Thursday, March 25, 2010

The death of William Mayne

The Darlington and Stockton Times reports:
An award-winning children’s writer whose career was ruined when he was jailed for sex attacks on children has been found dead at his home in the Yorkshire Dales. 
William Mayne, who was 82, was the author of more than 100 books and was regarded as one of the leading children's authors of the 20th-century. 
But his career crashed to a halt in 2004 when he was jailed for two-and-a-half years by a judge at Teesside Crown Court. 
He was also placed on the sex offenders’ register and banned from working with children for life after admitting to 11 charges of indecent assault between 1960 and 1975.
The paper goes on to quote the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature as calling Mayne "one of the most outstanding children’s authors of the last century".

And the book is right. At his best he was almost miraculously good - as in A Grass Rope, which won the Carnegie Medal for the outstanding children's book of 1957. In it a hunt for a unicorn is completed in a manner that satisfies both a romantic little girl and a scientifically minded teenager.

I started collecting Mayne when Malcolm Saville books became to rare and expensive 10 or more years ago. Having another writer to look for made it less likely that I would return from a trip to a secondhand bookshop empty-handed.

While my collecting of Saville had a lot to do with nostalgia, I found that I could read Mayne book, even those written for younger children, with unaffected pleasure. He always was argued by some to be a children's writer whom children did not read but adults loved.

His disgrace late in life was sickening, but then the annals of children's literature contain their share of distinguished figures whom you would hesitate to employ as babysitters.

That fact that Mayne used his fame as a writer to entice children might be used by some as an argument in favour of requiring authors who visit schools to have clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau or Independent Safeguarding Authority - the proposal Philip Pullman objected to so vehemently.

But at the time Mayne was committing his offences he had no criminal record - no one has a criminal record until he is caught. So it is hard to see how a CRB check would have made any child safer.

If anything, the feeling that someone "must be alright" if he has the relevant piece of paper puts children at risk because it makes other adults less likely to voice their conerns. We cannot contract out our responsibilities as adults to an agency of the state.

Later. An obituary of William Mayne has now appeared in the Guardian.

74 comments:

Tosh said...

I knew William M well (so did my children) and I tried to help after his trial became a travesty. The Guardian report of the trial is factually accurate but the quotations from the prosecutor were never made good in evidence and the charge made by the one woman who did give evidence did not stick. Things are generally not so simple as they appear.

Anonymous said...

The reason the trial became a travesty was because William Mayne pleaded guilty and then withdrew his plea.
As far as charges not sticking...that is not how it was...the legal system itself is not always as clear as it seems.

Knowing a person well isn't the same as knowing everything about them. It is a sad situation when someone in William Mayne's position is found guilty of such things. It is also very sad for those affected by his inappropriate behaviour, that others can't recognise that these things can and do happen. support William by all means...forgiveness is necessary...but don't collude with such behaviour. It isn't good for him and it isn't good for those who have been injured by him.


Ensuring that children are as safe as they can be requires all adults to be open to the possibility that abuse can and does take place...and is sometimes the responsibility of otherwise gifted and well respected persons. To think otherwise is foolish. CRB checks alone are a blunt instrument.

Anonymous said...

one consequence of pleading not guilty and then withdrawing the guilty plea (which is what William Mayne did) was that most of the evidence available was not given. That does not mean that evidence did not exist. Anyone who suggests that William Mayne was not guilty of abuse on the basis that the he was not convicted on all counts is way off beam. He was an intelligent man who knew exactly what he was doing when he pleaded guilty.

Anonymous said...

one women probably meant there were a whole lot more that didnt come forward because he was an evil man, calculating and manipulative. Carry on burying your head in the sand if you like. i knew him too.

Anonymous said...

It would help if you got your facts right. 11 charges by the first and a similar number by the second woman to give evidence all stuck; he pleaded guilty to all those. There was masses of corroborating evidence. By interrupting the trial to plead guilty, the other 7 women waiting to give their evidence were not heard in court; however he admitted all their charges too, only to withdraw when he saw he was off to prison. He also abused many others who did not feel they could face giving evidence at the trial.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so hard to face up the evil behaviour of others? For children who have ben abused, it is extremely difficult to shift the burdon of responsibility from themselves to the paedophile. He, as a purveyor of fantasy and tales could spin reality. What is interesting is how he recruited other people into his story, how he sold to them the 'reality' that he was selling. And how hard for them to admit that they too were duped by this seller of tales. For his defenders, to admit that he was a preditory paedophile means to face up to how they too were sucked into this man's reality; to acknowledge that in a way, they too are his victims. Maybe this is just to painful and so they take on with vengence his fantasy and in a way similar to psychotics, demand that other people buy into that version. This is a very sad and lonely outraged place for them and I wonder what it would take for them to shift? Clearly evidence is not enough.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that one of the issues for Tosh is that as a good Mother, she would not have let her daughters be abused. William Mayne, like all paedophiles, was an opportunist and he also knew how to spot a vulernable child who had parents that were either naive, or unavailable to their child, or in a small minority, who condoned and supported sexual abuse themselves. Like all paedophiles, he also knew which girls not to target. What is so hard for Tosh is that to accept the evidence means that she unwittingly and unknowingly placed her daughters at risk. This is unbearable for her, even if they were amongst the group of girls he recognised he dare not abuse. So she chose to support and comfort him, in order to prove she was a good mother. I also find myself hearing William Mayne's voice in the blog name 'tosh' as this is the sort of thing he said about the allegations and evidence. When 'Tosh' writes, I wonder who it is here who is really speaking? Many of the mothers of the girls he abused were also good and loving mothers, although sadly, not all of them were.

maskofloki said...

This is an odd state of affairs. Recently I was looking up facts on children's authors, only to find that this one had very recently died; most internet entries about him still having to be updated; even the Wikipedia one has only been partially so. (NB he was never a favourite author of mine (though I feel I would still be able to get into his Arthurian stuff) as when I was a child, the works of his contemporary Alan Garner interested me far more; I understand they were once friends.) Well so it is now a week since he died: so WHERE is his Guardian or Times obituary? He was obviously professionally worthy of one. I listen to Radio 4 all the time; why wasn't his death mentioned there? Does being convicted of a crime give you a strange disease, like the school "lurgy"? That means you are such a leper that you become invisible, whatever your previous achievements? That respectable people dare not mention your name like some kind of Voldemort? (Rowling fans note that that fact was used to manipulative cover-up

maskofloki said...

advantage by the "Ministry of Magic"! I'm calling out shoddy, shabby shamefaced journalism here, with poor follow-ups: even the Darlington local press report of his death was patchy crap. So what happened to Mayne since his 2004 conviction? if you Google for Ronnie Biggs, you'll find more stories about the latter on his last legs; and the press certainly seem to find him more noteworthy. Tips for idiot pro "journos" who don't deserve their wages and don't know their jobs (boy am I going to have to blog about this, though my livejournal isn't set up for controversies): here are some questions for you to ask/answer! How long did Mayne actually serve; how much remission did he get and when was he released? What was his state of health both then and between release and his death? What was that odd line about him being "discovered dead" - by whom, initially and under what circumstances (and after how long?) Anyone who knows, you're welcome to answer! "Police say no suspicious circumstances " why was an 82-yr-old

maskofloki said...

man living all alone without it seems any form of social support at his age: and in an isolated place? Sounds like a case for social services! If I were a relative (does he have any?) I'd be making noises about suing the council, just to cast the net of "villainy" that bit wider! But no: nearly everyone on this page seems to be going back to the "leperization" practices of the Middle Ages; quotes by divers icons such as Winston Churchill and Jesus Christ about the welfare of prisoners and "the least among you" are very far from your lips: et tu Mr Liberal England? And if anonymous is so clever then s/he can provide facts and a linked blog; such as: HOW can you have "corroboration" in a sexual abuse case that is 40 yrs old? We're not talking Clinton/Lewinsky blue dress territory here; therefore the evidence alluded to cannot be scientific; just a number of people deciding to tell the same story. (In in a similar forensic league, if their story were about a yeti or a sea serpent they would be laughed out of it!

maskofloki said...

I'm a paranormalist so I know these things!) Oh - and to make something out of Tosh's blogger name is likewise silly. Returning to the only press article on the author's death I can so far find, linked here: the D. Times are not quite correct in saying that his career "crashed" ie ended in 2004; as he did publish one further book, "Every Dog" in 2009, which is available at various prices on amazon.co.uk - only I can't see any reviews for it: customers' or editorial reviews! I suppose they all think if you review the books of a convicted child molester, you'll get the "lurgy" too! If I had the book I'd review it, just to prove 'em wrong! Oh -and all this waffle about the CRB and various alphabet soups; all dictatorships have these and they're worse than the child molesters: in fact they're usually run by same; dear readers, do Google "Lavrenti Beria"! Then you'll see what a real monster looks like! Personally I think we need an I.S.A. about as much as we need a Gestapo; and it'll do about as much (un)good! Eh?

Anonymous said...

takes one to know one

Anonymous said...

Maskofloki.....one of the many things you mentioned was 'did he have any relatives?' yes he did.....i know them....and his brother is as sickening as he was!

Anonymous said...

Maskofloki, as you discuss so many topics I imagine you must anticipate that people will only select one or two to reply to. Boringly, what I wrote about 'Tosh's' blog name and in asking who was talking was nothing as exciting as 'paranormal'. When we speak we use words that other people have used before us, so, in a sense, we are always quoting. I just wonder if Tosh is quoting William Mayne, i.e., she is acting as his voice because on some things, she and him had wishes that converged.

You are frustrated that there is so little in the press nowadays. William Mayne himself sought admiration from others and dreaded being ignored. For him, being ignored or regarded with contempt would be the worst punishment. Interesting, isn't it!

maskofloki said...

Seeing as the only people on this section who can be bothered to use/think up a blog name are me and Tosh, I don't know whether I am responding to 1,2 or 3 people. To the first unworthy response: I am FEMALE, single and no I don't have a boyf who's a child abuser, so you can take the tabloid cliches out of your mind which I an sure is filled with them. Secondly: I make a lot of points because there're a lot of journalistic questions to be answered! For the IQ-challenged, it is largely about the standards of mealy -mouthed journalism in this country I am complaining! The "paranormal" point.. mm well that was a bit of a tease; as I am! (I'm a pagan interested in paranormal & mythology, hence the name.) I live the opposite end of the country from Mayne and have never met him nor joined with him in evil rites! Ask James Randi if you want to know abt scientific scepticism & standards of proof. "Being ignored"sounds like the similar treatment given to Oscar Wilde, for a time! More like Wm simply not notorious enuf.

Tosh said...

