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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Some Saville Letters

Throughout his professional life as an Author (he always used the capital), Malcolm Saville wrote to anyone who contacted him, running an active and personalised fan club. He took this opportunity to encourage his fans to buy more books. Some were adults, and to these he tended to admit more, such as his exhaustion with the Lone Pine series.

Between 1978 and 1981, Malcolm Saville corresponded with Mary Cadogan, the writer on children's literature. She was planning a biographical book which did not in the end come to pass.

You can read some of these, and other letters on here

Monday, 31 August 2009

Malcolm Saville and BBC Children's Hour.

Owen Dudley Edwards writes (British Children's Fiction in the Second World War, p.212) of Saville's Mystery at Witchend as "the BBC 'Children's Hour' serial subsequently given book form". In fact, Mystery at Witchend was published on 1st October 1943, and broadcast on Friday afternoons, 5.20 - 6.00pm for four weeks starting Friday 8th October. The adaptation of the book was by Barbara Sleigh, an author in her own right who worked with her husband for the BBC. Sleigh's script is now published(2008) by David Schutte (ISBN 978 0 9546801 5 1) .
ODE talks elsewhere of simultaneous publication and broadcast, which is about right, since the decision to broadcast and the preparations must have been pre-publication. Whether the story had been commissioned for broadcast is beyond the evidence - a new untested writer being asked to write a war story is unlikely, and more likely that Sleigh knew Saville (Geoffrey Trease was a common friend and confirms the friendships in his autobiography) and liked the story which she had read pre-publication (although I am uncertain whether she knew Saville prior to the broadcast decision). A spy story perhaps suited the feel of the time, when threat of invasion had receded and children could feel empowered to contribute to the war effort. In fact, MI6 histories report that by this time spies were not much of a threat so that popular vigilance endangered innocent aliens more than spies.
ODE gives a detailed footnote (352-3 fn45) confirming these timings and commenting on the experienced cast. This had not been an economy production. ODE comments at length (253-7) that Mystery at Witchend was Saville's best book.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Archive.

A group of letters and papers written by Malcolm Saville came into our possession in 2001: these are owned by the Malcolm Saville Society and kept in association with the International Centre for Children's Literature, Literacy and Creativity in the University of Worcester, a centre with I, as archivist, have been long associated. To this has been added items belonging to me personally, and copies of letters from MS to members. Through this blog, a number of these will be made public.

Lone Pine Club to Malcolm Saville Society

Malcolm Saville wished to feel close to his readers and encouraged them to write to him. Most had a personal reply, often quite long, so this must have taken some time. He established a centralised Lone Pine Club, with badges and other paraphanalia, later replacing this by encouraging local groups. This was undoubtedly a marketing ploy, since letter would generally include pleas to buy books, not just read them - authors have to live, you know. Reproductions of his newsheets are now available. The Malcolm Saville Society was formed in the 1990s, and it is no surprise that many members were once Lone Pine Club members.

The society promote walking trips to Saville locations, publish a magazine/journal called Acksherley!, and organise an annual Gathering in April. Their website is at MSS recently received its 1000th membership application.

Biographical Note: Malcolm Leonard Saville, Children’s Author.

Malcolm Saville, born in Hastings, and lived for most of his later life in south-east England, dying in 1982. A blue plaque marks Chelsea Cottage, Winchelsea, where he spent his latter years, writing a guidebook to the parish church. He published some 87 books for children alongside a full-time career in publishing. His most famous are the Lone Pine series of 20 books (plus a short story), 1943-78, starting with Mystery at Witchend in which children form a secret club. All stories are set in real places which Saville encouraged readers to visit – Shropshire and Sussex being particularly favoured, but also Dartmoor, Southwold, Yorkshire and London.

Other series were the Jillies (6 books, 1948-53) starting in Norfolk with two families, the Jillions and Standings who meet on holiday in Blakeney, in Redshanks Warning. They meet up again in London, the Pennines , Ely, Austria and finally the home counties. In the Buckingham’s series (6 books 1950–74 starting with The Master of Maryknoll), children befriend the son of a famous exiled Polish violinist. Venues range from Ludlow, Shropshire, to north Yorkshire, Brighton, London, Italy, Amsterdam.

In these series for older children, friendship and romance are never far away. For older teenagers, the Marston Baines thriller-romances (1962-1978) echo James Bond, a master spy whose university student friends get into some serious difficulties with terrorists, anti-semites, drug dealers, black magic and mafia. For younger children there were two series: Mary and Michael (1945-57) were Londoners who were sent to the country and get to Cornwall, Dorset, Sussex, and the Grand Union Canal.

The first book, Trouble at Townsend (1945), of their life on a farm, became a film. Susan and Bill were children who moved to a new town (unspecified): stories describe their settling in experiences as well as their holidays, including one in a railway camping coach. The Nettleford series are experiences of village and farm life for young children. Two books never resulted in series: Treasure at the Mill (1957); and The Thin Grey Man (1966).

Malcolm Saville also wrote non-fiction, generally on country themes (such as Country Scrapbook, Open-Air Scrapbook, and Seaside Scrapbook of the 1940s, encouraging post-war outdoor pursuits and holidays. There were two main religious books, King of Kings (1958, a life of Jesus) and Strange Story (1967, the crucifixion seen through the eyes of contemporary Roman children).