Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

It took Sara at least some little time to understand why they were now looking for a nice hotel, and to realise that poor Vanessa did not know and had never known anyone who lived in Dover; but as she told Caroline in the seclusion of their bedroom later, The Three Bells was very nice, and she for one was jolly glad they weren't going to spend the night on somebody's floor: and as even John, for all his ingenuity, could not contrive that they should miss the ferry a second time, Friday morning saw them safely on board and very well pleased with the little boat, and particularly with the great claw arrangement that lifted cars off the pier into the hold.
"Major Morris doesn't look so bad, does he?" said Sara as they watched the car dangling in mid-air.
"The luggage looks a bit odd," said Caroline.
The Major was not new enough to have a boot, and the luggage, exposed as it was to public gaze, certainly did have a peculiar appearance.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Northmead Nuisance Illustration

A scene from Chapter 7 of Northmead Nuisance, A Plan Gone Wrong. The ugly prefabricated building on the school grounds, known to the pupils as The Blot, is demolished by an elm tree during a violent storm.

Quote of the Day

Three boiled eggs, two lots of ham and one plate of pancakes later, they arrived at Mrs. Jeanie Macalister's farm in a sort of stupor. Before seeking Mrs. Macalister out in her summer quarters, Midge muttered to Susan, "I warn you, if I have to look at any more food I shan't be responsible for the consequences."
"What do you mean, I don't know what you mean, using all those big words," said Susan.
"I mean I'll be sick."
"Oh! Oh, well, I don't suppose Mrs. Macalister will give us tea, it's long past her tea-time."
"Getting on for her supper-time, I reckon," said Midge gloomily.
Near her supper-time or not, Mrs. Macalister had no sooner set her eyes on the two girls than she slapped a couple of fresh herrings into a frying-pan and was laying a table in front of the little window that looked out over the peaceful autumn fields where the corn already stood in stooks to the purple moors and the high hills beyond.
"Noo sit in and take your teas, ma lassies," she said, "I'm real glad to see you and get your crack for I've been that thrang with the cleaning after ma summer visitors that I havena' had ma nose over the door for two or three days. I hear you have the real smart young leddy biding wi' you and her making up a play or some sich thing, just as good as the television. And her wee brother too, ramping and raging over the countryside wi' a gun and him scarce nine years old. They say he shot Cap'n Dan, but I doubt that canna' be true, no sich luck, the de'il looks after his own, as the saying is. an' there's a big brother forbye, he'll be casting his e'e in Charlotte's direction, I'm thinking?"
"Well," said Midge, manfully doing her best with the herring, "sort of. Only he's inclined to cast his eye in other directions as well."
"Aye, weel, that'll no' dae wi' a bonny lassie like Charlotte. She'd best be thinking of the bird-watching gentleman who has taken sich a notion to her-"
Susan nearly choked over her herring. Mrs. Macalister had been too busy to put her nose over the door for two or three days, yet she knew things about the family that Susan scarcely knew herself.

From SUSAN MUDDLES THROUGH, Chapter 7, Gossip.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Fairground Fracas

The hilarious scene from Chapter 2 of Looking After Thomas, The Fair. The hoopla man tries to cheat Thomas out of his winnings, arousing the wrath of several onlookers, who get into a big fight with the stall owner.

Penny Gives Up

The scene just prior to today's quote from Chapter 11 of Penny Foolish, when Penny abandons the climb up Cir Mhor, incurring the wrath of Kenneth and Elspeth. However, she cannot let them know that Jill is on the island and takes their insults. As soon as they are out of sight, she goes in search of her sister.

Quote of the Day

"Never," said Kenneth. "She's fearty."
"She may be," said Elspeth, "but that doesn't usually make her give up. Look at the way she dived at the Clachan pool! She was frightened out of her senses, yet she did it. And Mr. Macpherson's pony! And -ugh, lots of times. You know," she went on thoughtfully, "until today I was was getting to like her fine. Except of course when she would blether on about the scenery. It made me hot all over to hear her- 'Isn't this beautiful - isn't that lovely?' - well, it is, but people don't talk about it. But apart from that I thought she wasn't so bad."
"Well, I didn't," said Kenneth. "Talk about a wee sleekit cowrin', tim'rous beastie!"
"She showed a bit more pluck last night," said Elspeth, grinning slightly.
"I liked her better last night than ever I did," admitted Kenneth. "But then today she's afraid to admit to it and tells lies about it - said she was at Machrie all the time. And she's so greedy! Fancy pinching scones out of the basket for the hay-field and hiding them. She has only to ask Mrs. Fergus for a scone and she'd give her a dozen."
"And here," said Elspeth, "what d'you think of this? When I put her picnic away in her haversack this morning there was another packet of sandwiches hidden under her bathing things!"
"Did I not tell you?" said Kenneth. "She's greedy."
"Ugh well," said Elspeth with a little sigh, "don't talk any more about her. She's just poor English trash."

From PENNY FOOLISH, Chapter 11, Hill Adventure. Kenneth and Elspeth are furious with Penny for abandoning the climb up Cir Mhor and her apparent greed. They do not know that all the extra food that Penny takes is actually for Jill, who is hiding from her pursuers on Arran. Many misunderstandings still to be overcome... And a very politically incorrect poke at the English that would certainly not make it into print today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quote of the Day

Ricky gave one of her shrieks when she saw her friend Julie. "Oh Goodness," she said, grabbing her firmly by the arm and determined not to let her go in a hurry, "what a relief to see a kent-face! Thank goodness you waited for me!"
"Well naturally somebody had to wait for you, you daft scone," said Julie, who was a bit acid owing to the extreme pangs of hunger she was suffering. "What happened to you?"
"What happened to me?" cried Ricky. "Well, just about everything happened to me! To begin with, that frightful bus-stop! I couldn't even get on to a bus. It was frightful. Every time a bus arrived there was a sort of free fight, everybody yelling and shouting and waving those ghastly little tickets - they're a dead loss if you like, give me a nice tidy, orderly queue every time - and I simply didn't know what numbers they were shouting! The thing is, these people talk French in a jolly funny way, have you noticed? Not a bit like Ellie and her irregular verbs in the form-room. I mean, you can usually get some idea of what Ellie's saying if you really put your mind to it, but there's no understanding these French people at all. And then-" and Ricky became extremely indignant again at the every thought of it,- "and then I really was first in the queue, there wasn't another living soul at the bus-stop, and then what do you think? An ancient sort of old bloke just popped up from nowhere and there was only one seat on the bus and he got it! What do you think of that for famous French manners? He hadn't even a ticket! He just waved some old card or other and the conductor let him on, and there was I, standing like a spare part, looking silly!"

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 8, The Crook and the Pearls. Ricky is suffering a little culture shock in France and discovering what many thousands of students of the French language have discovered: that the French taught in schools bears little resemblance to the language that is spoken in France!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking After Thomas Review

Published by Nelson in 1957, Looking After Thomas is the first of three stories starring the Waring family, who live on a fruit farm in Kent near a village called Hunting Green, seven miles from Maidstone. There are four Waring children. The oldest is Clarissa (15), and there are the twins, David and Tish (12), and the youngest brother Thomas (10). The tale is narrated by David, the straight man, as an offset to his more colourful siblings. The story begins with David explaining that his father works like a slave to make the fruit farm pay, but that they are all very happy. Due to their financial difficulties, Mrs. Waring is always engaging in economy campaigns. With the Easter break coming up, the children fear another round of cutbacks, but are saved by a letter from their Uncle James and Aunt Madeleine in Paris. The four children are invited to spend a week in the French capital. They happily accept this unexpected gift and jet off in the first chapter.
The story that follows is what readers might expect in a Jane Shaw book. In Paris they enjoy the food and the sights; they go shopping and pick up a few words of French. But there is adventure in store, with the usual series of coincidences in its wake. The children are witnesses to a bank robbery and the daring theft of a masterpiece from the Louvre. One of the suspects is a highly unlikely elderly English lady. They befriend a couple who come to Paris regularly to visit their dog’s grave. David falls into the river and Thomas receives a pair of birds and names them after his uncle and aunt. The story trundles along in typical Jane Shaw style. The children bicker but are never cruel. And, of course, everything works out in the end and a little quip rounds of the story when the children get back home.
Yet despite the typical Jane Shaw traits, Looking After Thomas is something of a departure from her normal style. First of all, the story is told in the first person, and by a boy to boot. Moreover, the boys are the main characters in the story, which is also unusual for Jane Shaw. Although Clarissa and Tish do indeed feature in the story, the main focus is on the two brothers. Prior to the Thomas books, Bill Carmichael had been the only main male character in the stories. As the 1950s progressed, more boys began to appear in the stories, such as John Mallory in the Penny stories and Pea-green in the Susan series, but they always played second fiddle to Susan, Midge and Penny. Here for the first time the boys are in the starring role and the author makes a fine job of it. David likes to think of himself as the sensible member of the family (as indeed he is). Before leaving England, Mrs. Waring makes David promise that he will look after Thomas, a promise that David takes seriously. Thomas is a bit of a handful and needs keeping in line, but the reader would be mistaken to imagine he is another Peregrine Gascoigne. Far from it. Thomas is precocious and has a number of unusual hobbies like raising tadpoles. He also has a mind of his own and can be devious and stubborn. For instance, he infuriates his brother and sisters by sneaking his fishing rod onto the plane and smuggling tadpoles into Paris, getting them through customs by a clever ruse, but he also knows when to give in and, quite unlike Peregrine Gascoigne, his heart is in the right place and he always tries to help people.
Turning to the plot, this has been meticulously mapped out. Thomas takes his fishing rod and tadpoles to Paris, but they pay handsome dividends. When going fishing along the Seine, the smell of the bait attracts a little puppy that the boys decide to give to the grieving dog owners at their hotel. David is present at the art theft but does actually see the crime. There is a daring thief at large in Paris, Le Singe (The Monkey), whom the police are anxious to lay their hands on. By clever deduction and a few inevitable coincidences, the Warings help bring him to book. The only flaw in the story is the scene where the police send Thomas as a decoy to knock on the door of the flat where the armed bank robbers are holed up. This leads to a humorous scene in which Thomas uses the only French he knows apart from merci to warn the thieves that the police are outside: Vite, les flics! (Quick, the cops!), a phrase he picked up from a movie. He explains later that he warned the thieves because he was upset at the police for putting him in the line of fire. It’s hard to believe that the French police, or police in any country, would do this, but as the book was written for a younger audience than usual, this may have been an attempt to spice the story up and make it more exciting.
As I’ve commented elsewhere, in the 1950s a book was the closest that most children came to seeing other countries. Therefore, like other books for children in those days, including Jane Shaw, this book is replete with the children’s impressions of France and how different it is from England. Clarissa is horrified by the fast cars on the wrong side of the road. Like Caroline and Sara long before, the kids are also not too keen on the continental breakfast, although David sees some merit in it:
“It was very late when I lifted the telephone next morning and ordered two cafés complets s’il vous plait. That’s what you say when you want breakfast for two, and for that you get coffee (sometimes we ordered chocolate, scrumptious!) fresh rolls, butter, jam and croissants, which are a cross between rolls and pastry.”
However, less politically correct are the remarks about French hygiene. Again, David tries to make light of it but there are some little digs at the French that would not make it into print today:
“Clarissa said that the French people must be frightfully dirty never having baths, but I said no; it showed that the French people were so clean they didn’t need baths.”
Owch! But there is also a lot of comedy. My favourite scene is when Thomas keeps winning at the hoopla stall and the hoopla man tries to cheat him out of his winnings. This infuriates some onlookers and a huge fight breaks out. 
All said and done, Looking After Thomas is an excellent story, tightly plotted, with good characterisation and never a dull moment. I would give it 8 out of 10. The series proved to be successful, with two sequels: Willow Green Mystery (1958) and The Tall Man (1960). The book is 119 pages long and has 9 illustrations.

