June 2021 - dedicated to Skipper and Holly with all my love...
  books monthly
A new Marston Baines title from Girls Gone By...


I've taken my "growing up" stories and put them on a page of their own, in chronological order. You'll find the link in the menu on the right...

Malcolm Saville: The Dagger and the Flame

Published 6th May 2021

Marston Baines No 6

The Dagger & the Flame is set in the Dolomites in southern Tyrol. Francesca, the lovely Italian heroine of Dark Danger, comes to meet her English friends Patrick, Rosina and Simon Baines. Francesca finds a strange young man stunned and half-drowned in a pool at the head of a valley called the Wolf Run. She saves his life, but when she returns with help he has disappeared. It is soon evident that the injured man is a fugitive who is being hunted with dogs by other strangers to the district. Simon is now being trained for bigger responsibilities in the Service by his uncle Marston. He has been sent, as a tourist, to the Dolomites to investigate rumours of an organization instigating student revolt throughout the world.

Stephen Bigger, MS Society expert on Marston Baines, has written the introduction and publishing history.

The Dagger & The Flame was published on 6th May 2021.

Although I prefer Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Adventures, I do wish I'd known about him at the time I was in my teens. I cannot ever remember a time when I didn't have something to read - my life was dominated by three things: reading, listening to the radio, and listening to music - but I don't remember ever reading a Malcolm Saville book until Girls Gone By Publishers started sending them to me to review in Books Monthly. I was never a huge James Bond fan, although we did go to see all of the Sean Connery films when they came up - by that time, I was married and although we had a TV, we did regularly go to the cinema to see all the big films at the Astoria Cinema in Stevenage. I'd read a couple of the James Bond books, and they were infintely better than any of the films. But I was unaware of Malcolm Saville except for the occasional advert for one of his new books in my Tiger and Lion comics. I grew to love Modesty Blaise - far better than Bond, in my opinion, but I never discovered Marston Baines until the GGBP reprints, and I'm certain I would have been thrilled to read them when I was a young teen. However, they were written specifically for young people, and whilst I'm happy to read the Lone Piners, and any amount of Enid Blyton, and Elinor M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School stories, I have to say there was limited appeal from the Marston Baines stories for me. I'm not sure that Malcolm knew quite how to write about young people getting involved with girlfriends and boyfriends. Having said all that, the package, as always from GGBP is quite extraordinarily good, with the exception of the cover illustration. I'm a traditionalist, brought up with the stunning cover artwork on the 1960s Pan Giants (there will be an article about this in a future issue of Books Monthly), and although you can recognise the two people on the cover as people (not a la Picasso, in other words), the style is late sixties, when everything about paperback and book cover art went disastrously wrong, in my opinion. It's not the worst cover art I've ever seen, but it's nowhere near the best. Just compare it with the stunning cover art on the four 1960s annuals I've chosen for this month's nostalgia page, above, and you may get an inkling of what I'm getting at...

Three brilliant new titles from Girls Gone By Publishers - 1: Elinor M Brent-Dyer - Lorna at Wynyards

Published 9th March 2021

GGBP first published Lorna at Wynyards in 2003 and are delighted to be publishing it again.

Lorna’s report showed that she was ‘inclined to be bumptious and domineering’ in the small school she attended. As a result, her mother, who needed to look after her husband and elder daughter, sent her to live with Auntie Kath, so that she could go daily to Wynyards to find her feet among the 200-odd girls there. How she did makes one of the best of EBD’s school stories, with Lorna eventually enjoying life both at school and at Auntie Kath’s.

Adrianne Fitzpatrick has written a short story, ‘La Souris Blanche’, about Kit and her mother meeting Joey Bettany in France, to go with this new edition. This follows on from something mentioned in the  text!

Lorna at Wynyards was published on 9th March 2021.

I discovered the Chalet School series when GGBP started sending me their books to review in Books Monthly, and I have to say that EBD is my second favourite girls' school author after Enid Blyton (of course!). LORNA AT WYNYARDS isn't a Chalet School title but it still gets the full magnificent GGBP treatment, with a stunning three-colour cover and a riveting tale that is reminiscent of Enid's Naughtiest Girl in School. This is EBD at her absolute best! As soon as I'd finished "Lorna" I started on "Jo Returns..." and couldn't help noticing that Dr Russell appears in both books - maybe a relative of the Bettanys? Also, and probably another coincidence, one of the new staff at the Chalet School in "Jo Returns", is a Mrs Carey, a kind of assistant teacher. As a Mrs Carey is Lorna's Mum in LORNA AT WYNYARDS, one can only assume that this is one of EBD's little contrivances, to have all of her characters in all of her books either related to or associated with eaxch other. It's something that Stephen King does all the time, and I love it in both authors. Finally, of course, there are a couple of mentions of "Madge Bettany" books being provided for the characters in "Lorna" to read, and Madge Bettany is, as we all know, the founder of the Chalet School, although it is Jo who is the famous authoress. I said at the beginning of this review that Enid Blyton is my favourite girls' school story author, and an announcement has recently been made that there are new series of the Malory Towers stories because the first series was such a smash hit. With TV producers scrambling to satisfy the increasing demand for nostalgia and "retro", maybe it's time for a Chalet School series to be made? Many of EBD's Chalet School stories appear to have been written to a formula, and it's refreshing to read one of her books that isn't about the Chalet School, brilliant as they are. LORNA AT WYNYARDS is brillliant fun, with some heart-rending moments too, which perfectly illustrate the way people dealt with grief in the pre WW2 years. LORNA OF WYNYARDS is of its time, but at the same time it's timeless in many ways. I know people who attended public schools for girls, and times change, obviously, but the concept is the same. Groups of girls away from home, sometimes homesick, sometimes sophisticated, sometimes not on their best behaviour... For me it was always a thrilling concept, and stories set in girls' and boys' boarding schools always entertained me right royally. I'm a socialist, and shouldn't really encourage them, but I can't help it. They're stories from a period in our history when they provided the very best literary entertainment, as far as I was concerned - I still love to read them, and have enjoyed Lorna at Wynyards as much as any other girls' school story. Probably more - it's superb!

