maths master the students referred to as Guppy, seemed to have no memory of when the man had taken up the brush and cap and begun his duties. But then Guppy couldn’t remember his own arrival either – popular conjecture amongst the children had it he’d been beached when the waters of Noah’s flood had retreated. Botchit lived in a small cottage at the end of the school drive, a property that came with the job, and when the demands of the school were not upon him, he could usually be found tending his vegetable garden.

‘Burglary, you say?’ Erasmus remarked. ‘Have they been at his cabbages again?’

Clarence took a deep breath. ‘No,’ he said. ‘They’ve taken his privy.’

Erasmus scratched his forehead and blinked a few times. ‘His privy,’ he echoed, as if the concept were too fantastic to grasp.

‘Yes. You know – that damned outside toilet of his.’

Erasmus masked his awkwardness with a resigned shrug. ‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Well, he does keep saying he wants to get rid of it.’

‘That’s beside the point,’ said Clarence, his voice rising slightly in pitch.

Erasmus toyed with his tweezers then began to pick at the splinter in his thumb. ‘Anything else taken?’

‘Not that we can tell, no.’

‘It’s not really a problem then, is it?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well. John’s been talking about getting rid of it; now it’s gone. Saves him paying the council a tenner to cart it off, doesn’t it?’

The headmaster flushed hotly, but refrained from comment. This argument wasn’t leading anywhere. ‘And you haven’t seen anyone this evening?’ he reiterated firmly.

‘Not as such, no.’

‘As such?’ Clarence could feel his temperature rising again.

‘Well, apart from yourself, that is,’ said Erasmus. ‘Obviously, I’ve seen you now, but I haven’t seen anyone else since the boys left.’ Erasmus told himself this was at least technically true: having travelled back in time, he could not have seen anyone after the boys left – at least not in their time.

Clarence, loosening his tie to allow some air to flow around him, shook his head. ‘If you hear anything, let me know,’ he said.

Erasmus nodded and Clarence turned to leave. A few steps from the desk he paused, then turned back to look at Erasmus. The schoolteacher raised his eyebrows quizzically and the headmaster paused again, balanced on the heel of his foot, then stood up straight and eyed the teacher critically.

‘Just out of interest,’ he said, ‘what is that you’re wearing?’

Erasmus looked down at his outfit. He was still dressed in the garb of a mediaeval peasant, a costume he had thought sensible for his first foray into history. He racked his brains for a suitable explanation.

Erm, it’s for the school play,’ he said.

‘What, Robin Hood? But you’re not in it.’

‘No,’ said Erasmus, nodding slowly as he thought, ‘but I thought it might help to engage the children’s enthusiasm for their history lesson if I got into the spirit of the thing.’

Clarence nodded, looking less than satisfied but reluctant to pursue the matter.

‘You spend far too much time here,’ he said, revising his earlier opinion about people who threw themselves into their work.

‘Quite possibly, but the cook does make a wonderful cup of tea. In fact, I might go and get one now.’

Erasmus locked the door that led to the store room and strode purposefully towards the main classroom door. Clarence watched him with curiosity.

‘Why did you lock that?’ he said.

‘It’s the store cupboard.’

‘Yes, but we haven’t used those since we built the centralised storage facility.’

Erasmus shrugged. ‘Better safe than sorry,’ he said. ‘That burglar might want to make off with a shelf next.’

Clarence watched Erasmus’ retreating back as he left the room. There was something very odd about that man. He wished he knew what it was so he could fire him and get someone else.

Chapters

2

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Tod Schneider wrote 690 days ago

This is great fun, really nicely written. I appreciate the dry humor and you launch the story with such a great chase scene. Well done!
-- Tod
http://authonomy.com/books/40646/the-lost-wink/

fledglingowl wrote 693 days ago

Andrew,
Congratulations on publication. Well deserved. Love the humor and the magic privy, so much nicer than Dr. Who's transport. High stars.
Good luck on your writing,
Janet
The Milche Bride
Clarissa's Kitchen

iandsmith wrote 967 days ago

Well done, Andrew. Authonomy blog 'one to watch' today! So that's what I'm doing..watching it that is.

