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Cover by Jason Ford. 2003 Egmont edition.

INTRO

I have been lazy about writing this essay. As you can see from the fabulous Jason Ford cover above, I'm being chased down the street by a couple of members of the Enid Blyton Society who will remain nameless. But they needn't get in a lather. "
It's coming home. It's coming home. Panto's coming home!

Let's get out of (and into) the cat costume nice and slowly. Below is a photo of the book that Enid's daughter Gillian had in her possession when she died in 2007, alongside my own research copy. One with Panto Cat dust cover, the other without.

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A close look at the dustcover of Gillian's book (which I bought at auction in 2010) shows that a sticker label has been removed from the spine. And, below that, a strip of Sellotape has been removed, one that has left a mark almost to the E of Enid. You might almost think it was what a disguised Fatty and Larry - crouching behind bushes on a Peterswood street - were looking out for. Clues to a Mystery!

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After Enid's death in 1968, her personal copies of all her books were moved out of Green Hedges and crudely labelled. Certainly, by the time Bob Mullan came to photograph the books at the library of Darrell Waters Limited in 1987, for his book
The Enid Blyton Story, they were so labelled. At some stage Gillian got access to this library and took it upon herself to remove those books that she felt she had a right to. After all, the copy of The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat had her name written in it in her own relatively childish handwriting of 1944. Visualise the adult Gillian picking off the stupid little label with her nail. See her frown at the ugly mark left on the precious dust jacket, legacy of her mother's brilliance. Hear her curse Darrell Waters Limited with a vengeance.

Opening up my own working copy (once the property of a Tadley lass called Babs), I see that I wrote on the front endpaper in 2007, a year before
Looking For Enid came out, when the manuscript was still called THIS IS HIS ENID. (For some reason I liked the IS-IS-IS effect.)

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These books were both printed by Methuen before a paperback version appeared. Gillian's ex-book is not a first edition from 1949, but a reprint from 1952. The book was reprinted five more times before my own working copy, which was printed in 1958. And yet the 1958 copy contains the same stupid (yes, that word again) mistake, in its very first paragraph, that the 1952 book does. See below. If you cannot spot the mistake within two seconds, there is something wrong with your Find-Outer credentials. Just as there is something wrong with Methuen's publishing credentials for not doing something about the mistake year after year.

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Buster THE Scottie, for Fatty's sake!

Anyway, let's continue. With my pantomime cat costume on, I lie down on the carpet of my front room, close to the fire on this cold, crisp autumn day of 2019, and I get ready to read with my analyst's hat on. (Yes, that's right, I'm wearing a pointy hat on top of the cat costume.)

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ANALYSIS

I should say something about how I intend to tackle this one. Seems to me that this is an excellent story in which to consider what Enid Blyton tells us of her way of writing books. How does she start off? She tells us in Chapter 14 of
The Story of My Life, which was published in 1952, that she sits in her chair, shuts her eyes and waits until the characters appear in her mind's eye. In a 1953 letter to Peter McKellar, she says:

'I shut my eyes for a few minutes, with my portable typewriter on my knee - I make my mind blank and wait - and then, as clearly as I would see real children, my characters stand before me in my mind's eye. I see them in detail - hair, eyes, feet, clothes, expressions - and I always know their Christian names but never their surname. More than that, I know their characters - good, bad, mean, generous, brave, loyal, hot-tempered and so on. I don't know how I know them - it's an instinctive as sizing up a person in real life, at which I am quite good. As I look at them the characters take on movement and life - they talk and laugh (I hear them) and perhaps I see that one of them has a dog, or a parrot, and I think - 'Ah, that's good. That will liven up the story.' Then behind the characters appears the setting, in colour, of course, - a ruined castle - an island - a row of houses. That's enough for me. My hands go down on my typewriter keys and I begin. The first sentence comes straight into my mind, I don't have to think of it - I don't have to think of anything.'

