The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Courtesy photo.

The Last Gargoyle launch party 

Where: Water Street Bookstore, 125 Water St., Exeter 
When: Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 5 p.m. 
More info:,

A grotesque tale
Paul Durham debuts new middle-grade fantasy novel

By Angie Sykeny

 With the The Luck Uglies trilogy behind him, middle-grade fantasy author Paul Durham tells a new story in his fourth book, The Last Gargoyle, which he’ll debut at a launch party on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Water Street Bookstore in his home town of Exeter. 

The book follows a 130-year-old stone gargoyle named Penhallow, who keeps watch over an apartment building in modern-day Boston and protects it and its inhabitants from the evil undead creatures that roam the night. As the last of his kind in the city, Penhallow, who sometimes masquerades as a 13-year-old boy in a hooded sweatshirt, feels isolated and unappreciated, which has given him a somewhat cynical outlook. 
“I like writing antiheroes,” Durham said. “The hero of this book isn’t a white knight in shining armor. He’s a statue, cranky and opinionated and looks intimidating. … Most people would see him as a monster, but I like to turn that on its head so that this ‘monster’ is actually like a guardian superhero who is there to protect people and keep them safe.” 
Inspired by his time attending college in Boston, Durham wanted to write a book that explored the city’s paradoxes, particularly how a person can feel lonely and invisible even in a crowded place, and how the city’s long history is continuously juxtaposed with its modernization. Many of the locations and legends referenced in The Last Gargoyle are based on fact and Durham’s personal research. 
“I actually took an excursion one afternoon with a camera, trying to find gargoyles in the city,” he said. “They’re difficult to find, but some do exist … and I think that’s one of the things that’s fun. They’re real places, so the readers might recognize them or can try to find them.” 
The book is spooky and has ghost story elements, but that is balanced out with humor and wit that comes through in Penhallow’s first-person narration. Durham believed a first-person narrative style was the best way to capture the essence of Penhallow’s character, and to engage the reader in his journey. 
“I think writing it in first-person gives you a greater sense of intimacy with his character and his unique voice,” he said. “You discover his world with him and are along for the ride as he starts to change and perceive things in different ways.”  
Though his books are labeled middle-grade literature and often feature young protagonists, Durham said he doesn’t “write down” to his readers, and that his books are enjoyed by kids and adults alike. In The Last Gargoyle, he doesn’t shy away from more adult themes, such as existential doubt and questioning what happens after death. 
“I think as authors we can expect more out of kids than what we give them credit for,” he said. “I try to write smart books for smart kids.” 
One of the lessons Durham hopes to convey through the book, he said, is that things aren’t always what they seem, and that it’s important to keep an open mind and explore different viewpoints.  
“It’s a polarized world,” he said. “It’s good for young readers to realize that not everything they’ve always believed or have been trained to believe is necessarily true, and if they look beyond the surface, they might be surprised at what they find.” 
At the launch party, Durham will read from and sign copies of the book and host related games, giveaways and other festivities. 
He’s currently working on another “scary but funny” middle-grade book, he said, which will be released in 2019 or 2020. 

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