William Mayne Effect

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Guardian Unlimited | Columnists | The author abused children: should we read his books?

Catherine Bennett, in The Guardian, considers the impact on publishers of William Mayne's conviction:

Walker books is withdrawing its Mayne titles from bookshops, Jonathan Cape has "postponed" a book called Emily Goes to Market, which should have been published this month and Hodder Children's Books has put "on hold" one novel due out next year, and, according to Charles Nettleton, managing director, will assess the response from its customers in school, bookshops and libraries, before issuing further reprints. "We are trying not to make any judgments," he says. "If we find that nobody is ordering his books any more, it makes it pointless to publish".

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Catherine Bennett?s article on whether convicted paedophile William Mayne?s books should be withdrawn raised some good points, but fudged a conclusion.

It may be interesting to debate how adult literature dealing with adult themes relates to the crimes of the author. It is not appropriate to trot out this hoary old argument when dealing with children?s books, especially when the author and his victims are still alive. Would you want your daughter to read a story of adventure and escape knowing that the heroine was possibly based on a real child? One who?s only escape from a lost childhood of systematic abuse was into a life time of low esteem and sexual difficulties? If Lewis Carroll had raped Alice Liddell I?m sure that Disney would not have bought the movie rights!

Perhaps William Mayne did not write children?s books specifically in order to abuse young girls. However, he ruthlessly used his status to gain access to vulnerable children, turning up on stranger?s doorsteps book in hand, constantly visiting schools and baiting his home like the cottage in Hansel and Grettel. Part of the grooming involved flattering children by telling them that he included their characters in his books.

No doubt Mayne?s publishers are hoping that the controversy will blow over and they will eventually be able to go back to milking the cash cow. I suggest they include a transcript of the trial on the book jacket alongside the author?s biography.

Mayne will probably only serve 15 months in prison, a derisory sentence compared with the lifetime of suffering he has inflicted on his victims. To deprive him of any further profit may smack of vengeance, but it would certainly be justice!

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on May 27, 2004 7:13 AM.

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