bc Billy Bunter, Harry Wharton and the Famous 3, 4 and 5, Greyfriars, Frank Richards and Charles Hamilton. We go back to where Greyfriars began, in...

Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia. Updated 15th June, 2021.

A contributor to 'The Collectors Digest' some years ago came up with the term 'Red Magnet Magic'. Those who've never read an early Magnet, except perhaps the first issue which was republished in the 1960s, will be disconcerted by the occasionally different style to that to be found in the more widely read post-1930s issues. The characters in the early stories are often more drawn out, more three-dimensional, perhaps more 'normal'. That is to say the stories are 'straight'; the events which take place are believable, mostly. Even Bunter is believable! Few of the stories seem suitable for children which is perhaps why they have appealed to the elder fans of Greyfriars. And few would disagree that Frank Nugent is a mere shadow after 1930. He was more assertive in the early stories and could be relied upon in any situation to pull his weight. Bob Cherry, usually so 'sunny' in the later stories, often lost his temper and even on occasion held grudges. Horace Coker wasn't the overbearing mirth-maker of later on. He provided humour but could be helpful, even useful to his form. This is all a matter of personal opinion, naturally. And if you disagree, fine, write in and give us your thoughts.

GBC#60 The Expulsion of Harold Skinner
GBC#78 Bunter's Banknotes

Greyfriars Book Club vol.78. This Howard Baker volume reprints the following 'red' Magnets: 366 to 371. I'll not give away anything apart from setting the scene.
No. 366 'Bunter the Blade!' (13.2.1915)
Mr Bunter has had a 'win' on the stock exchange and sends Billy the magnificent sum of 20 pounds. The Fat Owl decides to become a 'blade', taking up smoking, drinking and gambling, in that order! His form mates come up with various methods of discouraging these vices. A wonderfully amusing story.
No. 367 'The Last Plunge!' (20.2.1915)
Johnny Bull's uncle is coming back to the old country, having made his fortune in Australia. Smithy, meanwhile, looks like slipping back into his bad old ways. He's back at the Cross Keys, though not enjoying it, and falls into a card game against a stranger, a German, who manages to beat the Bounder and takes IOUs off him. It turns out that the German is Johnny Bull's uncle's secretary. A fine story about that great Remove character, The Bounder.
No. 368 'Captured at Last!' (27.2.1915)
Temple & Co. of the Fourth decide to jape the Famous Five. Temple makes up as Johnny's uncle, Mr. Bull. Thus follows an hilarious encounter, especially when the genuine uncle arrives in the midst of the feast. We know how pig-headed Johnny is so it's no surprise he has no desire to accompany his uncle back to Australia, especially considering the events which took place in the previous issue. The result of this encounter is a visit from Johnny's aunt, but as Bunter has intercepted the dear lady's letter of advice, the Five anticipate that the lady is Temple once again! Yet another laughter-inducing story, the final result being Squiff's induction into the Famous Five.
No. 369 'Tom Dutton's Triumph!' (6.3.1915)
The Remove deaf junior was for the most part poorly treated, though in this issue, he's given his head and allowed to star as an ice skater who is out to win a prize to pay for his cousin's tailor bill. After this easily forgettable story, poor old Tom was thankfully allowed to settle back into his accustomed place: In the background.
No. 370 'Through Fire and Flame!' (13.3.1915)
Both the Remove and the Fifth have the same brilliant idea after a fire almost destroys the woodshed. They set up rival 'fire brigades'. With Squiff and Coker as the rival fire chiefs, you can expect lots of fun and games. Amusing from start to finish, though not particularly memorable.
No. 371 'Bunter's Banknotes' (20.3.1915)
Bunter once again finds himself in possession of seemingly unlimited amounts of pound notes, thanks to his prying. Humorous with laughs all the way, this story sees Bunter pretty much finalised in the author's eyes. With almost 400 issues under his belt, CH is turning out generally entertaining, well-written stories.

