Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 6

Reading & Writing


In Richard Hughes’s ‘A High Wind In Jamaica’, some British children living in the Caribbean survive a hurricane and are sent back to England, but are captured by pirates. It’s an adventure about children, but certainly not aimed at them. Because in a turnabout, it’s the pirates who have to be afraid…it’s a haunting book you can’t easily forget.

James Hadley Chase supposedly wrote the whole of ‘No Orchids For Miss Blandish’ on a transatlantic flight. It was a tale of kidnap and rape that caused outrage in the UK and became a smashing success.

Gladys Mitchell’s investigator Mrs Bradley was a wizened crone who tested the constraints of the murder novel by pushing them to breaking point. Like the more successful Miss Marple she provided insights into the cases the police overlooked. Unlike Miss Marple she could be a total bitch.

Sébastien Japrisot wrote ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’. Was there ever a better title for a crime novel? All six of his novels were filmed many times over, but he vanished from print in the UK until recently.

Pamela Branch was beautiful and glamorous and died young. She was born on her parents’ tea estate in Ceylon, trained as an actress, married, learned Urdu, trekked the Himalayas, trained racehorses and moved to a 12th century Greek monastery to write brilliant novels. As you do.

And one final story – a personal one that I hope might inspire you to conduct your own search. Once upon a time, there was a book that was considered ideal for every young child’s bedroom. It was called ‘Where The Rainbow Ends’ and in it, one terrifying illustration showed a tiny girl being yanked into a shadowy forest by imps with razor-sharp claws. The author was Clifford Mills, a woman who had written the book as a Christmas entertainment under her husband’s name. For the next 40 years ‘Where The Rainbow Ends’ was as big a hit as ‘Peter Pan’ – it had everything; heroes, goblins, elves, a magic carpet, a battle between good and evil, a dragon and a cuddly pet lion cub. I looked for the edition I’d owned as a child, and after much hunting I found a copy for sale in Kent. A very nice lady said she’d send it to me for the princely sum of £7. When it arrived, it was exactly the version I’d owned. I opened the front cover and found my name written inside, Christopher Fowler, aged 7.

At this point I gave a little show-and-tell, producing some of the books about which I’d been talking, including the book returned to me from my younger self. The best part is trying to find the exact point where you engage the audience, when they go ‘ah-ha!’ and start to pay more attention. It’s why actors can perform the same script every night without getting bored, because no too events are even remotely similar. And nothing ever goes quite the way it’s planned.

I’m still doing some more public events, mostly early next year. But what I want to do most of all right now is start writing something fresh.



10 comments on “Why Authors Are Forgotten: Part 6”

  1. Wayne Mook says:

    An odd child’s book that always stayed in my mind is Knock Three Times! by Marion St. John Webb, the purple pumpkin really is thing of dread. It was made for TV in the 60’s, I’ve only seen clips form it, but it still comes across as odd and unnerving.

    So does Where the Rainbow Ends still hold up?

    I’m currently reading my daughter the Oz, currently on book 4 having just left the land of The Mangaboos. So other books would be welcome. I’m also wondering how far I should go in this series as it never seems to end.


  2. Rachel Green says:

    “The Other Side of the Mountain” by Michel Bernanos. A vision of Hell written for children.

  3. Vincent C says:

    Your experience with “Where The Rainbow Ends” is magnificent. If only the book itself could tell its own story!

    There is the tale of George Bernard Shaw finding one of his books in a second hand bookshop which he had inscribed to a friend “To . . . with esteem, George Bernard Shaw”. He bought it and returned it to the friend with a second inscription “With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw”

  4. I think the first theatre production I ever saw (sometime in the 50s) was Where the Rainbow Ends. At the age of four I was hooked on theatre for life.

  5. admin says:

    If one stops reading the subtext into children’s books, they work on a child’s level and can be delightful. I think we can over-fret about these things sometimes.

  6. Vivienne says:

    My mother was taken to shows every Christmas by her older half sisters who were single ladies due to the First World War, but loved the theatre and Ivor Novello. So it was Peter Pan or Where the Rainbow Ends. Not long ago I came upon a script of ‘Rainbow’, put it somewhere safe to enjoy later and now cannot put my hand on it. Will get there in the end and hope to find a pot of gold.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    The problem with subtext is that it creeps into the mind, picking up reinforcement wherever it finds it. The more blatant the underlying assumptions the better because the reader is more likely to address the material, either rejecting or accepting the argument with the conscious mind, always better.
    The song in South Pacific about children having to be carefully taught to hate is right and families always teach their children carefully, whether to hate or to include as they are inclined. The books the children are given are usually intended to reinforce the family’s values. Subtext is important.

  8. Denise Treadwell says:

    I think High Wind in Jamaica is a very chilling book, which leaves you feeling sorry for the pirates!

  9. Wayne Mook says:

    Rachel I’ve had a look for the book, but no joy. Will keep trying though. Thanks for the tip.

    A High Wind in Jamaica is a cruel book, the treatment of Margret is terrible, after all they are children. In the end the pirates I can’t feel that really bad for them, even though they seem to be punished for getting conscience. It shows the power of the writing that sorrow can be felt for them. Rather an odd book, but as said unforgettable.


  10. Gerard Saylor says:

    What luck. My library system has four copies of A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA available. As if my reading list needed to grow any longer…

    Your story of your found copy of WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS is gold.

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