As the much-loved fantasy writer publishes yet another ‘final’ novel – about a healer who can cure everything but jealousy – he talks about being made a pariah by Oxford and almost dying three times

Alan Garner has always feared unexpectedly dying before he finishes the book he’s working on. It means that this most beloved of writers – whose works feel chiselled from the Cheshire landscape of his home, and whose devoted fans range from Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman to Margaret Atwood – keeps joking that he’s written his last book.

He did it when Boneland, the haunting sequel to his children’s novels The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, was published in 2012. He did it when his childhood memoir, Where Shall We Run To?, came out in 2018. “Given that it takes me between five and nine years to write a novel,” he said at the time, “the joke runs a bit sour when you’re in your early 80s.” Three years later, having just turned 87, Garner has written Treacle Walker, a slice of myth and magic that only he could have produced, in which a young boy, Joe Coppock, is drawn into the world of “glamourie” – which sits alongside and within his own world – when a rag-and-bone man comes to his door.

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