Saturday, February 06, 2010

Percy F Westerman

In the 'ripping yarns for boys' market, Percy F. Westerman is not a name which is now as well known as it should be: he is no Henty, Fenn or Haggard. In fact, I confess, before I was asked to look through another dead man's books recently his was not a name which would have been on any list I was compiling from memory. However, one of the great things about this business is that you never know what author is going to knock next on your door. This small collection of his books came from a recent purchase so I thought I had better find out a little about him. And was subsequently astonished...

Firstly I was astonished by his output. When I did some work on the Victorian novelist Richard Marsh recently, I thought that his about 80 novels put him in the category 'prolific' but even he fades to insignificance next to Westerman's 174 novels! All of them were boys stories, many about the sea and about scouting and consequently a lot about Sea Scouting! In the 1930s, he was possibly the most famous boys' author working.

Secondly I was astonished because he was a Portsmouth man. Not for all of his life but for the first 35 years he lived and worked here. Portsmouth has for the last few years been trying to play up its literary associations with figures like Dickens, Conan Doyle, Walter Besant, Neville Shute and so on... remarkable then that I never heard a single mention of Percy F Westerman who wrote probably more books than all of the above together.

Great books to look at too. The whole decorated boards thing was still just going in the first quarter of the 20th century and some of these, although often worn on the spine have some great, dramatic illustrations on the boards.

1 comment:

Mike said...

*discovers blog*
*scans shelves*

Hmm, nope. But i do have a book called "The Terror of the Noiseless Sound" by a John F.C. Westerman... mayhap a relation?

Also it's nice to see a gayer who is into these sorts of stories for proper reasons and not to either:
-Take the piss out of the old-fashioned language and customs and find homoeroticism that plainly isn't there
-Write lengthy, socialist rants about how these sorts of stories encouraged the imperialo-capitalist system and so should all be hunted down and burned in order to protect freedom.

PS-Please don't cause this writer to be remembered too quickly please. Forgotten = cheaper books!

Who links to my website?