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City quizmaster Frank Paul back with new Christmas-themed book

A familiar face around the Cambridge pub quiz scene and now further afield, thanks in part to the wonder of television, Cambridge quizmaster extraordinaire Frank Paul has just had his second book published.

The mastermind behind The Mill pub’s weekly quiz (dubbed “Cambridge’s most fiendish pub quiz”) and the series 13 champion of Only Connect – who also supplies the Cambridge Independent’s testing festive quiz each year – invites us into our favourite Christmas stories, with a few twists, in his new and highly imaginative book, titled The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas.

Quiz master Frank Paul has hi second book out, The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas. Picture: Keith Heppell.. (60650636)
Quiz master Frank Paul has hi second book out, The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas. Picture: Keith Heppell.. (60650636)

“I’m very excited about it. It took me a great deal of work,” says Frank, who Only Connect presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell called “an extremely impressive chap and a dazzling quizzer”.

“It’s slightly inspired by puzzle books and choose-your-own adventure books that I played as a child, but it’s much more elaborate than that,” he explains. “I have a vague memory of a teacher at school taking me through this book of maths puzzles.

“I have this memory of it being a really lovely, magical experience – I think largely because I love puzzles so much.” He continues: “It’s a book of Christmas-themed puzzle-based stories that are linked by a framing narrative.

“It begins with a bizarre parody of It’s a Wonderful Life, in which the central character inadvertently ruins an angel’s plan to show a man that she’s never met the value of his life, and then has to atone for this by bringing happy endings to 12 different Christmassy stories, each one of which is a very warped retelling of a traditional Christmas story or a Christmas-themed film, or a Christmas-themed song.

“There’s one inspired by The Snowman, which is entirely told as a graphic novel with no dialogue, but where you have to work out what the puzzles are along the way, and then there’s a tribute to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is told entirely in verse – even the quiz questions are in verse. That’s a homage to Dr Seuss.”

Fans of crosswords, quizzes, escape rooms, and choose-your-own adventure books should all find something to enjoy – there are even Die Hard-inspired riddles for those who may cite this cinematic cult classic as a highlight of the festive season.

The impressive wordplay found throughout the book is suitably enhanced by the author’s own distinctive and characterful Biro pen illustrations (Frank also specialises in fine art).

“I think there’s a lot to get absorbed in in the book and it should take quite a while to complete,” says Frank, who was involved in compiling and participating in many online quizzes during lockdown, “and I hope it will be a varied and satisfying experience. It can certainly be very fiendish and very elaborate.”

Quiz master Frank Paul has hi second book out, The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas. Picture: Keith Heppell.. (60650639)
Quiz master Frank Paul has hi second book out, The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas. Picture: Keith Heppell.. (60650639)

Born in London, Frank read Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Cambridge and still lives in the city. He has been running the weekly pub quiz at The Mill pub in Mill Lane since 2015 and published his first book, The Cryptic Pub Quiz, in 2017.

Alan Connor, author of The Joy of Quiz, called Frank “a 21st-century Lewis Carroll... relentlessly creative, frequently hilarious and consistently beautiful”. “Yes, I was very pleased with that,” says Frank modestly. “I think it’s a really lovely thing to say.

“He said that about me for my previous book, The Cryptic Pub Quiz, and I feel very honoured to have been considered worthy of the description, and I think this being a more narrative-based quiz – and more fantastical, I suppose – is hopefully more worthy of the description.”

[Read more: Cambridge quizmaster Frank Paul sets fiendish traps on Channel 4’s The Answer Trap, Cambridge author turns the traditional pub quiz cryptic]

The gifted thirty-something, who says the book has been well received within the quite tight-knit Cambridge quiz community, appeared at the University Arms Hotel in the city centre on November 20, presenting a literary quiz as part of the Cambridge Literary Festival.

He is also set to host a general knowledge pub quiz at the Freud Museum in London (his father was the painter Lucian Freud) on December 12. This busy schedule was further augmented last year, when Frank appeared on a Channel 4 quiz show called The Answer Trap, alongside Cambridge mathematician Bobby Seagull and host Anita Rani. Sadly, that’s come to an end.

“They’ve decided that it’s no more,” says Frank. “It developed a small but passionate following, but I think Channel 4 decided that it was too small a following. It was a really lovely thing to do and it was a wonderful experience, and it was great to meet Bobby Seagull. He’s a really kind man and I really felt like I made a friend there, which is a wonderful thing to come out of any experience.”

The Twelve Quizzes of Christmas is published in hardback by Oneworld Publications.

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