The reason the trial became a travesty is that, after the most serious charge had been undermined in cross exam, William's lawyers effectively gave him no choice but to plead guilty to the lesser charges, although he maintained his factual innocence and knew it would mean prison. I helped him find another lawyer to apply to withdraw the plea made under duress, but to pursue this would have meant an appeal and a re-trial. The real travesty was that the judge summed up as if there had been a full trial and a finding of fact, when there was none; the trial decided nothing except that William should go to prison.

Anonymous said...

I wuuld not noramlly bother with replying to what TOSH has writen, as the Court, Judge and Jury found him guilty. However, to set the historical record straight, let us consider some of the facts. The rate of conviction in paedophile cases is only 2%. That is, 98% are found 'not guilty'. The rate of conviction is even lower when the allegations refer to historical events. Doesn't that tell you something about the quality of factual and corroborating evidence in the William Mayne trial? Now the issue of the rape charges being dropped was this. When the second woman to give evidence described events that were similar to the first woman's, the chance of WM being convicted of rape increased. His defence team arranged for him to have a choice of plea bargaining, i.e., pleading guilty to the lesser events or for the trial to continue with the risk that he would be found guilty of rape. There were around 6 other witnesses waiting to give evidence and there was a great deal of forensic material found when his house was searched after he was arrested on May 1st 2003. He knew that were the trial to continue, his chances of even a longer prison sentence were increased. Once he was given a prison sentence, he then did a typical WM thing and presented himself as the victim, trying to say he had been bullied into pleading guilty to the lesser charges. The court investigated and threw this out. I appreciate it is hard to face up to how a writer of books that have charmed children also abused them. But this is real life.

Tosh said...

I don't know what role Anon had in the trial (did s/he have access to both side's privileged deliberations, as her account would require) but I was involved on a day-to-day basis with William's side and I know that my version of the chronology in relation to the plea is correct. And clearly Anon's version is confused, since there was no jury finding. Finally (ie, I won't trouble to reply to further posts), statistics can hardly prove the veracity or otherwise of any given case.

Anonymous said...

In response to Marofloki comment did it ever occur to you that he died a lonely old man with no family support because members of his family had also been his victims. Never forget the old saying what goes around comes around. So before you start making judgemental statements consider this - his family are also reading this!

Anonymous said...

I was surprised that anything he wote after his trial got published, as publishers who had published him said they are against child abuse and would no longer publisher his work. Googling 'Starrabeck' the publisher of his book Every Dog published 2009,this is their only book, and it will be printed only on demand. I wonder who set up this publisher?

Anonymous said...

I knew William in the late 80's and 90's. He regularly visited the local school and drew the children's imagination.I could not believe when he was arrested. I had friends whose children regularly visited him at home. They were very astute and bright kids. If there had been anything at all suspicious or anything that made them feel uncomfortable, they would have very clearly said.
Let yhe man rest in peace. What is done is done. The clock cannot be turned back. The people who brought these charges against him tried that and ruined his life.

Anonymous said...

How dare you say rest in peace! How the @@@k do you think the abused feel. They can never rest in peace. A trial will never replace the childhood they have lost. From a survivor!!!!!!!!!!! You are clearly deluded!

Anonymous said...

Yet again survivors are having to deal with the smug, blind complacency of those who have not been abused. The 'I could not believe when he was arrested' writer assumes that because some children were not abused, he did not abuse any. She is clearly ignoring comments in earlier blogs about how he selected his victims. She also assumes that bringing him to account fot his crimes is 'turning the clock back'. Does this mean that no one is accountable for crimes that happened before yesterday? What sort of society would that produce?
What is so unbearablly painful for those people who shout out, proclaiming his innocence, is that they cannot face up to the loss of him as their fantasy figure that they admired and by association that they must be admirable themselves. They cannot get real, because real life contains both ugly abuse and goodness and innocence. Their position is smug and cosy; easy to attack the victims, especially those who dared to call him into account and in so doing, respected and honoured themselves as children. The target of his supporters who have bought the tales he sold about not being guilty, are those who smash this WM icon, daring to say what happened. In behaving in such a complacent and hypocritical manner, dismissing survivors and demanding that they know best, then "what is done they continue to do". They take the easy and comfortable option, refusing to face up to what it is like for survivors.

Vicky said...

This kind of situation always attracts rubbish...and this has...lets get a few things straight. William Mayne did abuse young girls. I can state that categorically. I don't care about the ins and outs of the trial. There was evidence found in his home. Sorry Tosh and others but that is a fact.

I am sorry that any human being should end up in the situation that William did but...he was an intelligent and responsible adult and he has to take responsibility for the situation he ended up in. we all take risks of one kind or another. I guess he did too.

Why are people assuming he had no social care? Please stop making assumptions. He did have people caring for him. He was not abandoned by society. He did however, have the right to live alone if he chose to.

lastly, many if not all of the youngsters abused admired him greatly initially at least. He was a charismatic person and could be very exciting. He was an entertaining and gifted man..no doubt about this. Sadly he used his talents for less than glorious ends. He has now died. Leave him to spend his eternity how he will.

Pamela said...

William died early on the 24th March 2010 after a short period of ill health in his own home as he would have wished. He was watched over during his illness by people who cared about him and his welfare.
He was a man who wrote beautiful books, a wordsmith. He loved Wensleydale where he lived for over fifty years and left English Literature a treasure chest of over 200 books.
He spent many Saturday mornings sat in our kitchen next to the aga, drinking coffee and chatting about a great many subjects He will be greatly missed.

