October 2021 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly
Two superb new Girls Gone By titles in this issue... and two from Veloce


The new titles continue from Girls Gone By with two superb new books in September, both by Malcolm Saville, one of my favourite childhood authors...

Malcolm Saville: Strangers at Snowfell

Published September 16th 2021

Jillies No 3

Mandy, Prue and Tim set off for Scotland by train, joined by their old friends Mark and Guy Standing.
A mysterious stranger in a Camel Coat attracts their attention, then they are joined in their compartment by a mysterious, but likeable, John Smith.

The mystery takes hold when the train is snow-bound over Shap Fell in Westmorland and John Smith goes missing. Bravely, the Jillies and Standings set out from the train into the snow…

Nigel Roberts has written the introduction  – of his great love for the book, and in particular, that train!

Strangers at Snowfell was published on 16 September 2021.

At a time when the "cold war" was starting to make headlines in Britain, Malcolm Saville was writing thrillers for older children to read, and making a pretty good fist of it! It seems to me that he could turn his hand to writing for several age groups, and I am sure I used to listen to serialisations of his stories on the Children's Hour programme on BBC radio. The Jillies series is new to me, and I believe this may be the first Ann and Clarissa at GGBP have published, but it's up there with the Lone Piners, and there are thrills and spills galore as the Jillies and the Standings behave like almost grown-up Famous Five members to become involved in another adventure, with rather more serious consequences than occurred regularly in Enid Blyton's premier series. A superb package, with a brilliant publishing history.

Malcolm Saville: Seven White Gates

Published 16th August 2021

Lone Pine No 2

First published by GGBP in 2006, Seven White Gates has been out of print for many years, and we are re-publishing it due to much demand!

This is one of the strongest of the Lone Pine Books. Peter is at the centre of the story, as she is sent to stay with a strange uncle under the haunted mountain crested by The Devil’s Chair. She meets a new friend, Jenny who recounts the terrible legends that stalk the hill, and they are joined by David and the twins, with Tom to solve the mystery of her uncle’s unhappiness and lay the ghosts of the Stiperstones.

Originally published in 1944, it was serialised by the BBC on Children’s Hour and was an instant hit with listeners, as indeed was the published book with readers.

Martin Crookall, who has blogged about Seven White Gates, has written our new introduction.

Seven White Gates was published on 16 September 2021.

Peter, who isn't a bit like George in the Famous Five, takes centre stage in this wonderful adventure which would have been aimed at young teenagers. I thought the Stiperstones had featured ina  previous Lone Piners story, but I may have just seen a reference to them on one of Malcolm's superb maps that often accompany the series - who doesn't love a map in a children's adventure story? The front cover illustration shows a kind of makeshift cable car with two of the characters hanging on for dear life - just the sort of thing to tempt a young teenager to part with his pocket money for! As always, GGPB have pulled out all the stops to present us with as complete a package as is humanly possible - always well worth reading, and what I would call a "cracking yarn". If there's anything guaranteed to fire up my yearning for nostalgia, it's a GGBP paperback!

Andrew  Ralston: Diecast Toy Cars of the 1950s and 1960s (Veloce Publishing)

