Monday, November 21, 2011

Jane Shaw Encyclopedia

Progress on my Jane Shaw Guide or Encyclopedia has been slow, but every now and then I manage to add something. Here's all that has been done so far.

Amanda’s Spies

Amanda’s Spies is a short story that was published in the Collins’ Girls’ Annual 1941. It was to be the first of many Jane Shaw stories to be printed in various annuals over the next twenty-two years. The story is set during World War II in Scotland, more precisely on Loch Ard near Aberfoyle, and stars two girls, Elizabeth and Amanda (their surnames are not given). To escape the horrors of the war, Elizabeth has been sent to stay with Amanda in this out-of-the-way place and is grateful for the relative safety that the remote location offers. Amanda is a more adventurous type and wishes to emulate the achievements of a woman she has read about in the newspaper who reportedly captured a Nazi spy single-handed. Riding around the loch in their dinghy, they are caught in the rain and decide to seek shelter at Larachbeg, the house of a local school mistress, Miss Potts, known to the girls as Potty. No one has seen the woman for some time and the girls believe she is off in the army, although she is also known to have inherited a healthy legacy and may be off on holiday somewhere. With Nazi spies on the brain, Amanda and Elizabeth are shocked to hear a voice calling out in German as they approach the house. After considerable confusion, it is revealed that Miss Potts is holed up in the house training parrots to carry messages. Carrier pigeons, she explains to the girls, can be caught and their messages read, but her parrots memorise the messages and only reveal them after hearing a password. The parrots are also taught some German words to confuse any enemy agent that might capture them. When the girls voice their scepticism, Miss Potts admits sadly that this unlikely scheme has so far only met with moderate success, to put it lightly. The story rounds off with a sharp and comical exchange between Amanda and one of the parrots.

This would be the only appearance of Elizabeth and Amanda in Jane Shaw’s work, and also the only time that Loch Ard was used as a setting for one of her stories. Amanda’s Spies is not the most memorable of the author’s tales, but it is a good solid story that shows signs of great things to come and also paved the way for her to become one of the most important contributors to Collins’ annuals for children of all ages for the next two decades.

Carlisle, Rock

Rock Carlisle is a famous writer of thrillers with tough characters who use tough American slang. In Susan and the Spae Wife, Susan and the Carmichaels are delighted that he will be a special guest at the church fête on the isle of Arran. Susan expects that he will turn up “with a gun under each arm and a switch-knife between his teeth”. But Mr. Carlisle actually turns out to be a short, fat bald man. After a robbery at the local bank, the teller can only remember one detail about the hold-up man: the scar on his hand. When Susan sees a scar on Mr. Carlisle’s hand while she is telling his fortune, she attacks him, giving him a black eye, and accuses him of being the thief. Lady Alison and the minister are shocked and Susan is forced to apologize. However, the day before he leaves the island, Rock Carlisle visits Susan and confesses that he is indeed the bank robber, explaining that he needs to experience events for himself before including them in his stories. He gives the stolen money to Susan and asks her to return it to the bank once he has got safely of the island. Susan and the Spae Wife is Mr. Carlisle’s only appearance in a Jane Shaw story.

Harding, Jennifer

Jennifer Harding is a young woman and friend of the Carmichaels who lives in the centre of Wichwood Village with her mother and little brother Michael. At the beginning of Susan and the Home-made Bomb, Jennifer has been awarded a scholarship at the prestigious Sloane School of Art, but cannot afford to take it because she has to help her mother keep the house and get a job as a secretary to help make ends meet. Gabrielle Gascoigne accompanies Susan and the Carmichaels to tea at the Harding home to talk to Jennifer about setting up a meeting with a director of the Sloane, Tootsy Fitzgerald. During tea, Peregrine plants a home-made bomb in front of the fire. Susan throws it into the fire and there is a terrible explosion. Susan loses her eyelashes and eyebrows and there is damage to the room. But Jennifer notices a scratch in a worthless old painting by her late grandfather and discovers that there is another painting underneath. This turns out to be an Italian Primitive, a Fra Angelico. The Hardings sell the painting for £7000. They use the money to refurbish their house and convert it into flats that they can rent, and of course Jennifer will be able to go to the Sloane School without help from the Gascoignes.

Susan and the Home-made Bomb is Jennifer’s only appearance in a Jane Shaw story.

Magic Ships

Magic Ships is a short and lavishly illustrated book for young children, published in 1943 by Collins. It begins with Robin and his sister Jane being taken for a tour of the R. M. S. Queen Mary on the River Clyde in Glasgow. Robin is looking for material for the history essay assigned to him by Snooker, his history teacher. The children’s Uncle Archie is the Chief Engineer of the ship. He tells them they can play in a room full of toys. A sailor doll comes to life and turns Robin into a cabin boy and Jane into a ship’s cat before sending them on a series of adventures in time. The children are first transported to Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria. When he meets Columbus, Robin blurts out things about his future and the crew mistake him for a wizard and throw them off the ship. They then find themselves on board the Golden Hind and meet Sir Francis Drake. More adventures follow on other ships until they find themselves back in the playroom on the Queen Mary as Robin and Jane again, where they are reunited with their father and uncle. Robin is happy that he has enough material to do at least ten essays.


Mr. Egg

Mr. Egg is an abstract metal sculpture by Tertius Smith, an artist in Wichwood Village, and spends some time on display at the Little Gallery. It features heavily in three chapters of A Job for Susan. When Bill takes a cleaning job at the gallery, Susan, Midge and Tessa pitch in to help him. While cleaning the curious egg-shaped work, Tessa knocks it into a bucket of water. After cleaning it, she puts it back on its pedestal upside down and dresses it up in a raincoat and balaclava and gives it its nickname, incurring the wrath of the offended artist. Mr. Smith then arranges to remove his work from the gallery for repair, but Susan thinks he is a thief and calls the police. The furious Mr. Smith removes all his work from the gallery. The ultimate fate of Mr. Egg is not given, and whether Mr. Smith ever managed to sell it remains a mystery.

Redfern, Judy

Described on the first page of Northmead Nuisance as little, round, merry and red-haired, Judy is a new girl in the Fourth Form at Northmead. She surprises the other girls by telling them that going to a boarding school has been her lifelong dream; she is looking forward to joining clubs and getting involved in the school play. Unfortunately, her unbridled enthusiasm is not matched by talent. She is clumsy, careless and accident prone. On her first visit to Appleacre, she falls into the pond, and on the second she plunges into a quarry. When put in charge of scenery for the school play she sends it all crashing down during rehearsals. In a hurry to get to the hockey game, she leaves a tap running with the plug in the sink, causing a mini flood in the school and her friend Gail to slip and break her wrist. After Gail makes some vague predictions while reading tea leaves, which apparently come true, Judy believes that her friend has mystical powers and avidly studies the questions in an exam paper that Gail pretends to see from afar using second sight, resulting in her coming top of the class in History with a 92. However, she innocently spills the beans and blurts out to the teacher that she knew the questions in advance, resulting in her and her friends getting no points. Despite her blundering behaviour, which always makes her bright red with embarrassment, she is liked by the other girls and is quickly accepted into Nicky and Kay’s circle of friends. Judy is fourteen years old at the start of term, and celebrates her birthday just before the half-term holiday. Before moving to Northmead, she studied at a day school in London called St. Mary’s.

Susan and the Spae Wife

Susan and the Spae wife is the last of four short stories about Susan Lyle and her cousins the Carmichaels. It was published in the Collins’ Girls’ Annual 1960. While on holiday in Arran, the gang are roped into helping at the local fête, and Susan and Midge are given the job of collecting the takings at the tent of the spae wife (fortune teller). Along with all the stalls and festivities, an added attraction is the presence of a famous novelist, Mr. Rock Carlisle. When Mirren, the spae wife, is called away on a family emergency, Susan takes her place in disguise and surprises her unsuspecting friends and family by telling them the details of their life with amazing accuracy. However, Susan also hopes to use her new job to discover the identity of a daring robber. The day before the fête there was a daring hold up at the bank, with the thief making off with five hundred pounds. The bank teller told Susan that the thief had a scar on his hand. When a little fat bald man enters the tent, Susan attacks him during the reading of his palm because he has a scar on his hand. The ensuing uproar brings the minister and Lady Alison into the tent. Susan is embarrassed and stunned when she discovers that the little man is actually Rock Carlisle. She is forced to apologize. But next day Mr. Carlisle visits her and admits that he was the robber after all, claiming that he needs to experience events for real before putting them in his books. He asks Susan to return the money once he is safely off the island.

Susan and the Spae Wife was published in the same year as Susan Muddles Through, also set in Arran. These were the last of the four Jane Shaw stories to take place there, the others being Highland Holiday (1942) and Penny Foolish (1953). The style of the story is a little different from the average Jane Shaw tale in that instead of being told in sequence, this story begins with the gang looking back at the events after they take place. In addition to the Collins annual, the story was reprinted in 2002 in Susan and Friends.  

‘Ware Warings!

‘Ware Warings! is the battle-cry of the Waring family in the Thomas books. It is used against Paris underworld figure Le Singe in Looking After Thomas, and the mysterious Man (real name Mr. Collet) in Willow Green Mystery. It is also the title of the respective chapters in these two books. In the third book of the series, The Tall Man, the battle-cry is not used.