Now in
The Story of My life, Enid illustrates that paragraph. She uses the first Faraway Tree story as a detailed example, rather than the seventh Mystery, but extrapolating from what she writes, something like the following is suggested…

End knows she is going to write a Mystery with Fatty, Bets, Pip, Larry and Daisy. She reminds herself of what they look like and their characters. Buster will be there as usual too. This time Goon will have a young policeman working for him, Pippin, an honest, solid man who will be torn between loyalty to Goon and admiration of Fatty's brains and pluck. The setting is Peterswood, of course, but this time it's a little theatre in the middle of the village that will be the focus of the action and which the children will cycle back and forth to, from the big playroom of Pip and Bets but also from Fatty's place and Larry and Daisy's. The play is about Dick Whittington, so who are the players? A very nice girl, Zoe, who dresses as Dick Whittington. And an untrustworthy man called Alec, who plays the part of a woman. There is also a quiet girl, Lucy, two men, Peter and William, who are friends, and John, who seems to have an open, pleasant nature. Oh, and there is the pantomime cat, a slow and simple man, with no harm in him, who dresses up as a cat and who is bound to be essential to the story. None of the cast like the manager, so that will be crucial too.

Something like that would go through Enid's mind for just a few minutes. Then her hands would hit the typewriter. She's off. Chapter headings were only added after the type-fest, but I'll use them from the off as I'm not doing what Enid did. I'm following in her wake, exactly seventy years later…

1. AT THE RAILWAY STATION
It's the Easter holidays and Larry, Daisy and Fatty are at the station waiting for Pip and Bets. Also there is Goon who is meeting another policeman called Pippin who is going to take over from Goon while he has a break from Peterswood.

Here they all are at the station, according to the first German edition. Which has quite modernist take on what Peterswood might look like beyond the station wall, and calls the book
MYSTERY ABOUT A CUP OF TEA. You'll see why later.

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Cover of the first German edition.

2. A NICE LITTLE PLAN FOR PIPPIN
The Find Outers decide that Larry and Fatty will disguise themselves and leave clues to a bogus mystery for Pippin to find.

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Illustration by J. Abbey. From the first edition published by Methuen.

3. TWO RUFFIANS - AND P.C. PIPPIN
Larry and Fatty get changed at Larry's house, because it's closer than Fatty's house to where they want to lie in wait for Pippin on his rounds. (Detail that suggests Enid was consulting her usual mental map of Bourne End/Peterswood.) Dressed as horrible-looking ruffians they tear up a note which says 'Behind Little Theatre. Ten p.m. on Friday'. They leave the torn up fragments on the ground. This is what Pippin finds when Fatty and Larry scarper.

4. PLENTY OF RED-HEADS - AND PLENTY OF CLUES
Fatty teases Pippin all day by going around in a variety of red-headed disguises. The Find-Outers decide what false clues they will deposit outside the Little Theatre for Pippin's benefit. A hanky with the initial Z on it, some cigarette ends, matches and a page torn from a timetable with a particular train underlined, are designed to send Pippin on the next stage of a wild goose chase.

Why are they doing all this to Pippin rather than Goon? Perhaps because this is all very familiar stuff and Goon wouldn't be falling for it. It's almost as if Enid needs a fresh policeman to victimise.

Anyway, at this early stage, let's remind ourselves how Enid describes the writing of her stories.

'The only way I can partly explain it is by using the "private cinema screen" idea I spoke of a few pages back. It is as if I were watching a story being unfolded on a bright screen…I simply put down what I see and hear.'

She adds:

'The story comes out complete and whole from beginning to end. I do not have to stop and think for one moment.'

Evidence that this is true comes from the extant typescripts of full-length adventures and mysteries. In particular, I've studied the typescript of
The Mystery of Holly Lane as well as a Famous Five typescript, a Secret Seven and an Adventure, all courtesy of Seven Stories in Gateshead. There is no sign of revision of any aspect of the story. Just the odd typo that Enid corrected when she read over the book.

