Monday, 30 June 2014

PBOTD 30th June: Monica Edwards - The Wanderer

I promised you more Children's Book Club, and here you are: the picture below is their version of Monica Edwards' The Wanderer, with probably one of the most unlikely equine conformations you'll ever see on a book cover. 

Children's Book Club

I'm glad I grew up with the far prettier Armada version of the book. The first edition, which appeared in 19  and was illustrated by Joan Wanklyn, is even lovelier.

Collins, 1953, first edition

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More on Monica Edwards

Sunday, 29 June 2014

PBOTD 29th June: Gillian Baxter - Horses in the Glen

Today's book continues my series on bad covers. I do wonder what influence a bad cover has on your opinion of a book. I wonder if I'd like yesterday's PBOTD, Janet Must Ride, more, if the first thing that came into my mind every time I thought of it was that cover. Perhaps that's a childhood thing: where you weld the visual into the imagination with a bit more certainty.

Children's Book Club, 1962
I read today's book Gillian Baxter's Horses in the Glen, as an adult as I couldn't ever find it in my pony mad youth. I liked the story, and when I think of it I do think of this cover, but it has no influence at all on what I think about the book. The edition above is the Children's Book Club edition.  It was copied directly from Mathilde Windish-Graetz’ The Spanish Riding School (1958).

Evans, 1962

The CBC only rarely used the original covers of the books they republished, and although some of their efforts are successes, a lot aren't. Keep checking in with the blog for the next couple of days, and you'll see a few more.

The original isn't the most beautiful cover in the pony book world, but it is considerably better than what came after.

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Saturday, 28 June 2014

PBOTD 28th June: Diana Pullein-Thompson - Janet Must Ride

The next run of pony books of the day celebrate the depths pony book cover illustration can reach. Today's cover is the earliest Armada printing of Janet Must Ride. I had this particular edition myself, but I always hated this cover. With a lower leg position like that, I do wonder what will happen when Corrymeela lands. Janet Must Ride, but she's probably going to fall off first

It's not credited, but I think it's by Peter Archer. The style is certainly very similar to other Armada illustrations he did which are credited. . Below is the first edition, which Collins published in 1953, with a cover illustration by Mary Gernat, who was, ironically, Armada's other major cover illustrator. I wonder what she felt when she saw the paperback edition.

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More on Diana Pullein-Thompson

Friday, 27 June 2014

PBOTD 27th June: Maggie Stiefvater - The Scorpio Races

Today's PBOTD is a modern book, which only appeared in 2011. There are very few books I recommend to my family, bookaholics though they all are, because there's only so much horse they can take. This one, however, is different. It's the horse story you can read without betraying your anti-pony book principles.

The Scorpio Races was one of my stand out reads of 2011. It takes the water horses of Celtic legend, and sees what would happen if they were part of a more or less contemporary society. Humanity is far more likely to come off worse in encounters with the water horse, and the book opens in a way which leaves you little doubt about what kind of creature you're about to meet.

It's a dark and occasionally bloody and violent fantasy about a race of water horses who live off the island of Thisby. Sometimes flung up by storms, and sometimes captured, the water horses are raced by the inhabitants of the island once a year, in the Scorpio Races. The race is notoriously lethal, particularly for the riders. Sean Kendrick has won the race twice already; and thinks he can again, but then Puck enters too, only not on a water horse, but her own unfit, ordinary horse, Dove. Sean and Puck should be rivals, but they're not.

My review of The Scorpio Races

Thursday, 26 June 2014

PBOTD 26th June: K M Peyton - The Right Hand Man

Today's book is one of K M Peyton's historical novels. It's set in Georgian England, and is an enthralling read about Ned, who becomes a coachman. K M Peyton is just as good at writing male characters as she is female, and Ned is a brilliant creation.

Apologies for the brevity of this post - extreme lack of time, alas.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Review: Maggie Raynor - Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers is the one of the first two titles for new equestrian publisher Forelock. I’ve reviewed the other one, One Good Turn, in another post. Like its fellow, Finders Keepers is a well-written story, full of decent characters and with plenty of accurate pony detail.

Kirsty is desperate for a pony, and has a pony fund. Her parents are not even remotely horsey, but her aunt, Tianne, is, and Kirsty goes to stay with her as often as she can. On a visit during the summer holidays, they go to Barrowby horse fair, where they find a neglected horse, tied up alone. He’s still there at the end of the fair, and so Tianne and Kirsty take him home. It’s a long, hard struggle, but they manage to restore the pony, Socks, to health. And then Kirsty wins a place on a reality tv programme. It’s a dressage makeover with top trainer Mark Kaspar.

Kirsty is thrilled, but she soon finds out that producing a television programme isn’t as straightforward as you might think, and she learns the hard way  how situations, and people, can be manipulated to hook viewers in. Kirsty also has an introduction into the upper echelons of sport, and how ambition can overrule kindness.

This is a decent story: it rattles along at a good pace, and the characters are interesting and at times amusing. The plot, despite its modern-day reality tv clothing, is thoroughly conventional, and if you’ve ever read any other book where someone happens to find a pony and rehabilitates it, the denouement will not surprise you.

Like its partner, it suffers from an irritating addiction to poor punctuation, but the publisher assures me this will be sorted out. Nevertheless, Finders Keepers is a good read, and it has beautiful illustrations – particularly the one of dogs. Maggie Raynor is excellent at dogs.

Whilst Forelock haven’t yet set the world of equestrian fiction alight with its first two publications, both are good, solid reads.

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Maggie Raynor - Finders Keepers
Forelock Books, 2014, £9.99 (hardback)

Age of main character: 14
Themes: television, rehabilitation, difference between fiction and reality

Forelock's website

Thank you to Forelock Books for sending me a copy of this book.

Review: Ruth Benton Blackmore - One Good Turn

Forelock Books are the latest equestrian publisher, and they specialise in pony stories. Their first two titles, One Good Turn and Finders Keepers are just out (Finders Keepers is reviewed separately). I was intrigued to see what Forelock would produce, because the glory days when anything was published as long as it had a pony are well behind us, and the rise of the formulaic, part-of-a-series book has hit the pony book just as hard as it has every other area of children’s fiction.

So, how have Forelock done? Their first two books are solid and well-written. They’ve gone for character-driven pony stories, loaded with accurate equine detail, welded onto pretty conventional plots. If you want decent stories, crammed full of ponies, without any of the current fads that you find in the rest of the pony book market, these should fit the bill.

One Good Turn is my favourite out of the two. Bethany has moved to Cornwall, and is feeling isolated and lonely. You don’t get any build up to this: the story launches straight in with Bethany finding a skewbald pony stuck in wire on the moor, which she’s helped to free by a boy who lives at the local riding school. Finding the pony is the start of Bethany finding friends and her place in the community. She calls the pony Bracken – she can’t afford to buy him, but the riding school owner, Harry’s mother, suggests that Bethany looks after the pony as a contribution to his keep. Bethany of course is delighted, and then you get the usual pony is rehabilitated story.

There’s a bit more to this book than that, however. There’s an interesting cast of characters, and amongst the other children who ride at the stables, there’s Annabelle. She’s the archetypal rich girl: beautiful pony, beautiful clothes, and foul to everyone who’s unlucky enough to be anywhere near her. I found her the most interesting of the characters, because, as we find out, there is a reason why she’s so horrid. It’s the treatment of Annabelle that makes this book have the edge over Forelock’s other offering, because the author’s looked behind the conventional characterisation so often found in pony books, and I always like a book which doesn’t feel it has to unthinkingly serve up the very well worn pony book tropes.

