Posts from 12th April 2013

Apr 13

William Mayne (1928-2010): bridges, battles, bygones; quaking bogs and (eu)catastrophes

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mayne2footprintsThis is a project gradually to read and discuss the hundred or so books for children written between the mid-50s and his death in 2010 by disgraced author William Mayne, starting with a rereading of the 30-odd that I own or know. I talked a little about his downfall at the close of this post from last year, and will likely touch on it again. I’ve now re-read a further four, including his very first.

Follow the Footsteps (1953)
(cover image: William Stobbs)

“It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong,” said Caroline. “If we ask Daddy something he always tells us the long way round, which isn’t interesting at all. But he does try.”
“I can’t understand him sometimes, even,” said Andrew,
“That’s something” said Mr Feaste. “Intention better than fulfilment–net result fulfilment. Strange, what?”

As of the early 50s, the genre — established by E. Nesbit, developed by Arthur Ransome, routinised by Enid Blyton, Malcolm Saville and literally dozens of others — was quite tired and predictable: the middleclass children of a family, a dated shade of perkily bland, and often curiously under-examined, all RP and private schooling, arrive in a rural or otherwise characterful locale, and find a treasure, foil a crime or solve a puzzle. Mayne’s first published book for kids doesn’t much break with the pattern (certainly less than you’d expect if you know his later work), but the beginnings of the break are visible.