THE latest blockbuster by top-selling author Terry Pratchett features a host of characters that will be familiar to John Hampden old boys.

Former Free Press journalist Mr Pratchett started writing during his time at Wycombe Technical School now John Hampden Grammar School and many of the characters in his latest book, The Last Hero, appear to be based on former teachers there.

The most immediately obvious reference is for Stan Betteridge, a former history teacher at the school, whose name remains unchanged in the book, and who is a member of the Guild of Historians in Ankh-Morpork, a city in Mr Pratchett's fantasy Discworld.

Andrew MacTavish, headteacher at John Hampden until 2000, said that Mr Betteridge came across as a learned and kind man in the novel, traits that were very well suited to his real character.

Mr MacTavish added: "He was a wonderful teacher at the school and he comes across in that way in the book.

"It's a great tribute to Stan that he is portrayed in this way. I was stunned to find he was so clearly identified.

"I think it's a little naughty of Terry putting Stan in the book when he is still very much around."

Mr Pratchett did not take O-level history during his time at the school, but it is evident from The Last Hero that Mr Betteridge made an early impression on the young writer.

Mr Betteridge, who is now retired and living in Watlington in Oxfordshire, refused to comment on his portrayal in the novel.

Other characters who seem to be based on former teachers at John Hampden include Ponder Stibbons, who is based on a Mr Stibbon who used to teach technology at the school, and Evil Harry, who is believed to have been inspired by Harry Ward, a former maths teacher and headmaster at the school.

Also in the book is Cohen the Barbarian, but BFP Editor Steve Cohen denies knowledge of this, claiming he has never met the author.