This book is illustrated – another big plus. It’s great to have an illustrated children’s book aimed at the older age groups. If you’re five or younger, there’s any amount of bright, colour-filled books, but after that, and particularly if you’re capable of reading on your own, you can whistle for illustrations. I like the ones Ruth Benton Moore’s done for this book. They have a wiry energy to them.
Sadly the quality of the illustration and writing isn’t reflected in the editing. Both books are littered with the most distracting sort of punctuation error. The publisher does assure me this will change.

But all power to Forelock: whilst they haven’t yet set the world of equestrian fiction alight, both these books are good, solid reads.

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I have a copy of this book to give away: to enter, add your name to the comments below this review. If you can't, add them to the post on my Facebook page instead.

Ruth Benton Blackmore: One Good Turn
Forelock Books, 2014, £9.99 (hardback)

Age of main character: 11-12
Themes: loneliness, fitting in

Forelock's website

PBOTD 25th June: K M Peyton - Flambards Divided

Today's PBOTD is a book that divides Flambards fans: Christina has already married Will, and Dick, and in this book, she ends up with Mark, having divorced Dick and seen him off into the arms of someone more suitable.

OUP, 1st edn, 1981
With Mark,Christina does come at last to a sort of peace, though a controversial one. Mark, in the earlier books, lost none of the characteristics that made him so spectacularly unsympathetic in the first. But a terrible war, which has left him badly wounded, has changed other things about him apart from the physical. There's a satisfaction in seeing Mark, if not reform, at least mellow, but whether you believe it or not is debatable.
Puffin, 1982
There were plans to televise this book, and a pilot was made. What happened to it I do not know. The crew were based at K M Peyton's house, and the whole thing was exciting, though not conducive to a peaceful marriage.

OUP, pb, 1999

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More on K M Peyton

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

PBOTD 24th June: K M Peyton - Flambards in Summer

The third book in the Flambards series, Flambards in Summer, sees Christina returning to Flambards. Now a widow, she is not the only one returning: Dick, the groom who taught her to ride, is back too.
The estate is badly run down, and Christina sets about restoring it. And she marries Dick.

OUP, 1969, illus Victor Ambrus
In a romantic novel, this would probably be enough: at last the two sweethearts are together, but it's not like that in Flambards in Summer. Christina and Dick are very different people. The only thing that unites them is Flambards, and they have different opinions on what to do about that.

Puffin, pb, 1977

OUP, pb, 1999

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More on K M Peyton

Monday, 23 June 2014

PBOTD 23rd June: K M Peyton - The Edge of the Cloud

This is another PBOTD which is not a pony book: not even remotely. There are no horses in it, but there are plenty of machines. Flambards, the first book in the series, saw Christina learning to ride, and hunt, and learn to love horses.

Set against the obsession of her Uncle Russell and cousin Mark for hunting is the obsession of her other cousin, Will, with aeroplanes.

OUP, 1969, 1st ed, illus Victor Ambrus
At the end of Flambards, the world of the horse is sharply contrasted with the new world of machines: Christina and Will elope in a Rolls-Royce; Mark tries to catch them on his horse, but fails. It is a new world; one in which machines (and war) destroy Will, as Mark predicted. 

Puffin, pb, 1977
 The Edge of the Cloud  is a heart-rending book to read. A lesser author would have had Will survive, but K M Peyton is not a lesser author. Neither is Christina a lesser heroine. She survives, and claws her way back to some sort of happiness.

Puffin, 1987

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More on K M Peyton

Sunday, 22 June 2014

PBOTD 22nd June: Samantha Alexander - Crossing the Line

Here's my Royal Ascot book - it's Samantha Alexander's Crossing the Line, which is part of her Winners series. Justina Brookes, the series' heroine actually wants to win the Grand National.

Macmillan, 1991

However, no one at Dolphin Barn, the stables where she works, seem to have any faith in either her or Murphy's Law, the horse she thinks can win the National. Nothing daunted, she decides to ride at Ascot for a rival trainer, Adam Valentine. Will this mean the start of a career in the rather more glamorous sport of flat racing?

The Winners Series
Racing Start
Crossing the Line
Breaking the Rules
Race to Glory
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More on Samantha Alexander

Saturday, 21 June 2014

PBOTD: Josephine Pullein-Thompson - All Change

Today's PBOTD celebrates the life of one of our finest pony book authors, Josephine Pullein-Thompson. This feature is illustrated by the battered remains of my childhood collection of her books. They're creased, and covered with sellotape, because I read them so often they fell apart.

When you're a child, you don't think about an author's characterisation, or how good a plot line is, and whether the editing's all it might be. What you want is characters you identify with - characters you could imagine yourself commiserating with as yet again, you fail to catch your pony, chatting as you ride off down the lanes during long, hot, summer holidays. You want stories that you can believe in, and you want horses and ponies you can believe in too. You want, or maybe need, a world that is better than your own. One in which you can have the pony you know you'll never get in real life. One where you're taught to ride the right way, instead of one you know is hopelessly out of date, but which you settle for because it's all that's available.

You want a dream world, but you want one where the shift to that dream world is small; just a little side step so that, if things were different, it could be your life. It could be you who had that pony, and who did things in the right way, and who lived in a world where, in the end, life, though messy, was full of warmth.

And that is what Josephine Pullein-Thompson gave me. The first book I read of hers was Show Jumping Secret, in which polio-stricken Charles overcomes the sneers of his cousins, who ride in an old-fashioned and unthinking way, and triumphs, winning a major show jumping event. And showing everyone that riding with your mind, and in sympathy with the horse, was best. Most of Josephine's characters didn't achieve such heights, but they were all often, like me, the odd child out. They were outsiders for different reasons: Noel with her lack of pony and chronic lack of self confidence; Charles because of his disability; Patrick and Sara because of their determination to ride the right way; but they all in the end come to some sort of accommodation with the community in which they live. They muddle through, but they keep hold of their convictions, and they get there in the end.

I was lucky enough to meet Josephine Pullein-Thompson, and to speak with her on several occasions. When I last spoke to her, last year, she was full of her characteristic vim. She got on with life no matter what her health problems were, and by that time they were severe. She was still able to read, she told me, though these days it had to be via a huge television screen to overcome her eyesight problems. She was absolutely free of any self-pity - she was immensely interested in the technology that meant she could still read, and viewed the whole thing as an opportunity to experience something new, and certainly not something that was going to hold her back. 

Josephine wrote thirty two pony books in a writing career which stretched for over fifty years. "Books by the Pullein-Thompsons... are in the top class,” wrote Col C E G Hope, editor of Pony Magazine. Oh, they were, and they are.

I am very glad that I was able to tell Josephine, in a fulsome and no doubt embarrassing way, just how much her books had meant to me. She took it, as she did everything, with enormous grace, and great humour, and fed me boiled eggs for lunch. I loathe boiled eggs, a fact which was clear to both of us, but for her, I ate them. 

Josephine Pullein-Thompson, 1924-2014. RIP.

Friday, 20 June 2014

PBOTD 20th June: K M Peyton - The Last Ditch

K M Peyton's The Last Ditch is the last of the Maybridge series. In the earlier books, Ruth gets pregnant and it nearly breaks her relationship with Patrick. There's more teenage pregnancy in this book: Jonathan's brief fling with Iris on holiday in Greece  has resulted in her getting pregnant, and Jonathan bolts.

OUP, 1984, 1st edn
Peter is also on the run. He wants to train one of his brother’s horses, Dogwood, for the National. They take the horse and squat in a large house, existing on Jonathan’s income from tutoring. Jonathan falls for a girl who helps them, and the horse does run in the National.

USA printing, Philomel, 1983
It's another brilliant novel about coping with huge, life-changing events.

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Thursday, 19 June 2014

PBOTD 19th June: K M Peyton -A Midsummer Night's Death

PBOTD for 19th June is another in the Maybridge series, A Midsummer Night's Death (and yes, I have missed out the Pennington books, Pennington's Seventeenth Summer, The Beethoven Medal and Pennington's Heir, because they have no horse, though plenty of piano. And Patrick Pennington, of course. And they do have plenty of Ruth - now horse-free). I always preferred the more buttoned-up, enigmatic, Jonathan and Peter to the brooding passion of Patrick.

OUP, 1978, 1st edition
Jonathan is to the fore again in Midsummer Night's Death - he's certainly someone to whom things happen.  Jonathan doesn't much like his English master, but when he kills himself, there's something about it that doesn't seem quite right to Jonathan.

He begins to have suspicions that someone else was responsible. It's another story about loyalty and what you do when someone you like and admire has done something terrible.

Puffin, pb, 1981

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

PBOTD 18th June: K M Peyton - Prove Yourself a Hero

Apologies for the shortness of this post, which in no way reflects how fond I am of this book. 

Today's PBOTD is K M Peyton's Prove Yourself a Hero. It's part of her Mayfield series, and takes Jonathan and Peter's story on from The Team.  It's not really a pony book, and so theoretically shouldn't be part of this series at all, but there's a bit of horse in it, and it's an excellent book and that's enough for me.

OUP, 1977, illus the author

The book looks at what happens to a family when something extraordinary happens to it. Jonathan is kidnapped, and we see not only how it affects him, but his family, and friends. 

it is the Meredith parents, easy to write off as heartless, whose portrayal is most interesting. Jessica, Jonathan’s sister, describes what she thinks will happen when or if Jonathan is released:

“You know, even if he does come back all right, I think everything is going to be awful for a bit.!
“How so? Great rejoicings all round, I would have said.”
“Well, you know what they’re like... I mean, it’s not actually losing the money, but being—well—sort of beaten, I suppose.”
“Held to ransom. Having to do what someone else wants, for a change.”
”Yes. I’m sure they won’t just forget it. I think it’s going to be horrid. .... I bet, when they get over being glad to see Jonathan, they’ll be cross with him,” Jessica said.”

They are.

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More on K M Peyton

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

PBOTD 17th June: K M Peyton - The Team

The sequel to ­Fly-by-Night, The Team, appeared in 1975. It was a fill-in, written after Ruth’s fate with Patrick Pennington had already been decided in Pennington’s Heir, 1973.  The Team picks up Ruth’s story at the age of fourteen. She has outgrown Fly, and so has no realistic chance of getting on the Pony Club Team.  If she can manage to find a larger pony, she might.  The Team opens with a picture of the relaxed relationship between Ruth and Peter McNair, the Hollis’ family’s former foster-child. All this changes when Ruth goes to buy a replacement for Fly at a local horse sale, and finds Peter’s beloved Toadhill Flax, the one horse he wanted his father not to sell, and whose going precipitates his falling out with his father. Ruth buys Toad, and tells Peter, fully expecting him to share in her excitement that she has managed to find herself another pony, and Toad at that. But Peter does not.

“Ruth looked at Peter in the lamplight. He looked very odd, she realized, almost shocked. She knew he was a moody character, and that his good humour and banter could subside into long periods of gloom and resentment, but she hadn’t expected this reaction from him in this particular circumstance. She had been expecting him to join in a general rejoicing. His insistence that she take the pony to his home seemed to her rather like a taking-over attitude.”

Peter’s father offers to buy Toad back, or exchange him for any pony in his stables, but Ruth refuses, as obsessed with Toad as Peter is. Ruth goes on, eventually, to ride Toad more or less successfully, and to repair her relationship with Peter. The Team maintained K M Peyton’s firm grip on realism: Ruth is unable to ride in a competition because it coincides with the first day of her period, and she is too unwell to ride. The interest of the book is far more than in what-the-pony-did-next: it is in the relationships between the characters and how they work out. 

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This piece is taken from my book, Heroines on Horseback (GGB, 2013)

Monday, 16 June 2014

PBOTD 16th June: Veronica Westlake - The Intruders

I suppose there must be some booksellers who don't actually collect books: who do it because they've found a business model that works, but the thing they're selling happens to be books rather than super-widgets. I was not one of them. I am a collector, and one of the most tantalising things about selling books on your specialist subject is that you can't keep all those delicious books that you don't actually have in your personal collection. People often said to me "I don't know how you can - I'd want to keep them all."

Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954, illus Sheila Rose

I've always found that the need to pay the bills concentrates the mind wonderfully when it comes to deciding what to sell (the answer is, pretty well everything). And I have quite a few  books anyway, so if a paperback copy comes in of something that I already have a lovely first of, I'm not going to mourn its passing. There are other books I don't collect - generally American authors, because there are thousands of them, literally, and that would be a slippery slope so profound it's best not thought about. One American collector I know has a collection which has taken over an entire floor of her house. I have a not particularly huge Victorian townhouse, and it's not up to entire floors of books.

But then again, there are books that I really, really want, and I would allow myself the occasional pick of the books I'd bought. How much would depend on how the business was going. If my cash flow stunk, I sold everything. Food shops are generally unimaginative, and not prepared to swap your weekly food supplies for a pristine dustjacketed copy of Jill's Gymkhana. 

Every now and then though, the financial horizon was a bit more sunny, and then I'd pick a couple of books from stock. I did do this at Christmas too - I'd pick a book I had my eye on, and if it hadn't sold by Christmas Day, it was mine.

One book that never, ever turned up was today's PBOTD - Veronica Westlake's The Intruders. It's probably the rarest of her books, and in ten years of bookselling, I never saw one. In the end, I bought one by the conventional route. It's fair to say it's not the best of her books, and it wasn't ever going to dislodge her The Ten Pound Pony in my heart, but now I have all the pony books she wrote, and I am content.

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More on Veronica Westlake

Sunday, 15 June 2014

PBOTD 15th June: Judith M Berrisford - Jackie's Pony Patrol

PBOTD for 15th June is Judith M Berrisford's Jackie's Pony Patrol. One question I was often asked in my bookselling days was where I found books to sell. The vast majority of the books I sold I bought from collectors who'd either decided to sell off their collections, or sell their duplicates and books they'd decided they didn't want to keep. I liked buying large numbers of books at a time. It saved time, for one thing, as the alternative was to traipse round charity shops and boot sales endlessly and as anyone who has done that will know, you don't find enough books to stock a shop that way if you're a specialist.

Brockhampton, 1961, illus Geoffrey Whittam
The very first collection I bought was from someone living at the other end of the county, and came about because I'd been featured in Country Living as someone who sold pony books. The telephone rang a few days afterwards. Would I, the voice asked, be interested in buying her collection of old books? Her children weren't interested (as I was to learn, a very common reason for selling a collection) and she wanted the books to go to people who'd enjoy them.

Armada, pb, 1960s
So, I turned up to find out she'd decided to go hunting that morning, but had left her husband in charge. There were two boxes of Jill hardbacks, Pat Smythe paperbacks and plenty of other stuff too. I paid, and then attempted to drive off. In my nervousness at this first major essay into the bookselling world (I must be a real bookseller if I was buying actual collections) I'd broken my golden rule and not reversed into the very awkward parking space. I couldn't get out. Fortunately Mr Seller came and rescued me. 

The collection included some lovely early Jackies with dustjackets. They were very pretty. Oh good, I thought. They'll sell. Only they didn't. In the end, despite several price cuts they st there for years and they're now on my shelves. That was another thing I learned. There are fashions in books, and it took a while before it swung back in Jackie's favour. It took ten years before I finally found Jackie books selling.
Armada pb, 1980s

Saturday, 14 June 2014

PBOTD 14th June: Christine Pullein-Thompson - We Hunted Hounds

PBOTD for 14th June is Christine Pullein-Thompson's We Hunted Hounds. I lost count of the number of times I sold off my copy. I must have owned at least five, and I sold them all to people who were desperate to get one. I've had it so often, I can never quite believe I don't have it. I had to borrow one when I wrote my book, Heroines on Horseback, and when writing this post, had to check I really didn't have a copy. I really don't. Still.
Collins, 1949, 1st edn, illus Marcia Lane Foster
It's not a book I have a massive fondness for, but I do love the look of first edition with its beautiful dustjacket by Marcia Lane Foster. I love the use of white to delineate the horses, and the way the artist uses the spine of the book as part of the design.