As I've already said, Enid went into her writing process again in letters to Peter McKellar in 1953, which are reproduced in appendix 8 of Barbara Stoney's biography of EB. Again she mentions the private cinema screen in her head. Then adds:

'I don't know what anyone is going to say or do. I don't know what is going to happen. I am in the happy position of being able to write a story and read it for the first time, at one and the same moment.'

'I have never yet found my under-mind to make a mistake, though I make plenty myself in ordinary life. It's much cleverer than I am! I once tried to write a book in the usual way - sitting down, writing out a plot - inventing list of characters - making a list of chapters, and so on. I couldn't write a page, not a single page: it was labour - it was dull - it was, in a word, completely uninspired!'

It seems to me that
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat is good story to test these comments against. Or, rather, to go along with what Enid is saying and see what this implies. It's a whodunnit and you would have thought Enid's conscious mind would have been going back and forth from the beginning and middle of the book to its denouement, carefully setting up the mystery. But apparently not.

My own hypothesis, which I'll also be testing, is a variation on Enid's. She declares on several occasions that she has a photographic memory and that she has very easy access to her imagination. So as the story is bowling along, I would suggest that she knows exactly what's been said before (because she saw and heard it so clearly and has a perfect photographicl record of it) and she can simply take the story wherever she likes thanks to the quickness of her thought.

OK, back to the book, which is still in its early stages but just about to get going, plot-wise.

5. PC PIPPIN ON THE JOB
After depositing the false clues outside the back door of the Little Theatre, Fatty gets a shock when he catches sight of the pantomime cat looking out of the window at him, mournfully.

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Illustration by J. Abbey. From the first edition published by Methuen.

When Larry and Pip join Fatty and look as well, they see the cat by the electric fire waving at them, thinking they're children who have been to see the show. This is at seven o'clock and the Find-Outers have already seen the rest of the cast walk off after performing the show, though Enid does not describe them for us in any detail.

At 8.30 (long before the mysterious meeting supposedly set for 10pm) Pippin turns up. From the verandah, he sees a furry animal lying in front of the fire, eventually realising it must be Dick Whittington's cat. He then notices all the clues that the Find-Outers have left for him, which he gathers up for further investigation. He then climbs up a hole in the verandah roof where he intends to wait for the meeting that he's been led to believe in. But he hears a noise in the first floor room and sees someone slumped at a desk with an overturned cup in a saucer beside him.

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Illustration by J. Abbey. From the first edition published by Methuen.

Pippin sees that a mirror has been taken down off the wall and a safe opened. There's been a robbery!

6. A MYSTERY BEGINS
The next morning, Fatty reads about the robbery on the back of his father's paper over breakfast. The Find-Outers meet at Pip and Bets playroom and they realise that the laying of false clues will have complicated the police's investigation. Fatty decides to go and talk to Pippin but soon sees that Goon is back and shouting at his subordinate.

7. GOON - PIPPIN - AND FATTY
Goon strikes Buster with a poker, which upsets Pippin as well as Fatty.

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Illustration by Mary Gernat. Used in many paperback editions from 1966 to 1997.

With Goon having left the police house, Fatty and Pippin establish a rapport, though Fatty decides not to tell him about the false clues as it is Goon that is going to follow these up. Fatty impresses Pippin who thinks:
'Brains? Yes. Character? Plenty! Cheek? Too much. Pluck? Any amount.'

Fatty tells Pippin that the Find-Outers were round the back of the Little Theatre from about 5.30 (actually, they set off on their bikes for the place at ten to 6, a minor mistake by Enid). And were there until 7pm. And Fatty tells Pippin about seeing the pantomime cat, both at the window and sitting by the fire. (That's Enid's conscious mind summarising things for her readers who she's already given this information to. But she wants to be sure we're up to speed!)

8. PIPPIN'S STORY - AND A MEETING
Pippin then tells Fatty what he saw. So we get all that again. Starting with the pantomime cat lying, sleeping by the fire to the manager stretched out across his desk. The tea dregs has been tested by the police and the drink was drugged. And the manager when interviewed had said that it was the pantomime cat who had brought him the tea. Boysie, the simple-minded man who plays the part of the cat, is then discussed. And Pippin confirms that according to the manager no-one else was in the building.