Quote of the Day

Meantime it was much too boring for Kay to wait until Nicky came back with a torch before she started searching. Her eyes had become more accustomed to the gloom and, she thought, she could see quite well; she began to lift the lids of the trunks nearest to her and to feel inside them, but they only contained, it seemed, what you would expect - discarded pieces of tissue paper, shoe-bags and things like that. Suddenly she stood very still. Someone was coming very slowly and cautiously down the basement stairs.
She opened her mouth to call encouragingly to Nicky, when she closed it again. Nicky would never come creeping down like that, like a nervous mouse - it was probably Gail, coming down to look at her swag. Kay lifted the lid of the nearest trunk and hopped inside. It was a tight fit and very uncomfortable and she was taking up to much room to be able to shut the lid down properly. But that wasn't a bad thing, she thought. She didn't want to be shut up in an old trunk like the girl in The Mistletoe Bough, a perfectly ghastly poem that Corly had once read to them about a girl who hid in a chest when she was playing hide-and-seek or something and couldn't get out again, and wasn't found until she was dead.
This was a very uncomfortable thought to be shut up in a trunk with, and Kay wished very much that if she had to go remembering poems, which wasn't the sort of thing she did as a rule, it had been something like The Ancient Mariner or Ode to a Skylark instead. She also wished that Gail would hurry and and do what she had to do and go.
Gail however was at that moment in the common-room waiting for her tea and wondering gloomily what on earth she was going to do with those blessed costumes now...

From NORTHMEAD NUISANCE, Chapter 7, A Plan Gone Wrong.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Susan's Trying Term

Quote of the Day

"Don't tell Susan!" said Charlotte in an alarmed whisper.
"Don't tell Susan what?" asked Susan, coming into the room at the wrong moment.
"Oh, just a hard-luck story," said Charlotte in an off-hand voice. "Nothing to worry about."
For Susan's most awkward trait was an insatiable desire to help people. At the first sign of trouble in the lives of any of her friends or relations, Susan was on to it like a terrier at a rat-hole. And while sometimes her efforts were highly successful, sometimes they were anything but, so that on the whole her cousins Charlotte, Midge and Bill Carmichael, with whom she was staying at this time, thought it best to keep Susan and the troubles of their friends as far apart as possible.

From SUSAN AND THE HOME-MADE BOMB, the third of the Susan short stories, published in the Collins' Annual 1958.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bluebeard's Chamber

The scene in A Job for Susan when the girls catch Sir Arthur snooping around Bluebeard's Chamber.

