Is Bunter Beastly?
Britain's best-loved mischief maker Brian Bunter is set to take centre-stage once again today as the Threadbone Press's new "Heritage Edition" launches with what is promised to be a systematic re-issue of the gluttonous schoolboy's rollicking - and sometimes "beastly" - adventures at Godmanstone School. Brian (aka the fat owl of the Remove) was, along with pals Harry Warburton-Toastie, Bob Cherry-Blossom, Johnny Bull-Finch, Frank-Emily Nugent and "Inky" Hurree-up Singh and their adversary - form master Mr Squelch - a firm favourite with both readers and 1950s television viewers alike. At its peak in 1958, viewing figures, according to rudimentary estimates of the time, reached as many as 250 - almost twice the number of television sets then in use throughout the UK. Book sales between 1951 and 1964 reached many thousands, falling off sharply thereafter as a result of the new political correctness which required all extant copies of the books to be recalled and hand-edited by the publisher in order to change the "racist" "Inky" to the more acceptable "Pinky" (sometimes "Perky") Hurree-up Singh. Though author Richmel Compton-Abbas insisted that "Inky" referred to the boys habit of using a leaky pump-action Waterman 376 fountain pen rather than his skin tone, both the Threadbone Press and Dorset Broadcasting Corporation executives were obliged to act, seeking solace in names which more comfortably associated the boy with the then increasingly popular singing pig duo "Pinky and Perky" behind whom lay the master entertainer and comic genius that was Harry Corbett. [Mr Corbett was also under contract to the DBC at the time having shared a fortuitous banana split with CEO Mr Melvyn Threadbone in the Seagull Cafe, Lyme Regis on an unseasonably wet day in July 1959.]
The invention of author Richmel Compton-Abbas [real name Richmel Compton-Valence], many believe that Bunter was based on real life schoolboy and local celebrity Brian Thrupiece who, prior to his invention of the Thrupiece diet was - according to his Great Aunt Ethelfried Durchstuck, "ein dicker kleiner Schüler, die zu viele Torten aß" [A fat little schoollboy who ate too many pies]. Many of Professor Thrupiece's friends and acquaintances blanched at the suggestion, though this did not prevent the DBC from employing Thrupiece look alike Gerald Carryon-Campion) in the title role.
So with the books set to gain a new lease of life, will today's young readers flock to buy copies? Book trade expert A Paige-Turner is far from sure. "It's a risk" she says. "Some of the adventures may seem a little dated to those brought up on a diet of action comics and SFX graphic novels". To which - as fully-signed up Bunter-lovers we can only respond: “I say, you fellows”, “Beast!”, “Blimey!” and “Crikey!” [That's enough Bunterisms [Ed]].