Friday, 5 October 2012



The Edge is delighted to welcome Ruth Eastham, award-winning author of The Memory Cage and The Messenger Bird, as she discusses the hazards of phone numbers in fiction

Nathan’s dad is in trouble. BIG trouble. He’s been arrested, accused of selling military secrets to the enemy. Now it’s up to Nathan to get him off the hook. But time is running out, and all Nathan’s got to go on is a weird trail of clues that dates back to the 1940s. A trail laid by someone who used to work at the top-secret wartime code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park. What the…?
And to make matters worse Nathan starts getting phone calls from someone who’s supposed to be long dead….

But Nathan thinks HE has problems?
Microsoft clipart online 

When makers of the 2003 movie, Bruce Almighty, unthinkingly used a real phone number in the film, poor souls in several US states were swamped with hundreds of calls from people… asking to speak to God.

Bruce Almighty, 2003, Universal Pictures

Yes, believe it or not, people WILL reach for their phones to ring numbers from the screen, be it a film at the cinema or a favourite TV soap.  Even song lyrics can be risky.  And books are no exception.
(Not that I would do such a … er … ridiculous thing as to try and ... Goodness me, no!) *goes bright red*

So to avoid someone’s grandma getting thousands of calls from people wanting to tell Hunger Games hunk Liam Hemsworth how much they like his acting, or to ask out film star Emma Stone, there’s a special list of phone numbers saved just for the job!

The Del-Boy-Special model

If you live in Manchester, for example, you should be okay as long as your phone number isn’t anywhere between 0161 4960000 and 4960999 inclusive. Londoners will be safe outside of 020 7946000 to 79460999. And 0141 496000 to 4960999 should keep Glaswegians out of trouble. If you want a mobile number in your storyline, you can have your pick from 07700 900000 to 900999. Sorted!

 Don’t fancy these ranges? Want something more authentic without making a stranger’s home life a misery? There ARE other options…

“Press 76 to hear these options again.”

Take The Wire and Scrubs. The producers of programmes like these have been known to actually register real phone numbers to use in episodes; numbers “not recognised” when over-keen fans ring in. Or, more excitingly, numbers that might lead to a recorded message from the character themself!

Ex-Doctor Who, David Tennant
The Timelord’s mobile number is: 0770 0900 461
(But please do not broadcast this fact.)

Using phone numbers in fiction without a second thought?
It’s a big no, no!

Writers must pick ‘n’ mix those digits with care.
(But it’s a great way to really annoy someone, though, eh?) :D

Talking of wrong numbers, and getting back to BP (Bletchley Park) here are a few not-so-fake numbers:

9,000 = number of people working at BP at its height.

18 = age of youngest workers.

159,000,000,000,000 = number of possible settings on an enemy secret-message-making Enigma machine.

2 = number of years World War II was shortened by because of the work done at BP


07700900583 = mystery mobile number in The Messenger Bird.

Not that you would do such a ridiculous thing as to try and…

visit Ruth’s website:
follow Ruth on twitter: @RuthEastham1
follow Ruth on Facebook: Ruth Eastham - Writer


  1. That is really interesting! I've just left a voice mail for Dr who, asking to be his next assistant!

  2. Great post, Ruth! May well call the Doctor myself!

  3. Right - going back thru all manus and checking phone numbers!! Lovely post Ruth and great to have you on The Edge.

  4. Now I want to add some phone numbers to my next book! Fascinating post Ruth. Great to have you as our guest on the Edge. Can't wait to read The Messenger Bird.

  5. Thanks, all!
    Ringing up to be David Tennant's next assistant, eh, Dougal? I wish I'd thought of that!

  6. Ruth, thanks for this fun and informative post. Extra thanks for including a photo of David Tennant- a fine actor!!!!!