It's established that whoever robbed the safe had insider knowledge and that it had to be one of the cast. Had someone come back and done the robbery with Boysie's help? At this point Goon returns, so Fatty leaves and updates the Find-Outers. They all feel sorry for Buster, wonder about Boysie, and look forward to meeting Goon at Peterswood station when he follows up their false clue.

9. PIPPIN IS A HELP
Although Goon is around and making things awkward, Fatty arranges a meeting with Pippin in the lemonade shop. Pippin is able to give Fatty the names and addresses of the other actors and informs him that the young woman who plays Dick Whittington is called Zoe, making Fatty feel most uncomfortable about the dropped hanky with the Z sewn into it by Daisy. However, Zoe has an alibi - they all have alibis, and Fatty realises that checking these alibis is what the Find Outers must do themselves. He has another chat with Pippin during which they meet Goon again. Does Fatty knee Goon in the balls? Mary Gernat seems to think so.

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Illustration by Mary Gernat. Used in many paperback editions from 1966 to 1997.

It has to be said that by this stage in the book, Enid's under-mind would not have had to be particularly active. An entertaining story is being told, with lots of character and visual details to keep the reader entertained. But as for the mystery, well either Boysie did it, or a member of the cast came back and did it with or without Boysie's help. Are things going to get more challenging for Enid the plot-spinner? Well, let's see.

10. THE SUSPECTS AND THEIR ALIBIS
Back at Pip and Bet's place, the Find Outers have a conference. They read Pippin's notes about the suspects and their alibis, which start with Boysie who took the manager a cup of tea at eight o'clock. Boysie says he didn't, but admits he had cup of tea himself after which he went to sleep for most of the evening.

After going through the outline of the alibis of the seven suspects, Fatty suggests that they use their autograph books as an excuse to meet them all, hopefully leading to discussions. Fatty then shows how they can go about checking the alibis, using the example of Zoe, whose sister Daisy knows, and Lucy White, whose alibi has a connection with Larry and Daisy. Fatty becomes a bit vague as to how some of the alibis are to be checked, but exudes confidence that they will find a way. Which could very much be Enid expressing confidence in her own creative imagination. Sure, the Find-Outers will find a way of checking those alibis. But first they've got to meet the train that Goon has been tricked into meeting!

11. TREAT FOR MR. GOON
Fatty puts on a red-wigged disguise and gets off the train in Peterswood. He leads Goon on a wild goose chase and after changing back into himself in his shed, takes the opportunity of mocking Goon in front of the rest of the Find Outers. Nothing happens in this chapter really, but its full of the humour that makes readers love these stories, if not quite the best example of it. Although nothing happens to advance the plot it is one of the longest chapters in the book. Enid's imagination getting stuck into the vital Fatty-humiliating-Goon motif.

12. ZOE, THE FIRST SUSPECT
Daisy and Bets plan to get to Zoe through her sister whose daughter is having her 4th birthday. They buy her a present and are getting along well with the mother when Zoe herself turns up. She is a lovely young woman with a smiley face who they immediately like. (Enid likes her too; you can tell.) Zoe tells them that the manager had sacked her on Friday after she had taken Boysie's side in an argument. On the night of the robbery, Zoe was with her sister but had gone out to the post office at seven o'clock and her sister hadn't heard her come back ten minutes later and it was quarter to eight by the time she'd come down from her room. So she didn't have an alibi. Zoe didn't have an alibi but Bets and Daisy were sure she could not have committed the robbery. They feel incredibly guilty about the hanky with the Z on it which Goon is making such a fuss about! Don't worry, Find-Outers, there is no way that Enid is going to let Zoe go down for this crime!