2: Elinor M Brent-Dyer: Jo Returns To The Chalet School

Published 9th February 2021

Jo has left school, but she comes to pay a visit the day the girls go back for the autumn term, and plans to stay for one night. But measles up at Die Rosen put paid to that – she cannot go home. In the end, she stays for the whole term, writing her first book, discovering and coaching new girl Polly Heriot, and taking over classes when staff are ill. The book ends with a Christmas Play which brings tears to many people’s eyes.

The Armada paperback had minor, frequent, cuts.

Katherine Bruce has written a short story for this edition – very moving it is, too!

Thanks to GGBP I have a huge number of Chalet School titles on my bookshelf, in pride of place, because they are so colourful and so well produced. There is little doubt in my mind that when it comes to the end of the year selections for books of the year, GGBP will once again be my publisher of the year. Their attention to detail is second to none, their production values are superb, and a GGBP paperback is an absolute  delight to have in your collection. JO RETURNS TO THE CHALET SCHOOL gives EBD the opportunity to introduce a new character, Polly, who is an orphan and being brought up by two people who are, in her words, in their eighties - in fact they are in their seventies, but whilst I'm mid-seventies,  I am nowhere near as decrepit and useless as these two, and can fully understand Polly's need to seek some other kind of existence. Luckily, she runs into Jo in the town, and Jo persuades her to come back to the Chalet School where she can happily continue her education, previously at the hands of governesses, with the consent of her legal guardians. The introduction of Polly makes for an interesting term at the school, and, once again, this is EBD at her absolute best. I'm proud and privileged to be able to review Girls Gone By Publishers' books in the pages of Books Monthly, and have genuine respect and admiration for them for the success of their publishing operation. The cover of this book is from the original Chambers hardcover version, by Nina K Brisley, one of the very finest Chalet School illustrators, and there are more of her brilliant illustrations included in the text. This is a superb package, which, had it not been for LORNA AT WYNYARDS, might have been my Book of the Month. With Josephine Elder's CHERRY TREE PERCH (see below) this is a spectacular month for Girls Gone By Publishers...

3: Josephine Elder: Cherry Tree Perch

Published 19th February 2021

Cherry Tree Perch is the second title in the Farm School series by Josephine Elder. We published the first title, Exile for Annis, in 2013, and now are continuing the series due to popular demand.

The summer term finds Annis and Kitty back at the Farm School, where they have discovered a new vantage point – high up in an old cherry tree from which to survey their world. Life at the Farm School is always exciting, and this term is no exception; the arrival of eccentric Miss de Vipon however, endangers Annis and Kitty’s friendship for a time, and Annis also has trouble solving a puzzle which concerns some fired haystacks.

Georgia Corrick has written our introduction.

Cherry Tree Perch was published on 19 February 2021.

I picked up a copy of CHERRY TREE PERCH in the Children's Press edition from the 1960s whilst rummaging through the children's book section in one of our many charity shops in the town - when they were last open, which seems an age ago. I am reading JO RETURNS TO THE CHALET SCHOOL right now but as it's now the 25th March, I may get round to reading CHERRY TREE PERCH  in time for publication of this issue of Books Monthly...

4: Katherine Bruce: The Chalet School in Guernsey

Published 13th November 2020

After fleeing the terrors of Nazism, the Chalet School has settled into their new home in Guernsey and now the second term on its island home begins. Some old friends are delighted to return to their beloved school, but in among the new arrivals is one who has a history with the school. Mélanie Kerdec was a member of a group called the Mystic M who terrorised the school some years previously, where their bad deeds culminated in the kidnapping of Sybil Russell. Now Mélanie has come as a pupil to the school she detests and is determined to show that she has by no means forgiven or forgotten the past.

Even with that excitement, outside affairs cannot be ignored and the war continues to intrude as rationing affects both lessons and Guiding. An island-wide air raid drill gives the senior girls an exciting evening, and the war on the Continent leaves one mistress grief-stricken. Worse is to come as an investigator arrives to learn more about the previous term’s dramatic plane crash. When he cannot promise that the Channel Islands will be safe from future conflict, those in authority must consider leaving Guernsey to find a safe place for them to live for as long as the war lasts.

And finally, the new Chalet School "fill-in" by Katherine Bruce. Both Katherine and Helen produce CS stories that are actually (for me) hard to tell apart from those written originally by EBD. It's a well known fact that the Germans eventually occupied the Channel Islands, but the events in this stirring tale occur before the occupation, giving free rein to the girls to indulge in their usual high jinks and secret society stuff. I really can't fault this one as a CS story, it has everything! Absolutely enthralling!

Yours Retro Magazine - the latest issue - out now!

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of! As The Maltese Falcon turns 80 we chart the rise of the film’s anti-hero. Made against the backdrop of his failing marriage it was the moment Bogart became a star. We also look at the sometimes surprising roles that launched and ended careers of big-name stars. We have a detailed behind-the-scenes look at Hitchcock’s Rebecca and chart the rise and fall of Charlie’s Angels. Discover too why James Cagney was targeted by the Mafia and  the childhood taunts that haunted Freddie Mercury.

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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My very good friends at Girls Gone By Publishers just sent me a package of their latest books, and you can read about them at the bottom of this page: