|bc||BRITISH 1950s SERIES
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia.
This page covers British children's series of the 1950s including the FLAME series by Eric Leyland, the ADVENTURE books by Willard Price and astronomer Patrick Moore's SPACE books. Also other children's series; THE CHERRYS series by Will Scott, Michael Gibson's ADVENTURE series and Arthur Waterhouse's FELLS series. Plus THE MAGIC OF DAN DARE.
(c) Jim Mackenzie and Steve Holland.
Any problems or questions? Email John at firstname.lastname@example.org .
< CB&M Editor's collection
Capt W E Johns' publisher in the late 1950s, namely H&S (except where noted), published a series similar to Biggles, namely FLAME, by well-known but now mostly forgotten children's author, Eric Leyland. None are exceptionally collectable as few people collect the series.
Flame of the Sierras
David Flame at the beginning of this story is 27 years of age and a railway engineer. His Uncle George Manners of the British civil service is 45 though he tends to come across as someone in his late 50s. The two though close are opposites. David: thickset, brown of complexion and humorous; George: serious, formal and wrapped up in formulating Foreign Policy for His Majesty's government. David is in London to interview a prospective new employee, Tony Carstairs, a lad who attended (and was expelled from) David's old school, Frale. Barely 18, "...his grey eyes held humour, but David was conscious of something else, something deeper." Feline fans will not take to Tony as the lad was expelled for firing a B.S.A. .22, killing a cat and narrowly missing a housemaster!
The third member of Flame's trio is Ginger Johnston, "... his red hair aflame," and "... a dour, taciturn man of 35, his face tanned to the colour of old leather, his flesh crinkled from exposure to sun and wind, and his body toughened by adventures in almost every country of the world. His short, stubby body was like iron... "
The story in short follows the trio's adventures in a mysterious Southern American country as they become involved in the overthrow of a military dictatorship. To explore the plot more would take away the pleasure of reading this story. The content certainly isn't suitable for children of today and at certain points one wonders if the author really had intended the book for an adult audience with its violence and non-PC overtones. Despite this, it's extremely readable, entertaining, humorous and full of action with a variety of plot twists and interesting characters. The charming line drawings certainly add to the flavour. [JT 8.01]
What was the magic of Dan Dare? It's difficult to tell retrospectively, but it seems that he was the hero in the right place at the right time. The 1940s had seen huge leaps in the science of rocketry and man's ability to split the atom had been terrifyingly proved in Japan in 1945. The end of the war (the one hoped to end all wars) was the beginning of an uphill struggle to rebuild life throughout Europe, the echo of which continued through the 1950s and really only have such a profound impact in the early 1960s and the baby boomer era.
During the late 1940s -- nick-named the Age of Austerity -- life was not easy. Everything was still on the ration and many factors combined to make life a little drab. Taking just one tiny slice of this, we had a ban on importing children's cartoons, so you could not even see Mickey Mouse at the cinema if you were a kid despite the fact that he had his own comic (Mickey Mouse Weekly). Instead, you had home-grown cartoons created by ex-Disney director David Hand (Animaland being the most famous of his series); there were dozens of black and white films shot in the UK to fill the gap left by Hollywood, and it was impossible to import those colourful comic books that had started up just before the war; we had our own, but they were poor by comparison.
Around the turn of the decade, things started to brighten up: it was a new decade for starters, a chance to put the war behind you. Food and clothing rations became a little less strict. You could get real eggs, not just the powdered variety. People wanted things to be brighter and more colourful.
Teenage delinquency was a big problem in the late 1940s. Some people (one being the Rev. Marcus Morris) pointed to comics and story papers as a source of delinquent ideas. The book market was flooded with the likes of tough crime writers Hank Janson and Ben Sarto, and copies were passed around under desks -- often with the sexy covers torn off -- for all schoolboys to thrill at.
Enter the Eagle. Bright, colourful, edited by a man of the cloth. Expensive compared to other papers, but the first issue was a sturdy 20 pages (only 16 in #2 which was to become its normal size except when advertising pushed it back up to 20). Parents are trying to put the past behind them, looking to the future -- and there's Dan Dare, pilot of the future, in a 'future' that was built strictly along the lines of the R.A.F. (by 1950, books about the war were just beginning to appear, including accounts of those brave fighter pilots who fought the Battle of Britain). Eagle was heavily advertised by Hultons, who gave away tens of thousands of copies at schools, via a newsagents token campaign, and from cars that cruised through many large cities with a huge eagle mounted on the roof.
Nearly a million children spent the week wondering what would happen to the spaceship just launched for Venus at the end of episode one. I doubt if any of them had ever quite dreamed of this kind of adventure in such vivid colour. Add to this the fact that the paper also carried bible stories in picture strip form on the rear, which would have been another plus point to wary parents, although the children would probably be more excited by seeing their radio hero P.C. 49 in strip form. The Eagle from the start was attractive to all ages: an exciting weekly as far as its readers went but with a wide-ranging educational bias to attract parents.
It was in the right place at the right time. #
Review by Jim Mackenzie
Nothing dates more than technology. Nothing is more dangerous than making predictions about the future. No one looks a bigger fool than the writer who gets it wrong. Patrick Moore has always been scathing about those who don't know the difference between astronomy and astrology. However, back in 1955, he took the risk of looking a fool himself by peering into his own crystal ball and constructing a series about the possibilities of space exploration and even space colonisation. He wrote five books about the planet Mars and man's attempt to reach, explore and then live on the red planet.
