|First edition, 1957|
Pat Smythe obeyed the dictum to write what you know by setting her Three Jays series at her own house, with herself and her staff Paddy and Birgitte, and of course her horses as attendant characters. It was a clever idea, and I'd love to know who thought of it. What fans got, as well as a story, was the feeling that they too were sharing in Pat's life, peering over the door at Tosca, or watching Pat exercise her young horses.
Pat was already a published writer by the time the series appeared, with two well received volumes of autobiography, Jump for Joy (1954) and One Jump Ahead (1956), as well as her Book of Horses (1955). It's difficult to think of any equivalent equine celebrities now, but Pat, with her glamorous appearance, her lovely horses, obvious riding ability and sheer rarity value, was always in the news. Publishers Cassell managed to combine her celebrity with the immense popularity of the pony book, which in the 1950s was a genre so successful Faber suggested it to their author Antonia Forest, author of the subtle and brilliant school story Autumn Term as somewhere to go for her second book.
|Armada paperback, 1962, cover ? Peter Archer|
The Three Jays series was a tremendous success, with the first book going into four editions by the end of its year of publication. Cassell ran a Three Jays Club to boost the series, with a young Lynn Redgrave winning one of the prizes on offer, a visit to a training demonstration at Miserden.
|Armada paperback, 1968, cover Mary Gernat|
Her books were the series I found hardest to sell in my book dealing career. Although the hardbacks were attractive books in themselves, and undoubtedly did have some keen fans, Pat was best at writing non fiction, where she could relate her own thoughts and feelings directly.
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If you'd like to read more about Pat Smythe:
Full bibliography and more biographical information on my website
An extract from Susanna Forrest's If Wishes Were Horses on Pat Smythe