Quote of the Day

"But, Susan!" her mother said. "Sir Arthur Symes! Rich! Art collector! Heaven knows what!"
"I know what - just an old crook. Everybody in Wichwood knows he's an old crook," said Susan. "He's a miser, to start with. He'd sink to any depths to save a sixpence-"
"Well, I dare say," said Mrs. Lyle, "but that's a far cry from stealing-"
"We don't know that he actually stole anything," said Susan, trying to be fair. "We can't know that until Maggie has checked tomorrow. But there's soemthing in that room that he's interested in. This is the second time we've seen him hanging round that room, isn't it, Tessa?"
Tessa nodded.
Her father looked at Susan rather helplessly. "I'll go to Charles in the morning," he said. "Before we say anything to the police."
"Och, darling, Uncle Charles won't know anything about him. He's too busy taking temperatures and writing out prescriptions to know what's going on. He never knows the gossip. You talk to Aunt Lucy - she'll tell you about that old crook."
"But how could any normal person do a thing like that?" Mrs. Lyle couldn't get over it.
"He's not normal," said Susan. "He thinks he can do what he likes because he's so rich and important."
Mr. and Mrs. Lyle had come home five minutes after Susan and Tessa had successfully flushed the Bad Bart from Bluebeard's Chamber. They found the girls in a high state of excitement, denouncing the nefarious doings of that old crook, Sir Arthur Symes, clamouring to get into the house to telephone Joe Taylor - at least Susan was.
"Did you see him, too, Tessa?" Mrs. Lyle asked, thinking that her daughter might be suffering from a disordered imagination, a thing that had happened once or twice before in her life.
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Lyle! Scuttling away like a great black bat! He's a dreadful old man," said Tessa. "I hit him over the head with my umbrella yesterday," she said, pleased at the recollection.

From A JOB FOR SUSAN, Chapter 6, Strange Behaviour of a Wicked Baronet. Susan's parents are back from South Africa and have their own house in Wichwood Village. Mrs. Lyle has allowed Maggie, who runs the local art gallery, to store some of her things in a room, joking that it's a "regular Bluebeard's Chamber". Maggie thinks it's all worthless junk, but Sir Arthur doesn't agree, and has been trying to break into the room. For his wicked labours, Sir Arthur earned a bash on the head from Tessa, wielding her umbrella.
I think there's a misprint when Susan calls her father Darling; she usually calls him Daddy and I've never heard a Scottish girl address her father like that. There's another funny misprint in Susan Interferes, when the text tells us that Aunt Lucy and Caroline had rooms overlooking Mount Pilatus. Of course, it should have been Charlotte.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cheering Up Jennifer

A scan from Chapter 3 of Venture to South Africa. In an attempt to get Jennifer out of her sulks, Mike and Belinda decide to buy a puppy for her when their ship docks at Las Palmas. on Grand Canary. For five shillings, they buy the little white dog from a hawker, who assures them that the dog is a pure-bred Maltese terrier. Once they are back on board the ship, they have to work out how to keep the puppy (whom they christen Little Black Sambo) hidden from the crew and how they will smuggle it into South Africa...

Quote of the Day

Although Fiona and Katherine had been too aggravated to admit it, Isobel had been right when she said that there were worse places to spend a holiday than Pendragon Haven. The school, which had been started in 1790 by a wealthy and eccentric lady in her own home, Pendragon Manor, was on the north Cornish coast, tucked into a fold of the hills behind Pendragon church. The original house, built in Elizabethan times, still stood and formed the present Manor House; the other school houses were all modern. The village of Pendragon was a mile away, and consisted of one almost perpendicular street of old, quaint, picturesque cottages with twisted chimneys, absurd windows, geraniums in the porches and hydrangeas everywhere. The village ended in the Haven, a natural harbour of fierce and dramatic grandeur, that twisted round between wild cliffs as if scarcely able to find an outlet to the sea. Round the school were the playing-fields, moors and farmlands, and not far away were little sandy coves where the Atlantic breakers hurled themselves even on calm days, which was very satisfactory for the surf-board enthusiasts.

From THE MOOCHERS ABROAD, Chapter 2, The Picnic. A nice description of the area around Katherine and Fiona's school, Pendragon Manor. The two cousins and their friend Isobel (Bella) are stuck at the school due to a mumps epidemic and have to make the best of the surrounding area until the doctor gives them the all-clear. But fortune will shine on them because Isobel will offer to take them to Brittany for the holidays after they are out of quarantine. The mention of surfing may seem anachronistic here. The Moochers Abroad was published in 1951, and we don't associate surfing with the 1950s. However, according to the British Surfing Association, surfing became popular in the Channel Islands and Cornwall in the first half of the twentieth century. Even so, it remained confined to these regions until the 1960s, when the sport really began to grow in popularity.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quote of the Day

He then led the way across still another bridge to the Left Bank, to a café in the Boulevard St. Michel or Boul' Mich' as the French call it, where we had arranged to meet Aunt Maddy. People were sitting around sipping sirops, which is what grown-ups sit and sip, mostly in French cafés, although I have seen lots of them having café filtre, which is a drink I could not recommend, being strong coffee dripped through a metal contraption until it's cold. It's not meant to be cold, of course, but it always is by the time it has dripped through. Uncle James asked us what we should like to drink, and we stuck to lemonade.
Aunt Maddy arrived in a taxi and we went for lunch to a small restaurant nearby, and we all ate such a lot that we felt far too sleepy to go to the Louvre, which was the plan for the afternoon. And much to the indignation of Clarissa, who was still mad to see those Impressionist paintings, we went to the Bois de Boulogne where we had ices in a very queer café, which had a glass wall through which we could see cows on one side and horses on the other, which everybody, except Clarissa, said was more interesting than old paintings. Little did I know how interested I should be in Impressionist paintings before our holiday was over.

