Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hugh Walters' science fiction stories

My mention of Lord Bonkers' belief that Raymond Baxter was the first Englishman in space has made me think of the book that inspired that idea: Blast Off at Woomera by Hugh Walters.

Walters produced a long series of science fiction novels. The first of them really did begin with an Englishman - or rather an English boy - becoming the first human in space:
Mysterious domes have been sighted in a crater on the Moon. Suspecting that they may be the work of Communists, the British Government must launch a man into space in order to photograph them from outside the atmosphere. Unfortunately their rocket was not designed to carry a man, and so someone unusually short is required. Enter Chris Godfrey, a four foot ten and a half sixth-former at Wolverton Grammar School. Will he survive the trip? The less than reliable rocket is to be launched from Australia - but there may be a Soviet traitor among the ground crew!
They don't write stories like that any more. Particularly ones in which, as I recall, the hero visits Battersea Fun Fair and has a run in with some teddy boys, and the British space mission is led by a Wing Commander Greatorex.

8 comments:

David Spender said...

High Walters - wonderful stuff! I sought them all out from my local library as a boy - "The Domes of Pico", "Terror by Satellite", "Voyage to Venus" and many more....all ripping yarns and my introduction to the world of SciFi. Thanks for reminding me.

Chris Black said...

Yes , for those of us of a certain age they were great reading, weren't they? Some of Mr Walters physics was a bit suspect though.

I seem to recall that on the way back from Venus with the cure for the Venusian plague that was sweeping Earth, the spacecraft didn't have enough fuel to get into an Earth orbit - so it did a sort of artificial octagonal orbit instead, until a docking could be arranged. I'm sure that would use up more fuel than simply orbiting...

But the books were good. The outer solar system ones -in particular Journey to Jupiter , Nearly Neptune and First Contact? (which I think involved Uranus)

But while we are talking about books of that era , does anyone remember Joan Clarke's "The Happy Planet" (Which was Earth, incidentally)

Tom Barney said...

Battersea Fun Fair? From Desmond Skirrow's "The case of the silver egg" (1966) from memory: [A party of twelve year old boys are travelling by train from Victoria] "The train ran across the river past Battersea Park. The fun fair part of the park looked especially dingy in the bright summer sunshine..."

Anonymous said...

"The Happy Planet"...The first book I ever read at our local library when I was only knee high to a bug-eyed monster.Wish I had a copy now. All I remember is how it made me feel,but I'd need the hard copy to actually transport myself back to mt five year old self...

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to find a copy of The Happy Planet, but found you all instead! I remember reading it in my local library in Newton, Iowa (US) back in about 1971 -- that book probably helped to start me on a lifelong fascination with science fiction.

I remember how sorry I felt for the kids on Tuan (?), the planet to where surviving members of the human race had been evacuated, and how great it was when the returning expedition decided to stay on Earth!

Would be great to read it again.

Cathy said...

I've been slowly collecting these books over the past several years (some are pretty hard to come by and very expensive). I found The Happy Planet on abebooks.com for about $25.00. A lot of money, but well worth it. And I have most of Hugh Walters books--he was my favorite author when I was in junior high/high school. Does anyone remember A. M. Lightner?

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Not only did I absolutely love that book, but I looked for a copy for thirty years to read to my two sons, now grown up - I found one! It's as good as we all remember it. I want to turn it into a film. It doesn't even need any real updating, as astoundingly for the age lots of the main protagonists even the scientists were women!

chris

Anonymous said...

I've been tracking these books down for a few years, after reading them 30 years ago as a kid: I managed to get a copy of The Domes of Pico (the best of the series, genuinely frigthening at times) off e-bay, which turned out to be autographed by the author.
Ant B