13. LARRY AND PIP ON THE JOB
Before they go, the girls tell Zoe that the five Find-Outers are coming to see the show that Monday afternoon and Zoe says she will make sure all the cast give them autographs immediately afterwards. In Bet's playroom, they meet up with Larry and Pip. Those two had been to the theatre to interview the grumpy manager. They asked him if Boysie - the pantomime cat - brought him his tea on the night of the robbery and he confirms that he did, though he just glanced at Boysie, still in his cat-skin. He reports that Goon has got Boysie scared, shouting at him until he bursts into tears. Although Enid saves this 'revelation' for later, it must have been obvious to her conscious mind that it could have been someone else in the cat suit rather than Boysie.

14. MORE NEWS - AND A VERY FAT FACE
Meanwhile Fatty has had a busy morning. Firstly teasing Goon with a running joke of wearing cheek pads to make his face seem fat, a joke that wears thin pretty quickly as far as I'm concerned. Pippin tells Fatty that all the cast have motives for stealing money from the manager but that all their alibis check out except Zoe's. So that Goon's got her and Boysie down as chief suspects. Cue more teasing of Goon by Fatty and his fat face.'
Now you clear-off!' Yelled Mr Goon. 'Following me about like this! You with your fat face and all. You go and see a dentist. Gah! Think yourself funny following me about with that face.'

15. AT THE SHOW - AND AFTERWARDS
As for the last three chapters, this one concerns itself with the Monday morning, the checking up of alibis and the noon meeting in Pip's playroom to communicate what the various sub-sets of the Find-Outers have found out. The meeting ends with Fatty outlining how they will go about checking three more alibis on Tuesday.
'Larry and Daisy will go to see Mary Adams, to find out if Lucy White's alibi is sound - and Pip and I will see if we can test Peter Watting's and William Orr's. We shall have to find out how to check John James too - he went to the cinema all evening - or so he said.' This is a reminder to the reader. But it's also Enid reminding herself what she's got to do as the writer. She's keeping several balls spinning and that paragraph in itself is just enough to keep them in the air.

That Monday afternoon they go to the play. Show time is three o'clock. Boysie impresses them as an actor. Making Fatty wonder if he could be quite as silly as people said. After the show, Zoe invites the Find-Outers back-stage and the actors are described. The physical descriptions are important, because it will later be revealed that someone else stripped the cat suit from sleeping Boysie and put it on themselves. Is Enid's under-mind preparing the ground for that revelation? Or is Enid just watching and listening and responding imaginatively to everything she sees and hears. Alec Grant is given most space in the backstage scene. That he is an expert at impersonating women is emphasised. As is the fact that his signature is an illegible scrawl. Oddly, he throws the autographs books back at the Find-Outers.

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Illustration by Mary Gernat. Used in many paperback editions from 1966 to 1997.

Again, given that we can be fairly sure that Enid did not go back and tweak the typescript, was her under-mind in complete control, setting things up in a way that would surprise conscious Enid as she typed? Or was Enid just looking and listening as she wrote, in a cocoon of concentration, biding her time before going off in whatever direction she wanted to with that easy access to her imagination. Let's wait and see.

16. THE PANTOMIME CAT HAS A TEA-PARTY
Boysie then makes his entrance. His cat skin has got a split in it, near the tail. Zoe puts this down to Boysie eating too much. Boysie is very nice to the children and gives a wooden lamb he has made to Bets, who hugs him. Zoe loves Boysie who loves Bets who loves Zoe. Enid intervenes at this point to say:
'Boysie was queer in the head and silly, he was ugly to look at - but he was kind and sincere and humble, he had sense of fun - and you simply couldn't help liking him.' That's Enid telling the reader that Boysie was not responsible for the robbery.

The Find-Outers stay for tea. Boysie reminds the group that he saw three of the children - Fatty, Larry and Pips but not Daisy or Bets - on the night of the robbery.

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Illustration by J. Abbey. From the first edition published by Methuen.

Fatty gets Boysie to go over the tea-making of that night in some detail and it's established that Boysie made tea for himself but went to sleep after he drank it and DID NOT take tea to the manager as he would normally have done. Surely Enid's conscious mind was aware by this time that someone had taken the cat-suit off the drugged Boysie and put it on himself or herself. And in doing so had stretched the fabric of the material. So it was unlikely to have been a slim person or a tall person (Boysie was small with a big head). Again, is Enid's under-mind in complete control here? Or is Enid's ability to take the story wherever she wants, taking into account every word she's already written, all that she really needs to rely on?

17. CHECKING UP THE ALIBIS
Enid begins this chapter by pretending that she thinks that Boysie did indeed take up tea to the manager and that he must be covering for someone.
'Fatty was very puzzled indeed.' They agree it couldn't have been super-nice Zoe and that they must check the other alibis as planned.

So the next day Larry and Daisy check out Lucy White's. She had indeed been sitting with an old lady from a quarter to six until half-past nine, without a break. So that was that. Meanwhile Fatty and Pip had gone to the place by the river where William Orr and Peter Watting were supposed to have had tea. Before investigating they decided to have
a few snacks, at which point Goon enters. I should say here that Enid makes a mistake that was not picked up by herself when re-reading the typescript, nor by the copy editor at Methuen in 1949, and is still there in the latest paperback version I have, the 2003 edition whose cover kicks off this essay. That is, it's supposed to be Pip and Fatty that are checking out this alibi on Tuesday morning because Larry and Daisy are checking out Lucy White and the old lady. But after using the name Pip as the pair set off, Enid uses the name Larry thereafter.

Curious this. If she's seeing the action in her private cinema screen she should be seeing Pip with Fatty, consistently, not Larry and Fatty! It should be emphasised that this kind of mistake is rare in Enid's oeuvre. I don't think she loses track of her characters in any other Mystery. But if this is incorrect, please let me know.

18. MORE CHECKING - AND A FEW SNACKS
After some Goon teasing, Fatty, accompanied by
Larry, interviews the serving girl. She confirms that Peter and William were there on the Friday. Peter had given her a book and they'd listened to Radio Theatre at seven o'clock. The radio had broken down but Peter had it repaired by twenty past eight - twenty minutes late for a program that her mother had wanted to listen to. In other words, there was plenty to back up the alibi of the pair both of whom had been described as tall and thin anyway, meaning they couldn't have got into the cat suit.

Fatty and Larry (still) then go on to the cinema where a cheeky receptionist is not helpful. Again they bump into Goon. Then Larry remembers that Pip's cook always goes to the cinema on Friday so they could ask her what had been showing. This Kitty tells them that
He Loved Her So was the film and that it broke down four times while playing. So all they need to do is find out if their suspect noticed these breaks in the film.

The chapter ends with Fatty intending to phone Zoe that lunchtime to see if she knows where John James will be that afternoon. He suggests that they take Bets too.

'She'll be feeling left out if we don't.'
'Right said Larry. 'See you this afternoon.'

I should think poor Pip would be feeling left out as well. Having started off on the afternoon's walk to the Turret with Fatty only to be replaced in Enid's mind by Larry who was at one and the same time with Daisy checking out Lucy's alibi!

19. JOHN JAMES AND THE CINEMA
Zoe tells Fatty that John James is going for a picnic on the other side of the river in the afternoon. Fatty phones round the others, telling Pip to talk to Kitty again and make a note of exactly when the breaks in the film were. This seems a bit unnecessary, but at least it brings Pip back into the acton. The Find-Outers plus Buster get the ferry over the river. They keep watch for John James…

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Illustration by Mary Gernat. Used in many paperback editions from 1966 to 1997.

…and when he settles himself on the hillside they sit down close to him. John James asks if any of them have a match. Fatty gives him a box, telling him to keep it as he's not going to start smoking until he's 21! Conversation is brought round to the cinema, recent films, and John James tells them he was at the cinema on Friday and fell asleep during it. However, he was woken up four times by people chatting and so knew about the film repeatedly breaking down. In other words, his alibi checks out. And the Five like him. So that's him struck off the list of suspects.