Published 29th June 2017

Back in print after a long absence! (Previous ISBN: 978-1-84584-180-5) Collecting diecast toy cars has become an increasingly popular hobby over the last 25 years. Many of the classic diecast cars of the 1950s and 1960s are now valuable collectors' items, and surviving examples in mint and boxed condition regularly fetch significant sums at specialist auctions. This book provides a comprehensive survey of the companies that made these toys in the 1950s and 1960s, not only in Britain but in other European countries, the USA, Japan and beyond. Major names such as Dinky Toys, Corgi Toys, Spot-On and Matchbox (Great Britain), Solido (France), Marklin and Gama (Germany ), Tekno (Denmark) and Tootsietoy (USA) are examined, but a unique feature of the book is the wealth of information provided on many smaller and more obscure brands. These include Crescent, Budgie, Chad Valley and Lone Star (UK), CIJ and JRD (France), Dalia (Spain), Buby (Argentina), Gamda (Israel) and many others about which information is hard to come by. A special chapter is devoted to early Japanese diecast models by Cherryca Phenix, Model Pet and Diapet, which are among the rarest and most sought-after of all diecasts. Fascinating insights into company histories are provided, together with 300 photographs of rare examples of the toys themselves, in mint condition with their original boxes. A further unique feature is the inclusion of a large selection of colourful and evocative illustrations from catalogues and period trade advertisements. For the newcomer to the collecting hobby, this book will provide an ideal guide to the history of the manufacturers active in this field, while experienced collectors will make many new discoveries. At the end of the book, readers will find a handy glossary listing the names of many of the companies that manufactured diecast toy cars in the 1950s and 1960s.

A few years ago, a new partwork: Dinky Toys was launched with a Triumph TR2 in touring car livery, complete with replica box, and as this had been my favourite toy car of all time back in the 1950s, I bought the first issue and the car sits proudly on the shelf in my display cabinet along with my dozens of other diecast models of cars, buses and coaches, many of which I inherited from my late brother-in-law. This fabulous book by Andrew Ralston has an illustration of the TR2 in its sports livery, with racing car number and properly helmeted racing driver. There is a gallery of British diecast model cars, and then Andrew treats us to galleries of French, Spanish, Italian, American and Japanese models of a similar era. The first thing I have to say is that I have had and reviewed other books about diecast model cars in the past, and this "new" one (first published 2009) is far and away the very best. Andrew has chosen illustrations of unusual and rare British models, together with some eye-catching and brilliant advertisements from publications of the 1950s and 1960s - always welcome to people who revel in nostalgia. Secondly, and the thing that interested me most, was the fact (to my eyes at least), that the British models were far superior in construction and detail than any of the other countries, most of which seemed quite primitive in comparison; the exception was the section on Japanese models, and these, to me, seemed to be of a similar quality to the British cars. The book is beautifully illustrated and annotated, and the guide prices indicated by Andrew are indicative of a market which is quite remarkable and well attended by collectors and enthusiasts alike. I remember playing for many long hours on rainy days in the 1950s with my Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox cars. I even remember the toy shop in the Oxbode, Gloucester, where I bought my Triumph TR2, which remains my all-time favourite "sports" car, both in real life and as a model. This book is a triumph of nostalgia, a welcome reminder of earlier, more gentle and less troubled times. Absolutely superb!

David Rowe: Rootes Cars - A Pictorial History (Veloce Publishing)

Published 1st February 2019

The Rootes Group, although only achieving a 10-12 per cent market share, were the sixth largest British car manufacturer: more importantly, during the 1950s, more than half the cars they produced were exported. With every model produced from 1950 onwards featured in full colour and with detailed information - including colour schemes, optional equipment, technical specifications, plus other manufacturers' cars built using Rootes components - this is the ultimate book for all Hillman, Humber, Singer and Sunbeam enthusiasts. Cars produced by Chrysler/Talbot and Peugeot after their acquisition of the Rootes Group are also included. This book includes hundreds of original photographs, taken by the author at many car shows over a number of years, and provides a unique pictorial history of Rootes-manufactured cars..

