||Billy Bunter, Harry Wharton and
the Famous 3, 4 and 5, Greyfriars, Frank Richards and
Charles Hamilton. We go back to where Greyfriars began,
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
GBC#78 Bunter's Banknotes
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
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
No. 370 'Through Fire and Flame!'
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.
THE EXPULSION OF HAROLD SKINNER
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
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.
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