Tuesday, 15 December 2009

OF BOOKS AND CHILDHOOD

When Patti Abbott suggested that the subject for last week's Forgotten Books be subtitled Forgotten Kids Books I was left with a problem.
Sure there were children's books tucked away back in my childhood. Toby Twirl (a pig version of Rupert Bear), Nicholas Thomas, Rupert Bear, The Little Red Engine, Enid Blyton's Famous Five Books, the Jennings series and Biggles.
Good as they were there was a lot more to grab my interest.
Whether it was a curse or a blessing I could read and write before I went to school.
I went through 'Old Lob' and the school reading books like a hot knife through butter. The teachers couldn't keep up.
Although I read comics like the 'Eagle' I much preferred 'Adventure', 'Wizard', 'Rover' and 'Hotspur' - no pictures just words.
Then I bought a book by P.R.Reid called 'The Colditz Story'. An adult book published by Pan in 1954 that cost 2/- (10p in modern money). It would change my reading habits. Edgar Wallace, Peter Cheyney, Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and, a new writer at the time, Ian Flemming. James Bond's adventure 'Live And Let Die' wasn't the standard fare for your normal 10 year old. OK so some of it went over my head then but not so later. My favourite line was just after Felix Leiter got chewed up and someone said that 'He disagreed with something that ate him'.
Mind you my taste in books got me in to trouble. Flemming's 'Diamonds Are Forever' got confiscated by my dad because Tiffany Case was pictured on the cover just wearing a black bra and panties. Though rather tame when compared to some of the book covers of the time. The only other time I had a book confiscated was just as the 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' scandal broke. I had just bought it when the announcement came that this Penguin edition was to be banned. I still have that copy today.
As my school years drew to a close I discovered Nelson Algren's 'Walk On The Wild Side'; Grace Metallious's 'Peyton Place' and Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'. The shape of the novel seemed to be changing. The dawn of The Angry Young Men was taking shape with the likes of John Osborne, Alan Sillitoe, John Braine and their like and the 'X' rated films of their books. And while kids my age were trying to sneak into the movies I was reading the books.
But these were the books and authors of my childhood and I have no regrets.
Biggles was good but James Salter's 'The Hunters' was better.

3 comments:

Laurie said...

A great survey of your youthful reading - I hope you sent this to Patti - I think she'd enjoy reading it.

Ray said...

Hi Laurie - no I didn't but I will.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember my dad throwing From the Terrace out the door. Thanks for the post on this. It was fun to read about your progression and see some intersections with mine.