Collins, 1949, 1st edn, illus Marcia Lane Foster

Armada, pb, 1964
Collins Pony Library, 1970s
Armda pb, 1970s
J A Allen, 1990s (updated by the author)

 Much more on Christine Pullein-Thompson

Friday, 13 June 2014

PBOTD 13th June: Ruby Ferguson - Jill's Riding Club

PBOTD for 13th June is one of my bestsellers, Ruby Ferguson's Jill's Riding Club. Jill always sold, in any edition and in pretty well any condition. People wanted the editions they'd read as a child, and then they'd often come back looking for the hardbacks or the Armada paperbacks, with their amazing period illustrations (and full texts - the Knight editions were cut).

Hodder, 1st edition, 1956
Hampton Library edition

Armada pb,1964
Knight, pb, 1969

Knight, pb, 1975
Knight, pb, 1982

Knight, pb, 1980s

Knight, pb, 1990s
 For much more on Jill, see my website

Thursday, 12 June 2014

PBOTD 12th June: Kathleen Herald - Sabre, the Horse from the Sea

PBOTD for 12th June is Kathleen Herald's Sabre the Horse from the Sea. This is K M Peyton's first book, written (obviously) under her maiden name. It's another that got away. I really, really wanted this book. It was a beautiful copy, and I didn't have one. I gave it 3 months to sell. If it didn't, it was mine. It sold.

Acorn, USA, 1963
It's a wonderfully lyrical work.

K M Peyton was a horse obsessive from an early age. She finished her first book was at the age of nine, though it was never published. Neither were its seven successors. Her first published book, Sabre, the Horse from the Sea, came out in 1948, when she was nineteen. It appeared under her maiden name, Kathleen Herald, as did her next two books, The Mandrake (1949) and Crab the Roan (1953). 

K M Peyton’s actual riding experience as a child was small.  She says:

“I devoured technical horse books from the senior library -- Henry Wynmalen, Sam Marsh, Geoffrey Brooks, Faudel-Philips, R.S. Summerhays,  etc, so I knew a lot of theory but not much else, never laying a hand on a real horse, apart from three riding lessons a year on Wimbledon Common, saved up for  from my pocket money, all I could afford―five shillings an hour.” (interview with K M Peyton)

She had an extensive stable of imaginary horses, each with its own page in her notebook: “I just thought up a new horse or pony every day, imagined how it looked, how it behaved, and wrote it down in my book until I had over 2000. My friend did it too and we discussed our new ones at school every day.” She had no horse of her own until she was an adult, and because she could not have the real thing, made her fantasies live through her books.  In her first book, Sabre, the Horse from the Sea, the writing has the hypnotic, erotic pulse of fantasy. Set in the Second World War, it is the story of Liza, living with rich and unsympathetic relatives while evacuated, who one day comes across a horse emerging from the sea.

“She stood with bare feet in a pool of water left by the receding tide, and looked at the grey. It did not seem strange to her to find a horse standing half in and half out of the sea, no stranger than it felt to be standing there herself. She only thought that she had never seen anything so beautiful as this animal, with the sea-water running down his legs, and with a piece of seaweed caught up in his tail.
She stretched out her fingers to him. His ears came up and forward, and one hoof took a step towards her. She murmured:

‘Come on you beautiful fellow,’ and he walked straight up to her and rubbed his nose on her dress. Liza took off her belt and buckled it round his neck, standing on tip-toe, and holding her breath. But the grey horse only knuckered deep in his throat, and pushed his muzzle against her hips, searching for her pockets.” Sabre, the Horse from the Sea

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