Burgio wrote 1466 days ago

This is a unique story. And a funny one. You have a good character in Erasmus. He's likable and sympathetic because he may be well in over his head having transported himself back back to medieval England. Writing dialogue is a strength for you. Love the accents. Bottom line: this is a good read. I’m adding this to my shelf. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

Steve.Tee wrote 1467 days ago

Beware the pitch invader!
Being Authonomy's #1 common potato and professional spam doctor, trust me, you must master the basic technique of saying “SHELVED!” as often as possible in order to grab the new members. That's how one climbs in ranking - gathering exposure though comments won’t help better your novel but it certainly helps better your novel’s position.

I’m not interested in your comments on my book when you get the chance; all I want is your shelf.

Love Sooty Max.

soutexmex wrote 1467 days ago

Reminds me of Bill & Ted's Big Adventure. I can go with the short pitch but the long pitch? Drop everything after the last question mark. Being Authonomy's #1 commentator and amateur pitch doctor, trust me, spend some time on your pitches; I cannot overemphasize how you need to master this basic sales technique to grab the casual reader. That's how you climb in ranking to gather more exposure and comments to better your novel. SHELVED!

I can use your comments on my book when you get the chance. Cheers!

JC
The Obergemau Key
Authonomy's #1 rated commentator

Keefieboy wrote 1468 days ago

Andrew: very clever, funny and entertaining. Shelved.

bigmouth wrote 1471 days ago

A genuinely funny book that would appeal to fans of Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and Doctor Who.

Fish has written a clever and witty novel that manages not to be smug, a hard trick to pull off. The plot cracks along at a fair pace, is full of brilliant observations and one-liners and plays around with the whole time travel idea brilliantly.

I could see this having considerable commercial appeal as an ongoing series of books. Well worth checking this one out.

WendyB wrote 1472 days ago

Very funny.
Funny premise, witty protagonist, and I even like the English schoolboys.

I haven't gotten to Robin yet, but I'm going to shelf this so I can get back to do it justice later. I think I may read ALL of this one
Bravo!

Oh, incidentally...I seriously doubt that an English schoolmaster would drop his 'thats' in order to be more colloquial. You have it right. Don't change it.

Wendy Bertsch
(Once More...From The Beginning)

Joss64 wrote 1472 days ago

Backed with pleasure! Jocelyn Enid Morris (A Bore No More)

lynn clayton wrote 1473 days ago

Oh, an intelligent, hilarious, learned change from vampires. A mingling of two great legends. Brilliant. Backed. Lynn

yasmin esack wrote 1476 days ago

Dear Andrew
This is smashing! I loved every line and it's so clever. Hope you get a chance to look at mine. I was truly caught with the parallel universe and time travel thing.

Backed with uttmost pleasure

Francesco wrote 1479 days ago

Backed with pleasure! Good Luck!!
A look at Sicilian Shadows would be greatly appreciated.
Frank.
If you back my work, you may also want to approach BJD (a big supporter of Sicilian Shadows) for a further read and possible backing of your book.

lookinup wrote 1485 days ago

A time-travel privy - incredible - and Lady Godiva coming out from nowhere of all people. An enjoyable read, tops even Dr. Who I might think. An interesting spin on a movie. Backed.

Catherine (The Golden Thread)

Ulysses Q wrote 1506 days ago

Hey Andrew,

Read your novel - Good Stuff. Backed it and I hope you do well with the thing. A couple of comments - not that you asked for any - and certain that my opinion on the matter carries little weight - but feel safe in giving them as you appear to be located in sunny England while I am ensconced across the pond and don't think you will jump on a plane just to pop over and bop me on the nose. It feels a little slow, plodding. If you could quicken the pace - one possibility is divide the chapters up - make them shorter overall and - a step further - make them progressively shorter as you build towards climaxes and then letting them out again as you settle things back down only to build again. It's subliminal but it can help to create the illusion of a quickening just as the editing in a motion picture can change the rhythm of a sequence. Also the addition of a time element - I know the thing is chock full of time - something like a ticking clock - the countdown where, if things aren't fixed by high noon then history is mucked up for good - to motivate the protagonist and create a sense of impending danger. One way this could be achieved is have him carry around a little handheld device of his creation - some sort of history continuum calculator, or HCC, that gives him an up to the minute readout of how badly out of whack things really are and how much time he has left to sort things - kind of a timeline GPS.