Although I and my two sons have been committed Ford enthusiasts for as long as I can remember, my Dad was less committed to Fords than to cars in general. Our first car, which he bought in 1960, was a 1936 four-door (unusual) Morris 8 Tourer, the engine of which he dismantled and rebuilt on the kitchen table over several months, during the evenings after coming home from a long day's work. Four years later, when I met my future wife Wendy, he had bought and was driving a Mk8 Hillman Minx, which he occasionally let me drive to take Wendy out and about on our first dates in Stevenage New Town. The joy of David Rowe's book on Rootes cars is the incredible number of brilliant photographs he has assembled depicting the various marks of the main Hillman cars of the three decades covered: Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot. I can't say that I saw one of every one of these models during my long lifetime, but whilst retaining my overriding interest in Ford cars, I can gaze longingly and with interest at these Rootes family models and again, as with the diecast model cars book which I've just reviewed above, think back to gentler and less troubled (or so it seemed at the time) times. This is a journey into nostalgia via the road and the joys of motoring during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Many of the models shown in David's excellent book are available to see in motor museums and at vintage and veteran car shows such as the ones we get here in North Norfolk in more normal times than these. It is always a pleasure to look at and examine such vehicles, and an even greater pleasure to have access to a book such as this one which contains all of the technical details one could ever wish to have. Brilliant!

Lorna Hill: Castle in Northumbria

Published August 2021

GGBP first published Problem in 2005.

Castle in Northumbria is the fifth title in Lorna Hill’s Marjorie series. Over the years, we have published the first four titles – in fact the very first title we ever published (long before GGBP) was the fourth title, Northern Lights, in its first edition. Now, as requested by so many people, we shall be adding Castle in Northumbria to the list.

Like most of Lorna Hill’s other Marjorie and Patience books, this was originally written by hand in a large exercise book for Lorna Hill’s daughter, Vicki – with beautiful illustrations by the author. In the first four Marjorie books we published we reproduced these in colour – sadly we cannot do this now, except on the cover, but we shall be reproducing them all in black and white.

It is Easter and all the members of the Clan, (Guy Charlton, young Toby, Esme, Marjorie and Pan) find themselves together again. Camping in the country, with the ponies is the best thing to do and this year Guy produces a wonderful old Border castle, a ruined stronghold crammed with romantic possibilities. They go off without Marjorie, whose parents have other plans for her, or so it seems, until she turns up to enjoy the fun and many lively escapades follow her arrival. With plenty of riding, a May Day Festival, a Northumbrian Fortress and the whole countryside to enjoy, the Clan has a grand holiday.

Hilary Clare has written a really excellent and very informative introduction.

The only thing I'm not that enamoured of with this book is Lorna Hill's own illustrations, which don't, for me, match up to the usual very high standards. I can understand GGBP wanting to use these illustrations, but they are a little amateurish for me. This in no way detracts from the quality of the writing, and the story is the kind of thing youngsters in the 1950s would very much want to read. Added to that are the notes and commentaries included in this edition, something you don't get from any other publisher that I know of. A super addition to the GGBP library!

Mabel Esther Allen: The Adventurous Summer

Published August 2021

GGBP first published Problem in 2005.

Sorrel and Nicholas Richmond have always lived in London until they go to stay with their aunt and uncle in Wyndstane-by-the-Water in the Cotswolds, where they meet Caroline who lives at the Court. Caroline longs for school but has a strict governess, employed by her grandfather. She is always in trouble but cheers herself up by forming an Adventure Club which Sorrel and Nick join, as do Tony, Bill and Shandy. The club’s wanderings take them to a ruined manor house on Gloud Ridge, to the Mound on Windlip Hill and as far as Stratford-on-Avon.

Mia Jha is writing the introduction to this, and we are also including a short story, ‘Silver Rose’, which was published in the 1950s and is a fragment of an unpublished sequel to The Adventurous Summer.

The Adventurous Summer will be published in July.

A second GGBP involving a horse-drawn Gipsy caravan, and once again it has the feel of a Famous Five adventure, which is not a bad thing! Travelling through countryside in which I was brought up in the late 1940s/early 1950s, Sorrel and Nicholas are accompanied by their Aunt and Uncle on a journey they will never forget. This, again, is a complete package from GGBP, and provides superb entertainment for the summer holidays. From the golden age of children's literature...

Yours Retro Magazine - the latest issue - out now!

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com and I'll let you know where to send it.



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