From LOOKING AFTER THOMAS, Chapter 6, Bird Market. A little bit of Paris geography and French culture. This book is a lot of fun and I've just finished reading it for the second time. If you think there are a lot of mind-boggling coincidences in the Susan books, you should see this one! Two major crimes take place in Paris during the Warings' short stay, and they are unsuspecting eyewitnesses on both occasions.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Ferret

At St. Ronan's, Susan has a soft spot for her senile Latin teacher, Miss Johnson, known to the girls as Dotty. She respects the head mistress, Miss Phillimore, who is viewed as being tough but fair. But one teacher that nobody likes is the dreaded maths teacher, Miss Ferrier, whom the girls call The Ferret, since she's always "ferreting" around and poking her nose into the girls' lives. In this illustration from Susan at School, the Ferret wants Susan and Tessa expelled on the spot after they mistake her for a burglar, knock her down and lock her in the library during one of their nocturnal excursions. Miss Phillimore, however, praises the girls for their bravery in tackling the "burglar" and seems to take some delight in the sight of the dishevelled Miss Ferrier.

Quote of the Day

"Well," said Susan, "it was in the paper. There seems to be a gang at work smuggling thousands of watches into the country."
"It's all perfectly clear to me," said Bill. "Someone, let's call him Mr. X-"
"Oh, yes," interrupted Susan, "I love a Mr. X-"
"Well, Mr. X," went on Bill, "smuggles in these watches, takes them to the house next door - in an Ivor Williams van, I shouldn't wonder, then packs them into the chest of drawers. Along comes a van and a couple of men who carry out the chest of drawers - Susan saw them-"
"Yes," said Susan eagerly, "I saw that chest of drawers going out and in, I told you!"
"-They take the watches to the shop, or to the person who is going to sell them, then bring back the chest of drawers for a refill. If anyone looks inside the van, there is only an empty chest of drawers in it, being delivered; and no one is going to pay the slightest attention to a chest of drawers being taken from a furniture store - I've seen men taking furniture in an dout of that house hundreds of times and never paid any attention. It was only bad luck for the gang that Susan was lying in bed with nothing to do and noticed that it was the same chest of drawers going in and out."
"Then is the gang Ivor Williams?" said Charlotte, more puzzled than ever.
"Gracious no," said Bill, shocked. "Ivor Williams are only being used as a - what's the word? A cover? Yes, a cover."
"Well, you seem to have worked it all out very successfully, young Bill," said Midge. "But who is Mr. X?"
"How should I know?" said Bill.
"But I know that," said Susan. "Mr. X is Miss Plum."

From SUSAN PULLS THE STRINGS, Chapter 9, Susan in Disgrace. This was readers' first exposure to what would become a staple of the Susan stories: Susan working out from very scanty evidence that the most unlikely person is a master criminal. She makes her wild accusation only to be in hot water with Aunt Lucy. However, she often turns out to be right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

When Annabel's father and mother were killed by terrorists in Kenya, the only bright gleam in the gloom of Annabel's future was the thought of Aunt Evelyn. Her mother had told her such a lot about Aunt Evelyn, who was so pretty and so gay; and now Annabel and the two younger ones, Mary and Robert, were to go back to England to live with Aunt Evelyn, who had come back from America specially. For although Aunt Evelyn had quarrelled with Annabel's parents, or at least with her father, now she was to be the children's guardian and look after them. Annabel's mother had sighed and grieved over the quarrel, and tried to excuse and explain both sides to the children, and eventually it had never been spoken of, but Annabel had never forgotten it. It was all about a party dress, it seemed, a party dress for Annabel which Aunt Evelyn had sent. Annabel's father had flown into a rage and said that he wasn't accepting charity from anyone - what he couldn't afford to buy for the children, the children could do without, and the dress had to be sent back immediately. Annabel had been sorry about this, because one of the things that he couldn't afford was a party frock; she had never had a proper party frock - and this one was so pretty - pale pink organdie with frills. Her mother had made her a frock of spotted muslin, which was very nice, but it wasn't pink organdie, and Annabel had always felt that anyone who could have chosen a pink organdie frock with frills must be a very nice sort of person. But Aunt Evelyn's letters had ceased from that time, and so had her exciting parcels.

From SUSAN'S HELPING HAND, Prologue. A very unusual and downcast start for a Jane Shaw book, particularly in the Susan series. Belle, as she's known in most of the rest of the book, is a tragic figure, quite out of keeping with most of the author's characters. This prologue is one of the very few occasions in the Susan series when the main protagonist herself is absent. There is another prologue in Where is Susan? But although she is not a participant, at least she gets mentioned. So Susan's Helping Hand gets off to an unconventional start, but once the cousins step in, things start to pick up. In fact, this story contains my favourite scene from the series, when Susan is unable to control the runaway lawnmower on Cousin Barbara's farm. This book is packed with action; in addition to the mysterious Belle and trying to help the little woman who runs an unprofitable local antique shop, the cousins are also up against the so-called Mad Collector.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


From Susan Muddles Through. Among the guests at Mrs. Macdonald's farm on Arran, in addition to the ghastly Gascoignes and the cousins, is Susan's cat Chang. However, even before they get out of London, Chang is upset and gets stuck up a tree, requiring an emergency rescue operation. This illustration shows an aghast Susan and Mrs. Taylor, the Carmichaels' daily help, powerless to stop the furious Chang from breaking out of his new travel basket. More trouble awaits them on the car journey, as Peregrine slips a mouse into the car, driving Chang into another fit of rage.

Quote of the Day

"You had better keep back," Louella was muttering gloomily, "or you'll all be getting it too."
"Oh, pooh, we've all had mumps," said Charlotte, "don't worry about that-" Susan opened her mouth to say something and quickly shut it again. "-the important thing is, what are you going to do?"
"Do?" said Louella, getting gloomier by the minute, "just lie here and get ruined. Goodness knows when Mrs. Telford will be back, and I'll never be able to get anyone else at this late stage - not anyone who is any good-"
Susan was jumping about from foot to foot, opening her mouth and trying to get a word in: eventually she burst out, "Och, Louella, let us look after your wee shop for you!"
There was a silence, scarcely broken by Midge's usual little sigh. She had long ago given up trying to prevent Susan from indulging in those knight-errant schemes of hers: but that didn't mean she liked them any better. She could see it all - instead of those blissful, peaceful holidays - long-lies in bed, tea in front of the fire, skating, maybe, on the pond in the park, jaunts up to the shops in town, even just glorious peaceful messing about doing absolutely nothing - instead of all that, she could picture what it would be like, day after day of that mad scramble like this afternoon until they were all off their heads. It was no trouble for Susan to rush into the breach and offer her services, she liked bustling about helping people, but it was a different story for Midge- Then she glanced over at Louella, whose poor face was already, Midge thought, beginning to swell, and felt a pig.
Susan, Charlotte and Bill were all speaking at once.
"I could be the delivery boy-"
"Louella, admit, that's a brilliant idea of Susan's, you must let us-"
"Och, Louella, we could easily do it! We'd love it, and you could lie here in peace and get better without a care in the world!"
For what seemed to be the first time for a very long while, Louella did smile a bit at that.

From NO TROUBLE FOR SUSAN, Chapter 2, Crisis. This, the eighth book in the series, and the final book, A Job for Susan, are often mixed up by readers. Both stories take place in Whichwood Village in the run-up to Christmas, and both stories see Susan and the Carmichaels helping out at a struggling woman at a local shop. However, in the later book, the shop is an art gallery, run by Maggie, and Susan's whole family are now living in Wichwood Village and she has Tessa home with her for the Christmas holidays. The books set in Wichwood are my personal favourites and in my opinion A Job for Susan, Jane Shaw's last published work, is the best thing she ever wrote.

Monday, August 15, 2011

House of the Glimmering Light (Cover)

This book is so rare that I haven't been able to locate a copy yet. Published in 1943 and set in Connel Ferry (now Connel) near Oban in the west of Scotland, this was a spy story that Jane Shaw was reportedly very proud of. However, as it was a wartime story, it was never reissued, making it very hard to come by. But I'm sure I'll find a copy sooner or later.

Quote of the Day

Susan choked on her ice-cream. By the time that she had been thumped on the back by Midge, drawn a few gasping breaths and wiped her eyes, the beautiful Russian spy was comfortably settled at their table, with at least three waiters hovering. We were right when we thought that the waiters at Quadri's weren't so nice, Midge thought gloomily, not one, far less three, ever hovered over us. All this hovering made it almost impossible to hit that blessed spy over the head with a plate and run for it, which was what she terribly wanted to do.
"I startled you, I am sorry," the spy was saying sweetly, "you did not see me coming -"
You're absolutely right, thought Susan, still drawing painful, gasping breaths like a hen with the gapes, or you wouldn't have seen us for dust... "No - gasp - no - gasp - we didn't - gasp -" she said.
"Oh, you poor girl," said the spy, "you are still choking, you must have water." She signalled imperiously and the three waiters were round her. She ordered something in rapid Italian and the waiters hared off as if they were competing in a race for the fastest waiter, and in no time at all one of them was back with a glass of iced water.
Susan eyed it dubiously. It looked like water all right, but as the waiters were no doubt in league with that spy, it could easily be stuffed with Mickey Finns... She took the smallest possible sip. But she didn't swallow it, no fear, she held it in her mouth and then carefully spat it into her handkerchief. "Better now," she said, terrified in case she would be urged to have some more water. "It was just that a bit of ice-cream went down the wrong way-"
The spy smiled. "Won't you let me get you something else? Lemonade? Or-?"
"No, thank you," said Susan hurriedly. "I'll just finish my ice-cream. Wouldn't you like something?" she asked politely, for her mother and Aunt Lucy had always been dinning it into her that it wasn't polite to eat in front of people without offering them something.
"Yes, yes, I think I shall have something cool," said the spy, and again with the speed of light some foreign drink with ice clinking in it arrived.