This is the first in the series, his first toe in the water, so to speak. So, how well does he cope ? The first point to make is that he is not to be underestimated as a storyteller. The plot is well-shaped, the characters briefly and effectively sketched in, and moments of real tension are created at frequent intervals. To link with his potential juvenile audience Moore tells the story from the point of view of sixteen year old Maurice Gray who has been sent out to Woomera, Australia, after the death of his parents in an air disaster. Whilst there, he discovers that the uncle he was to stay with has mysteriously disappeared. Where on earth can he be ? Well, exactly, he's not on earth he's on Mars. In fact he is trapped on Mars with the two other members of the first expedition in the space-ship, Hermes. So, with a confident acceleration of the plot, Moore plunges his young hero straight into the action of a rescue mission. Maurice's qualifications for the journey are his low body weight and his ability to read Morse Code.
For a man who knows so much, Moore keeps the technical details to a minimum. His description of the effect of gravity and then later of weightlessness during and after blast-off is like the perfect blue-print for all other writers in the genre. A space walk which goes wrong is hauntingly reminiscent of the best moments of the BBC radio series "Journey into Space" which terrified its young listeners before the whole experience became hackneyed. From the desert of Woomera to the red dust desert of Mars seems perfectly possible. Crashing through the mysterious Violet Layer, the rescue craft Ares becomes a casualty itself, its radar destroyed. Even if Maurice and his companions can find the missing astronauts and blast back through the dangerous atmosphere of the red planet, their destiny would be to wander endlessly in space on a voyage to infinity.
All the details about Phobos and Deimos, the little Martian moons, the length of the Martian day and nights, the temperatures to be expected, the reduced effects of gravity, the amount of oxygen needed to complete a ninety mile journey, seem perfectly plausible. However, the crunch moment eventually arrives and Moore has to answer the inevitable question Is there life on Mars? You wouldn't expect this reviewer to give away all the details but the answer is a qualified yes. Strange creatures, repulsive creatures, unexplained creatures are presented to the reader as they become yet another hazard on the terrible journey across the desert wastes.
Patrick Moore would have to admit that this
is all fiction nowadays but it doesn't really matter. The
fact is that he has told a
good story but also left enough unexplored for the reader
to agree with Maurice when he says,
Everyone is now ready for the next in the series "The Domes of Mars". #
Further information on this series and author is required.
Published by Brock; very similar to Enid Blyton's SECRET 7 series in format.
Hundred Mile Adventure
MICHAEL GIBSON trained as an engineer before the war and worked for a private charter company. He moved to technical illustrating with a short stint as the production manager of a publishing firm. His favourite interest was bird-watching.
From Jim Mackenzie: email@example.com
Turned. [A novel.] A. & C. Black 1939.
Further information on this series and author is required.
Published by Brock; also very similar to Enid Blyton's SECRET 7 series in format. Illustrated by Lilian Buchanan.
There is trouble at Fellside Farm in the Lake District. This is a grand open-air adventure full of exciting characters.
So runs the publishers blurb for Rogues of the Fells and it can apply equally fairly to the other two books in the series. They were all written for 7 to 10 year olds and they all concern the same group of three children and same small farm.
The farm where the Wains lived was just off one of the lonely roads that wind in and out of the great hills in the Lake District.
Raiders of the Fells (1948) tells of how Harry and Tess Wain, together with their friend John Grayson, manage to frustrate the activities of a gang of sheep rustlers. In 95 pages and 9 chapters they strive to round up the thieves who tend rather foolishly to return to the scenes of their crimes the night of every full moon.
Rogues of the Fells (1951) contains another old favourite device when writers for juveniles are in sheep country. This is to develop the story of the renegade dog who has become a sheep worrier. All children are torn between wanting the sheep to be protected and the savage fact that dogs who are normally portrayed as friendly companions sometimes have to meet their fate at the barrel of a farmers gun.
In some ways Fly of the Fells (1957) is the most effective of the three books. Eric Knights Lassie Come Home with its story of a dogs incredible journey from Scotland to Yorkshire is the most famous example of this genre. The story of Flys disappearance draws upon some of the same features which made that Lassie story so appealing. The enduring love that the three children feel for their canine companion and friend and the consequent devastation they experience when Fly goes missing can be taken for granted. After all Fly has proved his worth in the previous two books. The episodic nature of Flys own experiences as he wanders through a series of owners, dazed and bewildered by his accident, allows the narrative to move at a swift pace. The memory loss that makes recognition difficult even when reunification takes place, and the different names that Fly will now answer to, all ensure a period of suspense before the happy ending is cleverly drawn out.
Arthur Waterhouses introduction to the Lake District is a gentle one but one which is totally appropriate to his very young readers.
Arthur Waterhouse lived in the famous Lancashire coastal resort of Blackpool and liked nothing better than to walk each day on the promenade with his big Retriever dog. As well as writing a large number of stories for children Waterhouse took a keen interest in county cricket and was always an avid spectator at the matches in Blackpool.
Amongst his other stories published in the Brock series are Headlong into Adventure, the story of a quiet Cornish holiday that suddenly becomes a smuggling adventure on both sides of the English Channel. There is also Rungate Manor described in a dust-jacket blurb as A mystery which hums with adventure from the moment Roy and Barbara get caught with a dud half-crown , Goldie of Goldstones which details The story of Margerys retriever. Full of exciting adventure from poachers to circuses. Finally there is Dark Champion, as the advertisement declares this is the story of the horse Connemara Jim, and how he became famous.
of the Fells
Three's a Crowd, by Michael Drin
Any problems or questions? Email John at firstname.lastname@example.org