Greyfriars Book Club vol.60. This Howard Baker volume reprints the following 'red' Magnets: 196 to 199 and 201 to 203. I'll not give away anything apart from setting the scene.
No. 196 'For the Honour of His Chum!'
This story follows hot on the heels of the Remove being excluded from having to 'fag' for the Sixth Form. Wharton, having taken the lead in this past operation, has been made the target of Loder's temper. Wharton, also known for his hot temper, decides he'll tackle Loder at night with a horsewhip. Skinner, far more evil than in later stories ( a regular Ponsonby in fact! ), decides he'll take the opportunity to give Loder a payback as well.
No. 197 'His Last Match!'
Following on from the Remove's exclusion from fagging, the Second Form led by Dicky Nugent decide to rag the Remove' and challenge them to a game of footer. A couple of reminders are in order. Bulstrode is the footer captain, having replaced Wharton, while the 'Famous Five' is actually 'Four', Inky not yet having arrived at Greyfriars. While setting up the proposed footer match is the main crux of the story, Mark Linley's problems with Bolsover and the other Remove snobs provide secondary interest. Linley is fouled by Bolsover in a practice game and declares he'll never play again. Meanwhile, Bunter hides under the tuckshop counter with the expectation that he'll be able to help himself to some fresh tarts. A wonder he never tried this in later stories! Later on a story that a Remove player will throw the match in return for hard cash does the rounds, and a paper signed by Linley to a similar effect turns up.
No. 198 'The Stolen Cup'
Ferney of the Remove; there's a name you've most likely never read of in a Greyfriars story. A weak-willed chap who devours American detective stories; 'bloods' of the worst type! Not really 'bloods' (see the CB&M page on the subject) but almost as bad, in the eyes of the Magnet publishers. Serious competition at the time, most likely. Although this story is credited to Charles Hamilton, I find that difficult to believe. Certainly it's entertaining and competently written. But - it just doesn't ring true. To the story for now, at least. Linley has decided he'll return to the footer team while Bolsover will be left out. Ferney, Vane (? who's he?), Micky Desmond and Trevor also want 'in'. Ferney goes so far as to state he'll adopt the manners of his American fiction heroes and commit 'revenge' if he's left out of the team. Meanwhile, Bulstrode finds Ferney has recovered a hidden supply of his mags and decides they must be destroyed for Ferney's own good. Quelch discovers Bulstrode assaulting the weaker Ferney, accuses him of bullying, discovers the offending mags and a supply of news clippings of criminal trial reports then compliments Bulstrode for a job well done! Back to a footer game which the Remove win against Redclyffe, but the fabulous cup, later locked in the head's study, is stolen. Was it the Redclyffe team, or somebody closer to Greyfriars?
No. 199 The Downfall of the Fifth
Readers of later stories will recall that the Remove have a Dramatic Society, led by Wharton before Wibley arrived at Greyfriars. Coker, at this time the leading light of the Fifth despite his shortcomings which weren't so pronounced in these early stories, decides his 'Dramatic Society' will put on a performance of 'Julius Caesar'. He's heard the Remove are putting on the same play and decides to get in first! The Remove have to figure out some way to dish the Fifth but are unable to do anything too drastic as the Head, form masters and the Sixth have been invited to the performance. Coker, with unlimited pocket money available, has booked a professional actor to play Mark Antony. A humorous story which will see the Remove lord it over the Fifth before too long.
No. 201 The Duffer's Return
Alonzo Todd, a cousin of Peter Todd, preceded his cousin's arrival at Greyfriars. Alonzo, otherwise known as 'the duffer of the Remove', was the opposite of his Peter. Gullible and easygoing, even Bunter could pull the wool over his eyes. This mostly forgettable story will leave you in no doubt as to why Alonzo disappeared into the mists of time.
No. 202 Against his Father's Wish
In the overall scheme of things, the Greyfriars Fifth was left out in the cold except for Coker, Potter and Greene. This story about Arthur Talbot of the Fifth is one of the few to feature this form. Like something out of the previous century, it concerns a lad who is prone to illness should he exert himself by way of hard study. Talbot is a fine study and the story shows what the early Hamilton was capable of, when he concentrated on characters rather than situations.
No.203 By Order of the Form
The Remove finally overextends their importance to Greyfriars in this story, having put down the higher forms in earlier stories. Even Wharton and Co. let their successes go to their heads, and it's time for their downfall back to mere mortals. They're in the right to begin with, having decided to bring the bullying Loder to heel, but before long Wingate decides it's time to show them their rightful place. A brilliant story, full of action, adventure, laughs and even a little violence!

Frank Richards and Charles Hamilton Our main page with links to other Greyfriars, St Jim's, Bunter and Charles Hamilton pages.

Steve's Comprehensive British Story Paper Index For all the information you'll ever need on the subject!

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