Monday, 30 January 2017


Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. If you're not familiar with this blog, scroll down to see what it's all about.

 Drummond (Post 30)

 Drummond (1990) was that rare bird; a commissioned novel. It was unusual in more ways than that, too. For one thing is was a large size; similar to an A4 picture book. It also had coloured pictures in the interior. Nevertheless, it wasn't a picture book, but a primary school novel. I don't know or remember the full story (after all, it was 27 years ago) but this is my impression of what happened. A publisher was approached by someone from a toy company who, probably in the wake of the successful Paddington character bear, wanted to create a character bear that didn't spin off from a book, TV series, film or any other similar source. The bear was to be called Drummond, and he was to be dressed in an Edwardian blazer, boater and watch chain. 

Wanting a book to "support" the bear, the toy person (whose name I never knew, so I'll refer to him or her as BEARPERSON) invited a friend to write a story. This story was presented to a publisher. The publisher said the story wasn't in tune with books of the late 20th Century, and offered to find an author to write a new manuscript. This he did; me. I was happy enough to take the commission. I was introduced to the bear (sans costume) whom my kids christened Growly Ted, and given the guidelines; a chapter book to suit primary school readers, about a bear named Drummond. I was told about the costume. Anything else was up to me, except I seem to recall the editor saying there were to be no magic buttons.

To suit the fairly wide age-brief, I took a family of three children; Sarah, who was about eleven, Nicholas, a year or so younger, and their much-younger sister Halley. She was named after Halley's Comet. The children helped an older relative out with a fair held in her house's grounds. While working, Nicholas called loudly for his sister Sarah, and another voice joined in. 

It turned out to be a teddy called Drummond, who was convinced the person being called was his owner, Sarah. What poor old Drummond didn't understand was that he'd been hibernating for many years. He'd come out to Australia on a ship with his Sarah, and because she had no other companion, she'd 'talked him to life'. Now all he wanted was to find her again.

Many adventures later, his quest is successful but Sarah (you've guessed it) is now old...

I handed in the story in good time, and the publisher hired an illustrator. Unfortunately, the deal fell through due to another job the illustrator had. Someone else was chosen, and this one moved house during the job. When all the ducks finally lined up, there was a new hitch; BEARPERSON had either gone out of business or else decided not to proceed with the line of character bears. So, the lucrative (we all hoped) spin-off deal never came to fruition. 

The publisher did bring the book out, though, still bearing all the attributes that were put in place to fit it for the toy-tie-in market. (Large format, colour pictures...) During the editing process, Halley's name was changed to Kate, and most of the specifically-Australian terms were removed, so when a US edition came out, a reviewer claimed it was set in an English seaside village. The inside jacket of this edition claimed that I lived on Tasmania, which was also disconcerting. 

Despite all this, Drummond did pretty well, and the odd copy still shows up on eBay or in the second-hand market. There was one postscript; the rights of publication were sold at some point, and the book subsequently went out of print. A small company called "Drummond Publishing" got in touch, hoping to bring out a new edition, but either whoever held the rights didn't respond or this person changed his mind. I never discovered which.

So, that's Drummond a nostalgic favourite with some readers, so it seems, and an interesting exercise in a slightly different way of producing a book.


Sally is Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading