Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking After Thomas

Quote of the Day

They were all perfectly well behaved except that madcap Sambo. He was off and up over a little hillock before you could say knife. We thought Dotty had lost him forever. But of course we had armed ourselves with a spare bit of chocolate left over from yesterday. Dotty put down such a huge lump that even Sambo couldn't resist it. He came over a hummock, his nose twitching with delight, and ate himself practically into a stupor. He was no trouble, Dotty said, on the way home.

From A GIRL WITH IDEAS, Chapter 4, King Arthur Lived Here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Attack

From Susan's Trying Term. Susan attacks Gabrielle because of one of her dirty tricks. Like many of the illustrations in the Susan stories, there is a goof in this one. On the front cover, when Gabrielle arrives at St. Ronan's, she has very short hair, but after only a few weeks her ponytail has grown back!

Quote of the Day

Gabrielle wasn't much interested in smugglers when she heard about the night's activities the next morning; anything in which she wasn't directly concerned had very little interest for her. But because the Bird-watcher had obviously taken a fancy to Charlotte, she said maliciously, "I don't know whether he's a smuggler or not, but the Bird-watcher is certainly bogus."

From SUSAN MUDDLES THROUGH, Chapter 6, Investigating Cap'n Dan.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Susan's Trying Term

This is a huge scan of the cover of Susan's Trying Term (1961). The spine shows the unlikely scene of Susan wiping a painting with a turpentine-soaked rag and discovering a long lost masterpiece underneath, while the front cover shows a rare comment on the changing fashions of the day. Susan and her friends retain their "sensible" girlish 1950s hairdos, but Gabrielle has lost her much maligned ponytail and cut her hair short, which meets with the disapproval of the other characters. In her previous stories, Jane Shaw had, through her characters, complained a great deal about girls and women wearing trousers, especially Selina and Gabrielle Gascoigne, and (for reasons best known to herself) girls with ponytails. In 1962 she relented on this latter point when one of her best-loved characters, Ricky from Crooks Tour, was given a ponytail. All this may seem a bit strange today, but when I was a child it was strictly forbidden for girls to wear trousers at school. I remember in the late 1970s a girl in my class coming to school in trousers and her mother insisting that it was too cold for her to wear a skirt. The teacher finally agreed to the trousers as long as she wore a skirt on top of them! Even into the 1980s this ban continued. I recall how a girl at a school near mine incurred the wrath of a traditional female examiner when she turned up for her Higher English test in jeans and was "banned for life" from Scottish Certificate of Education exams as a result. However, I'm sure such a ban could never be enforced. But that was what it was like back then.

Quote of the Day

By this time they had circled round Tugela Road, along Congo Road, and were about to come down Orange Road to Nile Road. A very ragged native boy leading a pony was leaving the road to go across the koppie when Susan rushed at him, barking loudly.
"Susan! Bad dog! Come here!" called Belinda.
Mike rushed up and seized Susan's collar. "It's all right," he assured the native boy, between barks, restraining Susan with difficulty, "she - isn't - savage - really - she only - looks - savage!"

From VENTURE TO SOUTH AFRICA, Chapter 8, Enter Stella. Susan, of course, is not Susan Lyle, but the Eliots' Airedale. Both Susans were created around the same time, in the early 1950s. Although only published in 1960, Venture to South Africa was actually written soon after Jane Shaw and her family moved to Johannesburg in 1952. Lutterworth bought it in 1953 but never published it. Her editor at Nelson Publishers purchased the manuscript in the late 1950s and made sure that it was put into book form. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Something Happened After All: Jane Shaw in the 1960s

This is the cover of Nothing Happened After All, the second of the Dizzy and Alison books, published by Collins in 1965. Jane Shaw's heyday was certainly the 1950s in terms of sales. But she was just as prolific, if less successful, in the 1960s. We often talk of her winding down her career in the sixties, but when you add it up, she produced an admirable number of books during her last decade as an author. The Moochers and Penny series had drawn to a close, but the Susan series continued, albeit with less frequent publications and fewer sales. The sixties also brought the two Northmead books, Crooks Tour, Brer Rabbit, Left-Handed Tumfy and the Dizzy and Alison stories. There were also the two Spitfire paperbacks under the pen name of Jean Bell. Despite all these publications, her sales diminished as the years passed and her publishers do not seem to have gone out of their way to advertise her stories. Another factor that helped to keep her out of the limelight is that she stopped publishing short stories in the Collins annuals after 1963. My favourite story of hers was her last, A Job for Susan, published in 1969. It is admirable that the quality of her writing never diminished over the thirty years that she was a published author. There were minor hiccups like The Crew of the Belinda, and even a couple of dodgy short stories like The Onion Man, but in a general sense the quality of her writing was very high.

Quote of the Day

A pretty woman, chattering Italian with an English accent, accompanied by a young girl and a small boy, all chattering, asked, "Where is Susan Lyle?" The small boy was fidgeting with pens and register on the desk all the time that they chattered and finally knocked over a bottle of ink, so the reception clerk had the greatest pleasure in telling the whole chattering crew that no one of that name was staying in the hotel.

From WHERE IS SUSAN?, Prologue. The crooked desk clerk throws the Gascoignes out of the Hotel Soldati.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Susan and the Spae-Wife colour illustration

Quote of the Day

But for this night only, as Madame said when they sat down to dinner, they would speak English, although from to-morrow she dared them to let her hear a word of it, for how furious their dear parents would be if they returned to Scotland with their French no better than when they came!

From BRETON ADVENTURE, Chapter 1, They Arrive. Poor Madame at this point does not know that no matter how long they spend in France or Switzerland, none of Jane Shaw's characters would ever become fluent in French. Only Charlotte Carmichael, who went to study art in Perugia, would learn a foreign language, being forced to gain a little fluency in Italian.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Susan and the Spae-Wife

The heading and first illustration from the last of the Susan short stories, Susan and the Spae-Wife, published in the Collins' Annual in  1960. This story is set on Arran just after Susan Muddles Through, following the departure of the Gascoignes after their two-week sojourn on the island. But if Susan is hoping for peace and quiet after the Ghastly family have left, she is in for a shock. The post office is held up and the fair is to be visited by the famous writer, Mr. Rock Carlisle. For further information about this short story, click here. Click on the picture for a much larger view.

Quote of the Day

The school reports really started it all: Susan's and Midge's were uniformly poor, but in French they both reached new depths. Aunt Lucy read them with gloom. "'Midge is lazy and inattentive...' really, Midge!"
"Susan's is worse." Midge produced the diversion hopefully.
"It worked. Aunt Lucy turned to Susan's report.
"'Susan is apparently too occupied with other things to bother about French. A very bad term's work,'" Aunt Lucy read out.
"Sarcastic old pig," said Susan. "Just because I had to do my maths prep during French once or twice-"

From SUSAN'S KIND HEART, Chapter 1, Haunted Ch√Ęteau. I often wonder why Susan and Midge's parents spent so much money on private school fees for them, when they obviously learn next to nothing, and then "punish" them by sending them to France for the summer!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Wilsons Won't Mind

In the first of the Susan short stories, The Wilsons Won't Mind, set between Susan Pulls the Strings and Susan at School, Charlotte's latest craze is cooking. Unfortunately, her artistic skills do not extend to the kitchen and the result of her cooking is an inedible disaster. The Wilsons Won't Mind is the only one of the fifteen Susan stories not to include the main character's name. It was first published in 1955 in the Collins' Girls' Annual. It was republished in Collins' The Treasure Book for Girls in 1958 and another collection in 1982 called Ballet Stories. Its final appearance was in Susan and Friends in 2002. The story has all the hallmarks of a Susan story, but is pretty run of the mill. Susan's School Play and Susan and the Spae-wife are better in my opinion.

Quote of the Day

However, it was a nice, mild June evening, the girls were in no particular hurry to reach home as they would immediately be forced by their mothers to do a lot of boring home-work when they got there, so they strolled on to the next bus-stop. Fay, of course, was right; they were mid-way between stops when the bus sailed past, and the argument started again at the next stop.

From Crooks Limited, the 1962 short story featuring Ricky, Julie and Fay, of Crooks Tour fame. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fourpenny Fair illustration

A picture from Fourpenny Fair. Penny and Sid put up a sign at the fair advertising the orphans' play.

Quote of the Day

Penny became even more gloomy. Honestly, she thought, life was too awful. Here she was, happily spending the Easter Holidays with Laura and John, doing nobody any harm, when suddenly this ghastly Talents Contest loomed up. Talents! What talents had she, she would like to know? Everybody knew that she was absolutely hopeless at everything - not like Jill, who was jolly good at everything, though a year younger. "I don't know what I'll do," she said. "I haven't any talents-"
"Well, we all know that, bird-brain," said Jill, "but I expect we'll be able to think of something that even you can do."

From FOURPENNY FAIR, Chapter 1, Fourpenny Fund. Penny has a trying time with Jill's insults.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Willow Green Mystery illustration

An illustration from The Chink in the Curtain, Chapter 4 of Willow Green Mystery. Thomas suspects that the house is occupied by "sinister Russians".

Quote of the Day

"Where shall I begin?" I said.
"Begin at the beginning," said my sister Clarissa, who can be rather nippy at times.
"But what is the beginning?" asked Tish. "Is it when we found the boy lying dead in the ditch?"
"Only he wasn't dead," muttered Thomas. (This seemed to be a disappointment that he wasn't going to forget in a hurry).

From WILLOW GREEN MYSTERY, Chapter 1, Boy in the Ditch.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Blot

This is a "cleaned up" version of an illustration from Northmead Nuisance. The ugly prefabricated building on the school premises is known to the girls as The Blot. It is destroyed during a storm. Northmead Nuisance is the second and last of the Northmead books and was published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in 1963.

Quote of the Day

The Moochers, having finished their packing, had permission to go down and say good-bye to the Pengellys, or to Mrs. Pengelly, rather, for they would see Mr. Pengelly later when he helped to convey bus-loads of Pendragons to the station. Mrs. Pengelly, true to form, had made them each a saffron cake to take home for Christmas.
"That's a real Cornish cake, a 'zaaffern caake'," she said. "I promised Jan I'd make you a Cornish cake. We'll miss you popping in, but you'll soon be back. Do you remember the first time you came - you didn't like Pendragon much then, did you?"
"Oh, we were potty," said Fiona.

From THE MOOCHERS, Chapter 11, The House Shield.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Grey Suit

A scene from Show-Down, Chapter 14 of Anything Can Happen. Alison returns to the hotel to find the evil Grey Suit ransacking her room and brandishing a gun. But Pierre and Monsieur Chanel are right behind her to make sure that he is arrested once and for all.

Quote of the Day

The hotel-keeper, a jolly little round man, wearing braces embroidered with edelweiss, gave them a tremendous welcome. He talked very fast, inaccurate English, and told them of the many amenities Rosenberg had to offer - the river and the small lake and mountains, so many, so high mountains, why, look there, face to face with them was the mountain called the Eiger, that terrible north wall of the Eiger which for many years no one had climbed, he had a book of cut-outs from the newspapers telling of the many times that men had not climbed it.

From CROOKS TOUR, Chapter 3, Crook in the Hotel.