Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 26/03/98

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Little-known tales of the Famous Five

More than once, I have been accused of being dangerously (not to say anal-retentively) obsessed with certain areas of my life. Just a few popular examples:

Given this evidence, I would have to admit that such accusations of pedantry are, by and large, correct. But it is heartening to be reminded that there are plenty of other people in the world who are willing to go to stupid amounts of trouble for the sake of completeness. Witness my recent book purchase, Five Have A Puzzling Time And Other Stories, by the infamous Enid Blyton.

Although one of my co-workers claims never to have heard of them, no doubt most people recall the Famous Five, even if only in the context of the dodgy 1970s television adaptation. Many will have also read the books as children, and may recall that the last title came out in 1963. What then is this paperback, which made its first appearance in 1995?

It turns out that Five Have A Puzzling Time is a compilation of eight short stories originally written by Blyton to be featured in annuals released between 1954 and 1961, and, in one instance, as part of a series of booklets included with breakfast cereal. The back cover describes them as "written by Enid Blyton at the height of her powers", which you can take as a compliment or an insult. But some Blyton obsessive has gone to the trouble of gathering them all together, and this is the result.

The freaky thing is that even though these stories are much shorter, they conform to the standard pattern of Famous Five adventures which was so successfully pilloried by the Comic Strip in Five Go Mad In Dorset and Five Go Mad On Mescalin. Julian acts like a priggish grown-up; Timmy licks George a lot; Anne sites around being girly; villains appear wherever the Five go; the children are always visiting Aunt Fanny; and the police always show up on time. Jolly good fun!

Would I recommend them to the casual reader? Well, no. On the other hand, at just $4.95, it's not exactly a bank-breaking purchase. And do I now want to go out and buy a uniform set of all 21 Famous Five novels? To be honest, yes. This is a list of them, should you for some reason want to know:

  1. Five on a Treasure Island
  2. Five Go Adventuring Again
  3. Five Run Away Together
  4. Five Go to Smuggler's Top
  5. Five Go Off in a Caravan
  6. Five on Kirrin Island Again
  7. Five Go Off to Camp
  8. Five Get Into Trouble
  9. Five Fall Into Adventure
  10. Five on a Hike Together
  11. Five Have A Wonderful Time
  12. Five Go Down to the Sea
  13. Five Go to Mystery Moor
  14. Five Have Plenty of Fun
  15. Five on a Secret Trail
  16. Five Go to Billycock Hill
  17. Five Get Into a Fix
  18. Five On Finnston Farm
  19. Five Go to Demon's Rocks
  20. Five Have a Mystery to Solve
  21. Five Are Together Again

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