From WHERE IS SUSAN? Chapter 6, Move and Counter-move. This is the only Jane Shaw story set in Venice.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Diamonds in Paris

A scan from the 1953 short story Sara's Adventure. This story was probably written to get Sara and Caroline back into the public eye after ten years because in the same year Breton Adventure and Bernese Adventure were reissued. This story was included in the Collins annual and lavishly illustrated. The plot is similar to what would later happen to Ricky in Crooks Tour.  While waiting at the airport in Paris, Sara agrees to take a packet of butter from an old lady to her daughter in London.  However, the flight is delayed for hours and the family decide to spread some of the butter on a bag of croissants that Sara was taking to her mother. To their great surprise, they find that diamonds have been hidden in the butter.

Quote of the Day

At that moment she heard a gasp, and she looked up to see the gay and charming Selina, no longer gay and charming but trembling with rage, staring at them in horror over the compost heap.
"You - you - you murderess!" she cried in a terrible voice. "What have you done to my baby's hair?"
"Oh, hallo, Selina!" cried Peregrine. "Isn't it fun, she's cutting my hair. I'm Samson and she's Delilah!"
"I - I -" began Susan, lowering the shears. At the same moment Midge, disturbed in her practising by the raised voices, popped her head over the fence and goggled at the sight of Peregrine and Susan with the shears in her hand.
Mrs. Gascoigne was nearly crying with rage. She grabbed the scissors out of Susan's nerveless hand and flung them down; she seized Peregrine in one hand and Susan in the other and began dragging them through the tumbledown gate that led to the Carmichaels' garden. "Come with me!" she cried, like a tragedy queen, Midge said afterwards. "Until I show your aunt and uncle what you have done to my child!"
"I - I - I -" said Susan.
They met Aunt Lucy at the back door, hanging out some stockings to dry. Mrs. Gascoigne stormed and ranted and pointed to her boy and covered her eyes with her hands while Peregrine hung his head - to hide a grin as a matter of fact - and kicked at a tuft of grass in the yard and Susan stood like a fish, opening her mouth and saying nothing, supported by Midge, who had tagged along behind and who had nothing to say either. Finally Mrs. Gascoigne, after one last wild look of hatred at Susan, put her handkerchief to her face and ran towards her own house and Peregrine, now quite solemn again, gave a little sort of formal bow to Aunt Lucy, said good afternoon and followed his mother.
"Susan!" said Aunt Lucy aghast. "How could you?"

From SUSAN RUSHES IN, Chapter 3, Samson. Pea-green gets Susan into trouble for the first time. The Carmichaels' house at 12 Tollgate Road in Wichwood Village is a memorable feature in the Susan series. It is, in fact, based on the house where Jane Shaw lived with her husband, Robert Evans, during their time in London. It is a thin disguise of 11 College Road in Dulwich. However, unlike the Carmichaels, who occupied the whole house, the Evans family had only a flat on the top floor.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I expect That Dog will whine all night and I shan't get a wink of sleep," Jill said as they went up to bed that night. Penny said nothing. Candy was put into her basket close to Penny's bed. The puppy circled round three times, just like a grown-up dog, tucked her ridiculous pencil of a tail under her, gave a gusty sigh and closed her eyes.
"One in the eye for you, Jill!" said John, grinning.
Penny tenderly tucked the blanket round the puppy and went to bed.
About two o'clock in the morning, she tucked the blanket - not quite so tenderly - round Candy for the twentieth time. "Please, please, my angel," she whispered, "go to sleep and don't waken Jill," and crept into bed. As had happened nineteen times previously, no sooner was Penny's comforting hand removed than Candy started her pathetic little wail. Penny, who had spent most of the night on the floor beside Candy's basket, picked Candy up, crept back to bed and settled her in a cosy little nest on the quilt. Candy licked her hand and went to sleep.

From FOURPENNY FAIR, Chapter 5, Penny Goes into Commerce. Penny is bonding with her dachshund, Candy. Dachshunds, or saugage dogs, are a favourite in Jane Shaw's books. Later on in the short story Jumble Sale, Lindy has a dachshund too, by the name of Mitzy. This was the name of Jane Shaw's own dog. In a letter written in 1960 to a reader who was asking her about pets, in particular Susan's cat Chang, the author replied: "Chang is a real cat, but unfortunately he doesn't belong to me. We have a white cat called Puff and I'd love to have a Siamese as well, but as we also have an Airedale (Biddy) and a dachshund (Mitzi) who hate cats and only just tolerate poor Puff, I'm afraid that's not possible" (Susan and Friends, page 28).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mr. Rock Carlisle

An illustration of today's quote. Susan has no inkling that this little bald man is actually famed novelist Rock Carlisle; but she does think he's a bank robber and causes a fracas by bringing him down with a flying tackle.

Quote of the Day

Susan felt her brain reel. The Robber! The Bank Robber!
Afterwards, she never knew what rubbish she muttered, half under her breath - absolute rot about the lure of gold and the vanity of riches - while she wondered desperately what to do. The little fat man was looking decidedly uncomfortable - he half rose from his chair - what could she do - she tore at the shawl and flung it over his head, meantime yelling, "Help! Help! Midge! Bill! Help! HELP!" at the pitch of her lungs.
Uttering strange muffled shrieks, the little man pawed at the folds of the shawl. Susan dived for his legs and brought him down with a most efficient rugby tackle. Midge and Bill, colliding in the opening, stumbled into the tent.
"Sit on his head," yelled Susan, hanging grimly onto the legs of the Bank Robber as he kicked and struggled.
Midge looked at the writhing mass on the ground in horror. "Susie!" she cried. "Have you gone mad? What are you doing?
Susan panted, "It's the Bank Robber... I've caught him... But I wish you would... sit on his head.... I can't hold on... much longer... Sit on his head-"
Midge wasn't at all sure where the man's head was, nor did she fancy sitting on it. She gingerly leant across the flying legs and arms and pulled at the tartan shawl. The mild face of the little man, wispy hair on end, glasses gone, gazed at her in indignation, like an infuriated sheep. Midge put her hand to her head. "Susan!" she whispered. "What have you done?"
There was a rush of feet outside and the Minister and Lady Alison, followed by a number of interested onlookers, crowded into the opening.
The little man looked round him in a daze; Lady Alison gazed at him in horror. "Mr. Carlisle!" she exclaimed.
There was a horrid silence. Susan, her head still wrapped up in the black veil, turned and gazed at the little man too. She said in a shock whisper, "Not Mr. Rock Carlisle!"
The little man began to crawl about on his hands and knees. Lady Alison said, "But my dear Mr. Carlisle, what are you doing grovelling there?"

From the short story SUSAN AND THE SPAE WIFE, published in 1960. When the real spae wife (fortune teller), Mirren, has to go home to attend to a family emergency, Susan sits in for her, with inevitable disastrous consequences.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crooks Limited (2)

Here's another scan from the 1962 short story Crooks Limited, the follow-up to Crooks Tour. Ricky and Julie are discovered after stowing away in the back of a removal van. After a bumpy ride around Glasgow, they are glad to be caught!

Quote of the Day

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard the news. It was a bitterly cold day in the middle of March, and we had all just come off the Maidstone bus after school and were trying to thaw out in front of the sitting-room fire, and Mother just sat there quite calmly and told us.
"Aunt Madeleine and Uncle James," she said, "want you to spend a week with them in Paris."
Clarissa said in a dazed voice, "Wants who to spend a week with them in Paris?"
"You four," said Mother, just as if she was talking about us going to Brighton for the day.
"Me too?" said Thomas. No wonder he was surprised, Thomas is only ten.
"All four of you," said Mother.

From LOOKING AFTER THOMAS, Chapter 1, The News.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anything Can Happen DJ

This is a very rare scan, the cover of Anything Can Happen, the first of the Dizzy & Alison books, published in 1964 and illustrated by Thelma Lambert. As far as I can tell, this is the only Jane Shaw book illustrated by this artist (the sequel, Nothing Happened After All, has no internal illustrations and the front cover drawing is not credited). Ms. Lambert's style is more cartoonish and she makes a point of having Dizzy appear to be exaggeratedly taller than her cousin. Dizzy's good looks are a recurring theme in Alison's narration of both stories.

Quote of the Day

We looked up our little guide-book, without which we did not stir in Paris, for the nearest post office, and roared off to the Rue du Louvre to send our pneumatique. French post offices are a thousand times worse than English ones and we were in four wrong queues before we finally reached the pneumatique department. And then of course we had no writing-paper, and had to tear another page out of Dizzy's My Trip diary and beg an envelope from the man in the post office (Dizzy's looks achieved that), and even then we had to pay rather a lot for our pneumatique because like airmail the fee varies according to weight.
That done, we turned our attention again to our investigations.

From ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, Chapter 11, Madame Bertholet Regrets...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Susan Interferes (2)

Quote of the Day

Kay, Nicky and Lynette stared at the new girls; and the new girls stared rather warily back.
It was a pity, Kay thought, that the Fullerton twins had been moved to make way for this pair, for last term they had all been very cosy together, with no real quarrels or fights not even towards the end of the term, when everybody was sick of the sight of everybody else and when there were usually a few arguments and coolnesses to put it mildly. Still, there it was, the twins had been moved, and on the whole this couple didn't seem too bad except that one of them seemed to be a bit sulky. "Which is which?" she asked. "Which is Judy Redfern and which is Gail Lester?"

From NORTHMEAD NUISANCE, Chapter 1, New Girls.