The only other thing I'd like to have seen more of is the loopy circular logic of time travel physics - could be done as narrative asides between or at the head of those shortened chapters - a shorthand example would be the hitchhikers guide entries from the hitchhikers guide to the - well - you know...

Anyway - sorry to be such a bore with all of this but I wouldn't have taken the time to make the suggestions if I didn't think the work held merit. It does. So if after reading this you still feel like popping cross the pond and bopping me well - all I can say is - there's more than thirteen colonies now so you'll have to find me.

best,

ulysses

Jared wrote 1521 days ago

Andrew, you hooked me at ' time-travelling privy' - wonderful. I'm loving this. So much going on, a truly fantastic story-line, hitch-hiking squirrels - a riot. The footnote to chapter 5 - 'Tough on crime, tough on the courses of crime was the slogan of the day' made me howl. This is a book to keep at the bedside, a book to dip into in an idle moment, a book to treasure. I'm strongly recommending this - and I read a lot of books on this site - and backing it. Absolutely.
Jared
Mummy's Boy.

Andrew Fish wrote 1522 days ago

I've edited down the quotient of 'that's.' Not as simple as it looks because whilst all of them are grammatically sound (and, in fact, would have been grammatically necessary only a few decades ago) the tide of fashion has not rendered every instance of the word superfluous.

I've left in the 'in fact's (not really that many of those) and the 'you fool's. In the latter instance this is a spoken malaprop, much like Wodehouse uses with Ukridge (referring to everyone as 'old horse') and it's unlikely in the stress of the moment that Godiva would reach for a more extensive litany of offence.

erict wrote 1522 days ago

This is well done. I think that the edit suggestions are worthwhile - My comment is the repeat of You fools two para's apart in the first chapter, but other than that - spot on stuff.

ET

Nick Poole2 wrote 1526 days ago

Starts well, shades of Dr Who.

Ominous silence? Steps in shit. Something moved..?

Then hooves.

You do this well, I think. Lady Godiva?

Yep.

"Bloody peeping Alfreds"...look forward to your explanation of that!

Okay, only thing missing here is any real sense of danger. Erasmus doesn't seem genuinely concerned at all.

But your Alfred explanation didn't disappoint.

Bravo!! This will do well.

Beval wrote 1527 days ago

I have to say I agree about the "that" word, but having said that:-), this is such a lot of fun and full of the most marvellous jokes.
A privy as a time machine...who couldn't love it.
I like Erasmus as well, a great charater. I love his assumptions about the times he finds himself.
Backed with pleasure.

paxie wrote 1528 days ago

Andrew
Do you think you need the word 'that' in the examples below:-

He looked back to make sure (that) his time machine didn’t look too out of place........glanced back? you have looked and look on the same line.....?

affairs of the type (that) you would normally associate with rich

fact ( that )she was mounted on a chestnut mare

by the fact (that) they couldn’t look at Godiva

he realised (that) this was because it was, in fact, the wrong key.

Now that I think of it, the word 'fact' seems ever popping up........

Anyway, fabulous read....You have the same sense of humour as me.....I love the premise......Time travel novels hold no bars.....everything is credible, (in my view)...A racy read

Happy to shelf.... Good luck with this........

Richard Daybell wrote 1533 days ago

You have a dandy sense of humor and a fun premise to apply it to. Good, witty dialogue and interesting characters. Good luck.

Richard Daybell
Zombie Jamboree

Debra wrote 1534 days ago

What a great premise and blending of legends. Lady Godiva. Robin Hood. With a touch of Doctor Who? Hilarious fun! Best wishes!

Debra

zenup wrote 1535 days ago

Great cover and title, very catchy. Privy as camouflage for time travel machine seems 100% more likely than the TARDIS, haha. My feeling, in Ch 1, is that a tightening of the prose could help the humour, but ... fun idea & execution. Backed.

Jed Oliver wrote 1535 days ago

This is wonderful! Great humorous writing, and time travel on top of it! I must come back to it, but couldn't wait to back your story. This should go far, it is so completely entertaining. I really love your sense of humour, it is completely charming. I sincerely wish you the very best with this book! Backed. Best Regards, jedward (Knut)

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