20. DEFEAT - AND A BRAINWAVE
Fatty learns from Pippin that Boysie has confessed, claiming that he and Zoe did it together. This depresses Fatty. Larry has already suggested:
"Come up at ten tomorrow and have a meeting." The meeting turns up to be at Pip's. All are gloomy. Eventually, Bets says something that very much needs saying: "It almost makes you think it must have been somebody else in Boysie's skin." Fatty immediately sees the possibilities in this and gets very excited. Soon Fatty is explaining the obvious, that one of the others stripped Boysie of his suit, put it on himself or herself, served the tea and did the robbery, before putting Boysie back into the cat suit, now a bit stretched. So now the mystery is simply who did that.

Actually, as far as the reader and indeed Enid herself was concerned, nothing much has changed. The Find-Outers have just reached a common sense conclusion. But has Enid's under-mind being setting down clues as to the guilty party, or is Enid just going to make it up now by taking into account all she's already written? That is the question!

21. THE LAST ALIBI IS CHECKED
Up to now, the alibi of Alec Grant has not been checked as he went off to do his female impersonation show in Sheepridge that evening. The Find Outers decide that he was the only person small enough to have got in the suit in place of Boysie. John James for example, is too burly. The girls too small. This is hardly convincing as a piece of plotting as the cat suit was stretched and torn in the process of being used by the guilty party. If it had been a big person, Enid could have found a way round that, by re-examining the suit and finding stretch marks, for example.

Larry phones a friend of his in Sheepridge and speaks to his sister, who went to the show with her mother. She confirms the concert happened, that it was very good - you couldn't have told that it was a man - and that she got his autograph afterwards. This excites Fatty, who realises that they have all the autographs already and can check out this autograph from Friday night. I imagine Fatty's excitement echoing Enid's when she realised that this had been set up for her. Either set up in advance by her under-mind, or set up in chapter 21 by her flexible imagination. Which?!

An hour later, the Find-Outers are in Sheepridge interviewing this Julia. She confirms that she recognised the actor that night as having been Alec Grant. But when they look at the autograph from that night it's completely different from the autographs the real Alec Grant gave the Find-Outers.

I would tentatively suggest that its Enid's imagination there and then that comes up with the idea that Alec Grant has a twin sister, and that it was she who gave the show in Sheepridge. (I hardly think the audience got its money's worth that night. A female impersonator's
sister turning up to perform the act in his stead!)

So the case is solved. The chapter ends with Pippin telling the Find-Outers that Goon has arrested Boysie and Zoe and taken them over to the Inspector.

22. A SURPRISE FOR THE INSPECTOR
Things are set up for the Find-Outers to be correct in front of the inspector and Goon to be humiliated. And so it goes. Zoe is very supportive of Boysie and angry on his behalf. Alec is revealed to be cruel and selfish in that he was willing for Boysie and Zoe to take the wrap. Pippin tells the true story on behalf of Fatty and the Find-Outers. Inspector Jenks takes the written 'confession' that Goon obtained from Boysie, tears it into pieces and asks Goon to put the torn pieces into the fire behind him. And that's that.

The inspector invites the children, as well as Zoe and Boysie to lunch. Smiles all round. Zoe is grateful and happy. The only thing missing from the final scene is anything from Boysie. Enid had succeeded in getting into his mind in the scene leading to the tea party after the autograph session, but she doesn't manage to get into his point of view to round things off. Which is a pity.

I imagine that Enid began that book on a Monday and finished it on a Friday. I say that because of what she told Peter McKellar in 1955:

'I began it on Monday, and finished it this afternoon (Friday). It is 60,000 words long and flowed like its title (River of Adventure). All the same, I know quite well that if I had had to miss even a day in the writing of it I might have had to give it up. Once the river is dammed anywhere, it won't flow again in that particular direction - which is why I must write a book at 'full flow'. I wish you could explain why I have these limitations and their opposites.'

Well, allow me to have a go, long, long after the event. Enid's mind is fully engaged in the task of writing the book. She has photographic recall of what the private cinema screen has been showing her and she has a flexible and fluid imagination that can make the most of anything that she's already said or seen. As simple as that. (Or did her under-mind slyly place that autograph scene in the middle of the book, knowing that it would prove crucial in the end?)

