Monday, 15 July 2019

Raymond Sheppard and Playing for the School

Frontispiece for Playing for the school
"His left flashed out like a sword
and took Brede fairly on the point of the jaw"

Playing for the school by Jack Heming was published in 1936 by Sampson, Low, Marston & Company Limited. The blurb for the book reads:
Brookwood School was in a bad way but the new games master and a new boy, Monty Carlin, revolutionise the school in a way that is full of thrills and fun
Raymond Sheppard drew the two illustrations in the book which are in black and white. My copy of the book has the second image loose so I can't say where it appears normally. This book is quite rare and I have never, in many years of research, seen a dust-jacket for it. If you by any chance have one I'd love to see it.

I have to confess to not enjoying boys' school stories and also never being a fan of cricket, I have not read the book.  The wonderful Robert J. Kirkpatrick has drawn up a short biography of Heming which I quote here, from The Encyclopaedia of Boys' School Stories, p.168:

Jack Heming was a versatile boy's writer who could turn his hand to school, flying, circus and adventure stories with equal aplomb. Little is known about his life other than he served in both world wars, firstly in the Royal Naval Air Service between 1914 and 1918, and in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve between 1939 and 1945. In between, he was, for a time, managing Editor of the Jersey Morning News. 
His one school story, originally published in 1936, was Playing for the school. Interestingly its setting was Rockwood School, a name already familiar to readers of Owen Conquest's (i.e. Charles Hamilton), stories in the Boys' Friend and elsewhere, which had started running some 21 years earlier. (Oddly the dustwrappers - of both the original edition and the later 1961 reprint - referred to 'Brookwood' School)
Playing for the school is a lively mixture of sport (mainly cricket) and humour. the school is at a low ebb, with no interest in games, and there is a plot to ruin it by financiers, anxious to develop the land on which it is built. A new games Master and a new pupil turn things around, and    the Cricket XI goes form strength to strength, thereby saving the school. Light relief is provided by a group of young would-be inventors, but this merely provides a series of diversions from the real story, which is fast paced and reasonably authentic. 

Unnumbered page from Playing for the school
"Amazing scenes followed
- a crowd of boys surged and catching up Monty Carlin
carried him shoulder high to the dressing room"
After the 250 pages of the story, there appears a 40 page publisher's catalogue for children - here's the first page, which conveniently starts with Heming himself, from which I copied my opening line for this article.

First two pages of the catalogue

Professor Stephen Bigger has a fascinating couple of articles on Heming, whose wife, Dorothy Eileen Marsh was a prolific writer with many pen-names. As Stephen writes:

Eileen unfortunately died early, in 1948, having brought up four children as well as writing 120 books. Jack later wrote after Eileen's death under her pen-names for a few volumes between 1948 and 1960

Read more about Dorothy here and about Heming and his wife here and the Air Adventure series. which I have listed below. Prof. Bigger also published his 2018 paper online WW2 Women Fliers in Fiction
And I shall leave it there because I see Steve Holland has tried to untangle some of the dynasty of Heming writers in his Forgotten Authors series and I can't compete with his thoroughness!

Finally Playing for the School was reissued in a shorter version by Purnell & Sons in 1961and here's the jacket for that one!

1961 Purnell version
Artist Unknown

BIBLIOGRAPHY (under Jack Heming)
  • The Air Circus.London: Sampson Low & Co, [1935]
  • The Air Treasure Hunt. London: Sampson Low & Co, [1935]
  • The Air Dope Hunters. London: A. & C. Black, 1936.
  • The Air Spies.London: A. & C. Black, 1936.
  • Playing for the School. London: Sampson, Low & Co, [1936]
  • The Desert Air Raider.London: A. & C. Black, 1936.
  • Blue Wings. London and New York: F. Warne & Co, [1938]
  • The Lost World of the Colorado.London and New York: F. Warne & Co, [1940]

I must thank Cathy of Pioneer Books for listing Sheppard as the artist and that started me on the track of this book which I have finally pinned down! Unfortunately Pioneer are no longer trading as of 1 July 2017 but Books Authors Titles of Melbourne, Australia also helped me and still have a copy as of July 2019.

PLEASE Booksellers there are people who collect books solely for the illustrations - PLEASE list artists!

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