Anonymous said...

I realise that there might be a competitive wish here to be the person to leave the last word on this blog. I suspect that in fact, there can be no final word in the sense of a complete closure. Nevertheless, I wish to reply to you Pamela. (This does not preclude other people continuing to respond). In thinking of William next to the Aga chatting about this and that, a very pleasant and comfortable image is created. If only that could be the 'final' word! How hard it is to think that this complex man hated so much. Yes, 'hated' is the word. The sexual and emotional abuse of small girls to whom he said he did what they wanted, in fact is founded not on love for them, but on hatred, rage and contempt. He hated the children he also wooed and wrote about.

Pamela said...

Oh dear I feel truly sorry for you you must be really bitter and unhappy about something. I hope that you your entry here makes you feel better .....

Anonymous said...

I am assuming your sympathy is at face value and not sarcastic, (the limitations of comprehension that is endemic to blogging) so thank you for that Pamela. My unhappiness does have a name; 'Willam Mayne'. But this is not just him as a person, but is about how he has been authored i.e., written about and described in some quarters in ways that deny and attack the girls who were abused by him and have now grown up and found their own voices and do speak in forums like this.

vicky said...

I'm not quite sure why I came back to this site other than to see if people would/could let go now. YOu may of course say that I haven't - otherwise why am I here. well, I would like to say something to those who are still arguing about whether he did or didn't abuse...I'd like to say:
that he did abuse...
that he didn't abuse everyone he met
that he was kind, witty and charming
that he was casual with people's feelings to the point of cruelty
that he deliberately set out to wound, at times
that he deliberately set out to make people happy sometimes
that he put his needs before those of others at times

I'm afraid I never experienced him putting others needs before his own so I can't write that with any integrity


Now whether Pamela or Tosh or Anon believe these things is irrelevant. Nothing they say can change what he did though I guess it can affect what people believe about it. His behaviour made some people very miserable...many have suffered greatly and clearly continue to do so.

however, I must take issue with some of the remarks that have been made about ruined lives. It is possible to have suffered abuse and cruelty and come out of the other side a happy person. It is possible to experience these things and for the ruins of one's life to be transformed into something good and worthwhile.

the great sadness here, it seems to me, is the bitterness and anger shown by both 'sides'. Pamela and Tosh and others of their ilk, though fiercely loyal to William are guilty of perpetuating his cruelty by denying the experiences of others (I hope neither of you work with children as neither of you show any aptitude for caring for their best interests).

Anon's anger seems to be in the way of her moving on to a better place...Don't give the Pamela's and Tosh's of the world the ability to upset you Anon.

As for me... ...he hurt me very badly and affected the turns my life has taken, but he doesn't hurt me any more. I've learned things about life that perhaps I would have preferred not to learn, but what is done is done and the best I can do is to add it to all the other resources that life has been kind enough to offer me. fortunately I have had more good experiences of life than bad.

So...i hope that we will all find peace, one way or another and forgo the need to be horrible to each other. Who was it..Plato i think...who said 'Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle'.
words of wisdom indeed.

Anonymous said...

You are very wise Vicky, And yes, what you say is the way forward. Thank you for that.

Pamela said...

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle'.
This is indeed a Plato quote and I am sorry that you do not feel able to practice what you preach and I am also sorry if you find this observation hard to take on board.
I try really hard not to judge anyone and hope that the posts made here reflect these sentiments.
William aside, I know Tosh personally and he does not deserve to be judged so harshly. Speaking for myself I suspect the in writing her I have left my open to comments such as yours but you do not know me or the others who have posted and therefore can have no idea how any of us actually feel.
'Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle'. Is I am sure an excellent way to approach life....

vicky said...

I guess email and it's equivalent is not a good way to communicate with one another... it can so easily be misinterpreted. I don't find your observation hard to take at all. Why should I. You are entitled to feel how you feel and I wouldn't ever deny you that. Nor can I possibly know the totality of how you feel...and you can't know how others feel unless they tell you.
What I am saying, Pam, Tosh and all, is that there have been a lot of comments on here that have been very judgemental and very dismissive of the pain of others...albeit through loyalty to a great friend (though that is no justification). It's very unfortunate that those who deny what William did can't hear or bear the pain of those who experienced it. To those whose feelings are being rubbished and whose thoughts are being denied this feels cruel. It is cruel. To say this to you is I believe, to show you a kindness for how do any of us know when we will come face to face with someone in that situation.

I have lost track of the number of times I have sat and said nothing when this subject has been brought up by people who either knew or knew of William and felt that it was appropriate to express their view that the women at the trial(and others who were not) were making things up. Imagine for a moment...just a moment ...how that might feel. Sometimes unpalatable truths need to be said and to be heard...not to have a go..or score points ...but in the interests of justice (and I am not talking about the legal system here)....and also to ensure that we are open to the possibility that such things do happen and may happen again, perhaps even to those we love. When our minds are closed to this thought, those who suffer do not get the help that they need (hence my comment about children).

I can assure you that I am not judging Tosh as a person....how can I...I don't know him....but I can make a judgement about his words.... and he stated emphatically that he did not believe the words of the women involved. If what I wrote upset you Pamela...perhaps, it needed to.

I would like to ask you what you are afraid of...you have nothing to lose but much to gain from acknowledging that what has said is true.
For admitting the possibility that what has been said is true doesn't mean that you shouldn't care for William, admire him and be his friend...love him even...even he would have said, I think, that real love, true love is loving someone warts and all..and ....well....that's a far far greater love surely.

Pamela said...

I have read carefully through the comments I have posted on this site (and this incidentally will be the last) I have at no time made any judgment about anyone and if you read back through what I have written you will find that I have not voiced any opinion regarding Williams court case. I would certainly not be drawn into such a discussion in this domain. My only interest was to put the record straight as to his situation when he died which I have done.

vicky said...

thank you for putting the record straight Pamela.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that Tosh decided not to put the record straight about his gender following the post of March 20th; I guess not correcting the blogger's assumption made it easier for him to dismiss the underlying message. I appreciate Pamela's wish to describe far more accurately the circumstances around the care she and others gave William Mayne prior to his death, (which, incidentally points to his powerful ability to attact others to care for his needs). However, the account she gave of him as a person did feel very partial and incomplete. It came over as invalidating towards the women he hurt when they were small children. But Vicky is right, those survivors do not need to allow such partial accounts to upset them, although some may have been curious about how he had such a power to get these adults to buy into his stories; which is just what the survivors had also unwittingly done when children.

Richard said...

All the comments have been about the person, I'd like to say something about the books: they are wonderful. In none of his works have I found any hint of sexual obsession at all - none at all. Author and the person with the same name are different: the books deserve to be judged separately.

Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

Most of the obituaries have extolled (and occasionally criticised) his books. They have usually included a sentence or brief paragraph about his conviction, but the obituaries have been written and published because of his status as a writer, not because of his status as a paedophile. This blog has been the only opportunity for a wider discussion.

William Mayne used his status as a respected author to access primary schools, Sunday schools, book clubs and a wide base of fans. He used his books expressly to attract and groom vulnerable young girls. He flattered many of his young victims by telling them how he included them in his books. His intellect was used to charm naive parents and fascinate children while intimidating anyone suspicious of his activities. The income he derived permitted him to travel the country to turn up unexpectedly on a young fan's doorstep and lavish gifts and holidays. Not having a day job allowed him to be always available after school and during holidays while busy parents worked, unaware that the gingerbread cottage he baited with books and games was a trap for their children.

At his trial, a lot was mentioned about his books – even the Editor of the Times Children’s Books gave evidence in his defense about what a marvellous writer he was. But sitting there listening to all this, witnesses knew how he used that skill to define reality to his selfish and perverted ends. To the outside eye, his books are innocent of sexual abuse, although they are often dark, shadowy stories. But many of the women he abused as children can recognise what certain passages are about. Consider his poem ‘Put her away, this doll of seasons’ I want you to try to understand that you can’t separate the man from his books.

Richard said...

Dear Anonymous (Most of the obituaries...),
So we disagree on this point: whether we can divide author and person with the same name and judge them differently. Oscar Wilde had relationships with underage boys and used various ways to impress them, yet one would not want to be without his wonderful works; the same goes for Georges Simenon, sex addict and dysfunctional father, author of works of rare humanity. I will never stop being puzzled by such contrasts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

Yes, I guess we are going to disagree. The important thing on a site such as 'Liberal England' is that there is room for both our views to be expressed. For you who was not abused by him, then it is easy to cut off from being confronted by what he did. His victims will never have that luxery. Can you imagine what it is like to be groomed by a weaver of tales, someone who deceives?

There's the gut wrenching shock when seeing his books. For many victims there were years and years of silent fear and guilt; knowing he used his books to access other girls and them not being able to stop that.

Can you understand what it is like to see his books in book shops, and worse of all, as a Mother to go into the school library seeing his books on the shelves, books that my children were encouraged to read, knowing what he has done?

Now he is dead, he cannot abuse anyone else, so many of his victims now feel freer and more confident. But the site of those books is very upsetting. In praising his books his victims might wonder where they fit into his trade? They certainly inspired him and his writing (little things they said and did are in his books); but at what terrible a cost! At least now that he is dead other people buying his books no longer fund his ability to groom.

If I had a choice (and I do not), I would not want his books to be around in my lifetime, nor that of my children. Unfortunately, although I may choose not to read his books, I cannot choose not to see them around in shops and libraries. 'Blindness' is not an option, although it is for you. With the future demise of his victims,the abuse will simply be a story sometimes recounted and usually forgotten; just as I too can enjoy Oscar Wilde's witty plays, as what Oscar Wilde did (unless I were to think hard about it, which I don't) does not scream out at me.

Anonymous said...

An interesting set of comments, particularly from those who believe he was innocent. I know he was not innocent - how? Because I have seen how his behavior has ruined one of his victims relationships with their family. I also knew him personally but luckily he was not interested in me.

Anonymous said...

I've just seen this in today's Independent. THERE'S NUFFIN' LIKE A PUFFIN: THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF CHILDREN'S PUBLISHING IN A SUNNIER TIME
By Nicholas Tucker
Friday, 4 June 2010

……There were other threats about which neither Webb nor her books had anything to say to young people. One of the writers on hand for Puffin Club outings was the novelist William Mayne, imprisoned in 2004 for sexual offences against children. But long before that happened rumours were swirling about him after he was dropped from Oxford University Press in 1961. This was after its editor Mabel George had seen Mayne in action with children in his own home, and had not liked what she saw.
Webb must have known about this, given that a junior member of the Puffin Club staff was told to make sure that she always sat between Mayne and any child whenever he was present. As it was, nothing happened, and Mayne on form could be an entrancing companion. Once again, it was a risk, but for Webb, sheltering herself from unpleasant realities at times seemed to run in tandem with her more general intention to shelter her young readers".

So very easy to do nothing and not think about the children.

Anonymous said...

contrary to what was reported in the independant, something did happen at the Puffin club weekend event. And, it is fair to say, that it didn't go unnoticed at the time...

I'm shocked but I guess not surprised at what has been said. In the end we believe what we want to I guess.

He was a great writer and it was his writing that caused children to be interested in him but he didn't write 'about' abuse, that' s what makes all of this so difficult.

Anonymous said...

Some of the views here are difficult, especially those that seek to minimise or deny his preditory and systemic sexual abuse, as if his wonderful writing somehow diminishes or excuses his behaviour. The good thing about this blog is that gradually a picture is emerging of how compulsive his predation was. All along the tragedy is that those who knew, chose to turn a blind eye, and continue this even now, to go by the tone of some of the obituaries. Why didn't the Puffin Club or Oxford University Press report him to the police? If they had done, then his damaging behaviour could have been curtailed.

Anonymous said...

Thinking about how some commentators have been so disparaging and dismissive about his conviction for sexual abuse, I wonder if they are frightened that reveiling his abuse of small girls would take away their access to his books? What matters most to them is whether they get to read his books, nevermind how the girls who inspired his writing feel, or that he used his books to get access to them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. I used to go to Thornton Rust for holidays as a child, I met William Mayne a couple of times. One book I remember reading in the 1970s featured a girl who would wander off alone to a place she called her "sunny meadow" or similar. I think it was a William Mayne book but I'm not 100% sure and try as I might I can't remember the title. Can anyone help me out here? If it was a Mayne book then it may be relevant to some parts of the above discussion.
Thanks...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it might be a William Mayne book but he wrote so many that I can't really work out which one it could be. The Battlefield is concerned with a girl (but then most of his stories did) ...or maybe it was A Grass Rope, or The Thumbstick - they seem likely candidates..or even The Incline...yes..thats a possibility too. If you can tell us more of the story that might help...

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 3rd September
Many thanks for your response to my post of 2nd September. I will buy a copy of the Battlefield via Amazon and check that one out before taking a look at the others. The mind can play tricks after all this time but, as far as I recall, some parts of the story involved the girl on her own, visiting her secret meadow, but later on she teamed up with some other kids and they went hiking but got lost and had to spend the night in a barn (something like that anyway.) I know that it is NOT any of the Earthfasts trilogy nor is it A Parcel of Trees, the Twelve Dancers, Plot Night or The Swallows. He wrote so many that I guess it is a process of elimination but thanks for your help to date.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to my post of a few minutes ago, I remember reading the book at the house where I lived until 1976 so any books of WM published after 1976 can be eliminated from the enquiry!

Anonymous said...

Here is the "book blurb" for A Parcel of Trees" (1963 Puffin edition)

"I can stand you all being a lot worse now, because I can always go there. It's when I haven't got anywhere to go that I get mad straight away. But if I go there for half an hour it's beautiful to come back."
Fourteen-year-old Susan is talking about her Parcel of Trees, the secret place she found and nearly lost. This is the story of how she managed to keep it, by clever detective work, a legal battle with the Railway Company, and sheer determination. But a book by William Mayne is much more than just a series of interesting events. It's like being given a pair of magic spectacles and stepping right into a picture. So that when Susan is helping her mother in the bakery you actually smell the fresh baked bread, and when she discovers the mysterious graves you seem to feel the same damp moss on the tombstones. William Mayne is an inspired writer of stories for children."

Anonymous said...

This is the blurb for "The Twelve Dancers" (1964 Puffin edition):

"An entire Welsh village is involved in the search for an ancient cup which was lost many years ago, and Marlene and her friends at the village school suddenly become very important because they discover that the search depends on the open-air dance they perform every year. Are they to support their parents, or should they stay loyal to Plow Jones, who is a friend of theirs but who will take away Commons Wood from the village if he finds the cup first?
And even after they have decided this there is a great deal to be done. There is a siege with a scarlet battering ram, while the lord of the manor fires cannon from his roof. But this isn't only the story of a lost cup. It is also the story of Marlene and her mother, who are so poor that they wonder whether they will have bacon to eat on Saturday.
William Mayne is a famous and imaginative writer of children's books. For boys and girls of 10 to 14."

Anonymous said...

This is the blurb for "No More School" (1968 Puffin Edition):

On the back cover:
"Miss Oldroyd was ill so her sixteen pupils were told to go to another school. But they decided differently."
Then, on Page One"

"'No more school,' Miss Oldroyd announced. 'Not for a week, anyway,' and she closed the door of the school, turned the key in the lock, pulled it out, and hung it in its little place in the wall.
But at the end of the week there was a message that Miss Oldroyd was ill, and wouldn't be back for a fortnight.
So they had to go to Burton school instead; Ruth said she'd show them.'That road's much twistier than you think,' she said. 'It goes miles and miles around,so you're always miles and miles off Burton, and when you've got to Burton you're still miles and miles off Burton school.' And then in the end she brought them to her own school.
She put her hand in the hole in the wall and brought out the key. She put it in the lock, turned it, lifted the latch and pushed the door open.
'Come on,' she said. 'Time for lessons to begin.'
This nice, funny, original book is for readers of eight upwards. The other books by William Mayne, published in Puffins, are a Parcel of Trees, The Twelve Dancers, Earthfasts, Pig in the Middle, A Book of Heroes, Ravensgill and a Book of Giants."