I would (again, tentatively) suggest that Enid Blyton's Mysteries are not mysteries in the Agatha Christie sense, with an author going back and forth through the story, laying red herrings and making sure her solution is possible but hidden from view of the averagely alert reader.

Enid didn't have to draw diagrams or activity charts. But for what I'm doing they can be a help. The following table summarises the action of the book.

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What does it tell us? Enid never loses control of the days in the week. She hardly ever says what day of the week it is, just keeps track effortlessly.

Several mornings are action-packed, as is one afternoon and one evening.

One criticism of
Pantomime Cat I have is that the humour doesn't quite hit the spot, which is why it is not one of my favourite Mysteries. I wish Enid had taken more account of the cross-dressing theme. After all, Zoe acts the part of Dick Whittington. Alec is a female impersonator. And Boysie dresses androgynously. So couldn't Fatty have been dressed up as a woman this time around when giving Pippin and Goon the run-around? After all (I say again), Zoe playing a man is known about from the start. Anyway, that is an excuse for me to present this:

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1963 Armada edition, cover by Charles Stewart.

The above cover is of the first Armada paperback, from 1963. The lyric is from 'Rebel Rebel' by David Bowie, a single released from the Diamond Dogs album in 1974. This is not a random juxtaposition. Enid Blyton lit up my childhood with her books, particularly Noddy, The Famous Five and the Find-Outers. And David Bowie was the primary inspiration of my adolescence. I want to forge a connection between these two geniuses from Bromley and Beckenham. God preserve that particular part of south London.

Does Bets like David Bowie? She's starstruck. Does Fatty like David Bowie? He is going to dress up like Ziggy Stardust in order to bamboozle Goon. Does Buster? You betcha: "Woof, woof!"

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1963 Armada edition, cover by Charles Stewart.

Cut to 1968. Nineteen years after the publication of
Pantomime Cat. Seven years after the publication of the final Find-Outers, The Mystery of Banshee Towers. Five years after the appearance of the first paperback edition of the Mysteries. Alas, Enid's wonderful mind does not work the way it once did. Time has caught up with her

She sees that I have come to visit.

"Hello Boysie," says Enid. "Would you like a cup of tea?"

"But that's your cup of tea, surely."

"No, no, I always have a cup of tea put by the fire for my Boysie."

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Photo: Rolf Adlercreutz

I kneel down by the fire. What else can I do?

"Is it too hot for you, Boysie?"

"The fire?"

"No. The tea."

"It's just right."

Next thing I know I'm coming round… I seem to be wearing some sort of fur coat… There is a bit of a commotion going on… Someone is unzipping what I now realise is a cat suit and removing books from the depths of it. I believe this person to be Gillian, Enid's adult daughter.

"He was stealing
our books, mother. The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat is sellotaped to his hairy tummy."

"Which books?"

"
Burnt Cottage. Disappearing Cat. Secret Room - that's stretched the cat suit out just above the tail - Missing Necklace, Hidden House…"

"Oh, Boysie, how could you?"

I stagger to my feet and stumble across the room looking for a way out of Green Hedges.

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Photo: Rolf Adlercreutz

Enid smiles to herself, presumably at the thought of what is going to happen next. Boysie being chased down the main Street of Beaconsfield.

"Catch him, Goon! And don't be afraid to use your truncheon on the naughtiest boy. If I can say that in these politically correct times."

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Cover by Jason Ford. 2003 Egmont edition.

I realise that my best chance of getting away from Goon is to sing. To sing from the heart just as Fatty would do.

"Will you stay in our lovers' story?
If you stay you won't be sorry.
For we believe in you.
Soon you'll grow.
So take a chance
With a couple of kooks
Hung up on romancing."

Enid Blyton and David Bowie. What a couple of kooks.




Notes


Hachette own the rights to Enid Blyton's books, including the Find-Outers. The current edition of
Pantomime Cat can be seen by clicking this link.