They changed trains at Shrewsbury. An evocative line for me, as it’s the sentence which begins (in 1943) the long series of Lone Pine mysteries by Malcolm Saville. I’ve just been listening to Clare Balding on Ramblings (spot the typo on this page) as she accompanied members of the Malcolm Saville Society on a literary walk in the Shropshire hills. Malcolm Saville famously set his stories in real places and at the start of each book explained how readers could explore them for themselves. Each book has map endpapers ‘drawn by David Morton’ (one of the main characters) in which real places like the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, the Devil’s Chair and Clun are mixed with the fictional Witchend, Dingle’s Farm and Barton Beach. The farmhouse at ‘Witchend’ and ‘Dingle’s’ were based on real places where Saville had stayed with his family, and the radio walk took them in. Listening to Clare Balding, who is both younger and fitter than I am, puffing and panting on the climb didn’t encourage me to go exploring that particular area, which always seems to me in the books to be rather forbidding.
Most of the Lone Pine books are set in Shropshire but three, including my favourite The Gay Dolphin Adventure are set in Rye and Romney Marsh, one on the Yorkshire Moors, one on Dartmoor and the one with the best cover of all, Lone Pine London just where you’d expect. The books are still so popular that they are being republished by Girls Gone By Publishers. Click on the ‘Malcolm Saville’ link on the left of this page for an excellent site. For a balanced account of the books, explaining how they were ruined by paperback abridgements, see Reading Series Fiction by Victor Watson. Ramblings is available now to Listen Again.