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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

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).

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