Thursday, 9 January 2014

PBOTD: January 9th, Christine Pullein-Thompson - Phantom Horse

Phantom Horse (1955) was a book of which I was enormously fond. Armada published its first paperback edition in 1969, and that was the edition I had. The cover's not credited, but I suspect it's by the same artist who did Phantom Horse Comes Home (1970).

Phantom is some way away from the sort of pony book with which people identify the Pullein-Thompson sisters, and it would be interesting to know what books come to people first when they think about Christine Pullein-Thompson. Is it the adventure stories, like Phantom Horse, or the hunting and Pony Club books?

Armada paperback reprint, 1969

She wrote both. Her first book, after It Began with Picotee (1946), which she wrote jointly with her sisters, was We Rode to the Sea (1948). Her sisters, Josephine and Diana, stuck to what they knew with their first solo books, Six Ponies (1946) and I Wanted a Pony (1946), which is possibly why they're more successful stories. We Rode to the Sea is a breathless adventure, in which a large and hapless family whirl about Scotland causing mayhem in the pursuit of rather ill defined villains. It's interesting that after this, Christine left the world of adventure alone and went back to writing about what she knew: hunting. Phantom Horse was her next attempt at a story which is more adventure than conventional pony book, and it's considerably more successful than We Rode to the Sea.


Collins first edition, 1955, cover Sheila Rose
Heroes Jean and Angus are a better realised pair, who manage to be dashing without being irritating, and who rather than existing in isolation in the wilds of Scotland, live a slightly more grounded existence in Virginia. I am told that Christine Pullein-Thompson actually had the setting wrong - it is, and was, far more industrialised than she has it, but perhaps she simply took a setting whose lost beauty she could see, and used the story to create a world as she wanted.

Collins published the book as a Seagull Library edition
Phantom Horse does fulfil pony book tropes: unrideable Phantom is found and cured by Jean and Angus, but  the whole thing is done in a believable way, and it's a testament to Christine's ability to learn from her mistakes that the Phantom series is still in print today, now with splendid new covers by Jennifer Bell.

The Armada 1970s reprint

The latest Award printing, still in print

To read more about Christine Pullein-Thompson, and see pictures of all her (many) pony books, click here.

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