Wednesday, 12 March 2014

PBOTD 12th March: Walter Farley - The Black Stallion

I loved the Black Stallion series. I had a few of the books, but oddly never the first,  The Black Stallion. When I did eventually find a copy, I certainly knew the story, so I can only think the local library must have had a copy, and with my ability to attract all thing horse in the library rather like a black hole, I absorbed it. It's a classic horse story, in that the main character doesn't have a horse at the beginning of the book; does by the end, and manages to win a competition.

Random House, facsimile of 1st edition, 1941
With The Black Stallion, all that's writ large. The Black Stallion isn't just any stallion - he's so fiery he needs a regiment of men to control him, and he's the prized possession of a sheikh. Hero Alec Ramsay is on the way back from India, on the same ship the Black Stallion's travelling on. The ship sinks, and Alec and the horse end up on a desert island. It is all a world away from gymkhanas and green English hills. Eventually they're rescued, and return to Alec's New York home.

Knight pb, 1970s
Fortunately, Alec is able to keep the stallion at Henry Dailey's barn. Henry, perhaps not surprisingly, is a former jockey and trainer, and wants to get the horse raced to show off his speed. As the Black has absolutely nothing in the way of papers, he can't race normally. What he can do is run a match race, and running as The Mystery Horse, that's exactly what he does, sweeping a not particularly in control Alec to victory. And so the Black Stallion swept on, carrying on even after the death of his creator, after Walter Farley's son took up the baton.

Knight, later 1970s printing with film tie-in cover
The Black Stallion was first published by Random House in America in 1941. The first British edition was published by Peter Lunn in 1946. It's spectacularly hard to find. Knight, as far as I'm aware, published the first paperback British edition, with front cover by Danish illustrator S Hagsted. Many later printings followed. The book is still in print, over seventy years after it was first published.

Knight, late 1980s printing, cover Fred Gambino
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For much more on Walter Farley, on pages I do know need work, see my website.



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