Anonymous said...

DON'T MENTION THE DARK ROOM...

Anonymous said...

Thanks again to the person who suggested that The Battlefield is the book I was looking for. In fact it wasn't in the end but it was still an interesting read. There are two or three scenes in The Battlefield that made me think, given what we know now, but I won't post the specifics unless asked because this debate seems to be dead. The only thing I would say at this stage is that the majority of Mayne's novels involve kids 'playing out,' indeed the stories wouldn't work were it not for the fact that kids played out a lot in the 60s and 70s. Kids don't so much now, and Mayne was just the sort of person who contributed to this situation. That to me is the biggest irony of them all.

Anonymous said...

I have been pondering about your offer to 'post the specifics' about those scenes, part of me thinking that I don't accept his construction of the girls he abused but at the same time I hated how he finished off sentences that I started because he was usually correct; but curiosity is getting the better of me. What would I, as an adult, now make of such scenes?

Anonymous said...

@ Anon earlier today.

Maybe he was correct or maybe it just felt that way, he was without doubt an intelligent and charismatic man. As for The Battlefield, the book is dedicated to someone called Becky although the main characters are two sisters Lesley and Debby Musgrave - they seem to be 8-10 years old. At the end of chapter 3 we have a description of the two sisters together in the bath, perfectly innocent perhaps but then again maybe not. At the start of Chapter 4 the two sisters are together in the same bed, and we are told how Lesley "laid cold skin against warm skin" etc. Then in chapter 8 the sisters are discussing an adult character called Thomas:
Debby: Well you can't have him, he's mine.
Lesley: Don't be soft. I want to borrow his tractor, that's all. You can have him after.

Maybe I'm looking for things that aren't there but I would say there are subliminal messages here at the very least.

I still haven't remembered the title of the "sunny meadow" story!

Anonymous said...

The only one of those examples that strikes me is the comment "Well, you can't have him, he's mine". I see this as an example of Mayne's getting his characters to speak his own words; he made such a possessive statement about a girl he believed he owned.

Anonymous said...

The only one of those examples that strikes me is the comment "Well, you can't have him, he's mine". I see this as an example of Mayne's getting his characters to speak his own words; he made such a possessive statement about a girl he believed he owned.

Anonymous said...

Then maybe, in attributing that line of dialogue to the Debby character, Mayne was trying to fool himself and everyone else into thinking that young females have similarly possessive thoughts about adult males.
As for bathtime and bedroom scenes, I guess if they'd been in an Enid Blyton book no one would bat an eyelid.

Anonymous said...

Here is a further example, another "two young sisters in the bath" scene this time in Over the Hills and Far Away (Second Part, Chapter 6). Only this time the girls are bathed and dried by a total stranger. Then some kids together in bed at the end of Chapter 7. Did this guy have a bath fetish? Another strange thing about Over the Hills and Far Away is that the copyright date is 1955 but, according to all internet sources, it was first published in 1968. Why the 13 year delay? Did Oxford University Press block it?

Anonymous said...

At the time he was writing, a lot of families either did not have baths in the sense of how they are today (plumbed in etc) or they did not have limitless hot water. He had both, which he could use to his advantage.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 12 September.
That's very interesting. As I've said before, I holidayed in Thornton Rust as a child (in the early 70s.) Although tourism was on the increase then, the village was still essentially rural with many of the people involved in dairy farming and the like. Then, living among them all, was the "eccentric author chappie", affectionately known as Willie, who seemed to be so much different and so much more affluent with his expensive cars and roving bachelor lifestyle. It doesn't surprise me now that he used his wealth to his advantage, even on what today would seem like little things such as hot baths.
Earlier in this thread someone called "Richard" suggested that Mayne's book shouldn't now be shunned because, in Richard's view, they seem to be separate from the author's crimes. I have to disagree with this. To me the books include characters, incidents and even snatches of dialogue that very much cross-refer to the author's crimes. Parents etc ought to bear this in mind before recommending these tainted books to modern young readers.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to my post at 12.15, I went into my town centre a couple of days ago, first visiting the library. In the 70s there would always be a row of William Mayne books, now there are none. None of the books are available to buy new. I also went to a second hand bookshop and asked if they have any William Mayne books in stock. The man told me "I get offered them now and again but I never stock them because I don't think anyone would buy them." So it looks like, to some extent, the books have censored themselves with help from market forces. Okay so you can still get cheap second hand copies on Amazon but authors and their estates don't get royalties from second hand books, what goes around comes around...

Anonymous said...

Hi, does anyone out there have access to a copy of William Mayne's book "Summer Visitors"? This is all I've managed to find out about it on the net.
"Michael, a boy from an industrial town finds life at a summer camp in the Dales lonely until he is given the job of fetching milk.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 1961
Binding: Hard Cover"
Also I've seen on the net a picture of the front cover, what looks like a boy giving a girl a churn of milk. Presumably the boy is Michael but who is the girl and where does she come into the story?
Many thanks to anyone who can help.

Anonymous said...

You can get the book on Amazon

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that but the cheapest copy is £7.50 plus £2.75 postage and packing, I lost my job nearly two years ago so I'm a bit strapped right now. I'd fork out a tenner but only if I definitely knew it was the book I'm after.
It seems that only "first editions" of Summer Visitors are on the market which might mean that it didn't get past its first print run in 1961 ie not as successful as some of William Mayne's other titles. Something like Earthfasts isn't as rare so you can pick it up on Amazon for a penny plus postage. Not so with Summer Visitors.

