The Fire-Eaters

Bobby Burns is 12 years old when he first encounters McNulty, a strange and somewhat frightening street performer who shocks and amazes the crowd with his bizarre act.

This unforgettable meeting with McNulty is the beginning of a time of turmoil and change for Bobby Burns.

"Pay!" He roars at the crowd "You’ll not see nowt till you pay!"

McNulty is an escapologist; he eats fire, pierces his flesh with long, sharp needles, escapes from shackles and endures many other forms of self inflicted torture all for a few coins from curious onlookers.

A time of change

Bobby is both fascinated and unsettled by McNulty and later that evening he tells his father about his encounter with the extraordinary man. Bobby’s father knows McNulty and tells how they fought together in the jungles of Burma during the Second World War and how McNulty lost his mind there.

The year is 1962 and the Cuban missile crisis has the world in the grip of fear. The world is literally on the brink of nuclear destruction. In the midst of this turmoil Bobby has started at a new school where the teachers are cruel and ruthless, moreover his father has become ill and it may be serious.

Bobby is making new friends and possibly leaving behind old ones. All of these changes and events are taking place in Bobby’s life and all the while the threat of destruction is looming over their little seaside village.

A pleasure to read

The Fire Eaters is a poignant story of hope, love, fear and friendship as well as a story about the costs of war and the threat of war in uncertain times.

David Almond is a pleasure to read. His stories are often a stirring mix of melancholy and inspiration, often with a touch of the magical mixed in. The Fire-Eaters won the 2003 Whitbread Children's Book Award, an award the British author won previously for his 1998 debut novel Skellig.