Diana Wynne Jones's first published novel.

Author Diana Wynne Jones
Cover Artist
Publication information
UK Release Date 1970
US Release Date


Harold, the junior aide to the governor of Nmkwami, is reading out his notes to Sir Ernest Pendragon, the governor, about ways to mark the changeover to independence. However, the governor misunderstands and thinks that Mark Changeover is a person. Harold is too intimidated by the governor to explain and he flees, sending in Neville, the senior aide to explain. Neville, with his mind on airplanes and his appointment at the Flying Club, rattles on about Changeover, such as fireworks, bonfires, and burning figures, before he rushes off to the Flying Club. Neville arrives too late; all the airplanes have already been taken. So he steals a plane belonging to another member, Lord James Longleash, and flies off. However, the plane was low on fuel, and Neville crashes out in the hills, miles from civilization with a Very Important Top Secret dispatch from Whitehall in his pocket.

Meanwhile, back at the office, Sir Ernest is firmly convinced that Mark Changeover is a dangerous wanted crimimal that he must execute publicly on Independence Day. He starts telephoning around, asking who Mark Changeover is and what he's wanted for. No one, especially Classified Information, wants to admit that they had never heard of Changeover and so they start making things up. By the end of the day, Changeover has become an anarchist-imperialist-capitalist-Communist terrorist bent on blowing up Parliament with an atomic bomb, and a massive man-hunt is under way for Changeover.

That night, Major Yogo and Lieutenant Smith, needing to fatten the Changeover dossier, goes to Truro's (Nwkwami's capital) most exclusive nightclub, the Blue Banana, to register Mark Changeover as a member, in order to include Changeover's membership card in their file. Rumor spreads that Changeover is in the Blue Banana, and the police raid the place and arrest everyone, including some of Truro's richest and most influential citizens.

The next day, an American bomber arrives in Nmkwami for refueling, taking everyone by suprise since Neville had flown off with the annoucement about its pending arrival. However, all the fuel has been requisitioned for the military until Changeover is caught, and so the plane crashes in the Hills from lack of fuel. In the chaos, three students steal the atomic bomb from the crash site, intending to present it to Changeover for his revolution. Nmkwami is thrown into panic now that Changeover has two atomic bombs, and the American military and the World Press descend on Nmkwami on a major bomb-hunt.


  • Neville Abercroombe - senior aide to the Governor of Nmkwami
  • Lieutenant Joshua Aburra - a Nmkwami officer employed on Classified Information
  • Simon Aweyo - Prime Minister of Nmkwami
  • Major-General Gideon St John Bastover - C. in C. Nmkwami Land Forces
  • Sergeant Bell - a British N.C.O.
  • Krishna Chatterjee - a merchant of standing
  • Chi Yin - a Chinese student
  • Roger Clarke-Challenger - an eccentric medical man
  • Rev. Felix Clitheroe - a Methodist missionary
  • Mrs. Clitheroe - his wife
  • Father Brendan Conolly - a Catholic priest
  • Harold - junior aide to the Governor
  • Joe - steward of the Truro Flying Club
  • Alicia Kuryoto - Nmkwami's only policewoman
  • Lili Lacuna - a nightclub stripper
  • Lucilla Levy - an intellectual
  • Tony Levy - her husband, lecturer in economics at the university
  • Lord James Longleash - ex-Minister of the Interior and prominent member of the Nmkwami Opppsition Party
  • Sergeant Manuel Lopez de Carados - N.C.O. in the Nmkwami Land Forces
  • Kenneth Mbanda - journalist
  • Sir Desmond McCarry - leader of the Nmkwami Opposition Party
  • Tessa McCarry - his daughter
  • Meru - married daughter of Mr. Chatterjee
  • Captain Mkoko - a Nmkwami officer
  • Colonel Mulligan - a British officer
  • Daisy Mulligan - his wife
  • Nazarene - a Civil Servant
  • General Nbendo - co-General with Bastover
  • Nicholas Okako - a student
  • Corporal Okansanya - a Nmkwami with a gift of forgery
  • Sir Ernest Pendragon - Governor of Nmkwami
  • Mr. Prustov - Soviet Charge d'Affaires in Nmkwami
  • Simon Sawinga - President of the Students' Union and nephew of the Prime Minister
  • Colonel Sgoya - Nmkwami officer
  • Lieutenant Smith - a British officer employed on Classified Information
  • Smithers - wireless operator at the Flying Club
  • General Strief - a general from Washington D.C.
  • Mr. Abdul Stromo - Nmkwami Chief of Police
  • Abdul - Stromo Junior - his son
  • Bella Stromo - Mr. Stromo's first wife
  • Benita Stromo - Mr. Stromo's daughter
  • Kajal Stromo - Mr. Stromos's second wife
  • Thomas Tbola - personal secretary to the Prime Minister
  • Captain Waginga - a Nmkwami officer
  • Major Yeo - officer in charge of Classfied Information
  • Major Yogo - the Nmkwami officer paired with Major Yeo