Anonymous said...

What are you looking for in this book? Why this one?

Anonymous said...

I've got a copy of summer visitors. I'll hunt it out and post up a synopsis but it won't be before next week if thats okay with you...Its set in Askrigg if I remember rightly...
Incidentally, have you read Royal Harry...that concerns a girl left a place in a will as I recall.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much, next week will be fine. I've not read Royal Harry but I think my sister has an old copy of it somewhere so I'll try to give it a look.

Anonymous said...

The characters pictured on the front cover of Summer Visitors are Michael Taylor and Mary Atkinson. The book has an inscription - "For Mary." The lead character in A Grass Rope was also called Mary. Many names tend to crop up again and again in Mayne's books:

Michael
Andrew

Mary
Sue/Susan
Debby/Deborah
Becky/Rebecca
Sara/Sarah

Anonymous said...

Ravensgill, end of Chapter 12, [Judith]..."started a romping game with Christine Hammerton, a great romper."

Donna said...

I knew William in the late 80's and 90's. He regularly visited the local school and drew the children's imagination.I could not believe when he was arrested. I had friends whose children regularly visited him at home. They were very astute and bright kids. If there had been anything at all suspicious or anything that made them feel uncomfortable, they would have very clearly said. Let yhe man rest in peace. What is done is done. The clock cannot be turned back. The people who brought these charges against him tried that and ruined his life.

Anonymous said...

"the trial decided nothing except that William should go to prison"

...And that he was guilty, of course.

Guilty of a terrible, nasty crime against children. Little girls whom he sought out deliberately and enticed with promises of fame and a place in his books to Thornton Rust. Little girls whom he carefully groomed and selected by visiting them and touching them to see how they reacted. Little girls whose home addresses he harvested in the course of his work.

How do I know? Because I knew him.

What is particularly worrying about him is that he was able to delude adults that he had children's interests at heart and I note that several posters above obviously did not know him as well as they thought they did. Deception and lies are the stock-in-trade of the paedophile. I am quite sure there are some people who still think Jimmy Savile was a lovely old bloke who did nothing but good for the world.
William Mayne was exactly the same. A selfish predator who happily and successfully deceived others in order to gain access to little girls.

The books reflect the man. The use of deception, magic and the unreal permitted him to weave an aura of unreality around his victims; to diminish their credibility and ensure they were viewed as simply "over-imaginative".

The clock can be turned back. By ensuring that this disgraceful predator is continually held up as an example of what is possible when paedophiles are given positions of trust with children, society can make provisions to ensure that we better protect our children in future.

To see William Mayne as anything but a paedophile is to be complicit in the ongoing abuse of other children. By tacitly averting your eyes from his past crimes you imply we might do the same with current criminals.

We should all strive to ensure that all children are safe from paedophiles. The first step is to acknowledge William Mayne as a criminal and to ensure others are not able to follow in his abusive footsteps.

Anonymous said...

" TWO sisters together in the bath, ......TWO sisters are together in the same bed, and we are told how Lesley "laid cold skin against warm skin"

TWO girls.

William James Carter Mayne very, very specifically invited me and another girl (a friend of mine) whom he met at the same time to Thornton Rust. We were to go TOGETHER and have lots of fun with other girls 'romping around" and specifically providing him with "inspiration for his books". I was so flattered to know I would be in a book.

I hope I DIDN't turn up in those books. When he wrote "laid cold skin against warm skin" he was evoking an experience, something remembered or wished for or suggested to the reader. Something he as an adult man had to imagine in order to write. He himself had never experienced being a little girl in bed with another little girl. The skin of two girls one on another sharing a bed. An image that ONLY two LITTLE girls who were, as the image implies, totally innocent, could call to mind in all innocence. But this evocative passage is envisioned by an adult MAN who invited little girls to Thornton Rust in pairs. The same with the image of naked children being dried by a stranger after a bath.

It was the fact that TWO girls were invited that made my parents feel safer and I remember there were instances of Jimmy Savile abusing girls in pairs or groups.

The other phrase he uses that strikes me as inappropriate was "going steady" and after how many boyfriends one should "go steady" with a boy. It's in a short ghost story William Mayne wrote. "Going steady" and "romping" are both outmoded expressions now.

I don't know much about the make-up of pedophiles but maybe there is a voyeuristic componant in addition to physically abusing children. Maybe what William Mayne was also doing was watching us as two children together.

These are more than just subliminal messages as another poster wondered. These are concrete images of no value to the plot that William Mayne chose to envision and memorialise in his books.

Karen said...

I can't agree with this last post. William Mayne was a human being and therefore experienced the world through his senses as we all do. As a writer, I would always try to show rather than tell as it's more vivid and real for the reader. That's what he was doing and it's why I loved his books as a child. What he did was wrong and vile but he was a good writer who knew his craft. Of course his view of the world will come through in his writing but, aside from that don't condemn the man for his craftsmanship. We will all read his books differently now and in some ways that is a real shame. It's a tragedy that someone with such talent felt a need to do what he did - as I understand it there were things that happened to him in his own life tthat might offer some explanation, though no excuse. He is dead now and his work cannot entice anymore children into his world, so let us let his work find a new level in the canon of children's literature.