acting out fiction

The facts

“Well, you see,” said Ginger, “this monster’s in this lake, and no one can catch it.”
“I bet I’d jolly well catch it if I was there,” said William.
“Oh, you can do everything, can’t you!” retorted Ginger.
“I can do pretty nearly everything,” admitted William modestly.

  • Number: 17.10
  • Published: 1935 (1934 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Detective
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws attempt to capture a prehistoric monster.


This was a very topical story when published. That very month, the so-called “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster had caused a public stir, and the news even reached the ears of the Outlaws.

And so it came to pass that Ginger, Henry and Douglas dare William to find and capture his own lake monster.

Even William’s fertile imagination could not conceive that a pond on whose surface ducks and geese swam unmolested in large numbers, and in whose deepest places cows stood and ruminated at their leisure, could conceal a prehistoric monster.

William really gets on his high horse in this story:

“Worms are prehistoric,” said Henry, who was disconcertingly well informed. “I read about it in a book. Once everything was worms. There was nothing but worms. We were all worms.”
“Oh, shut up talking nonsense!” said William impatiently. “I bet you were a worm all right, but I jolly well wasn’t.”

But rather to William’s surprise, they do actually discover a monster in a local lake – the very lake on whose shores Robert is attempting to wow his new lady-love Melissa by feeding her interest in ghosts.

These two threads of story come together to Robert’s disadvantage.

The facts

“Seems to me,” said William bitterly, “no one wants to help Robert but me. You won’t let me go as his page or his butler or send him high-up letters, an’ you won’t even embroider coats of arms an’ things on his clothes. Well, I’ve done my best and I hope you won’t blame me if no one takes any notice of him there.”
Mrs Brown promised that she wouldn’t.

  • Number: 16.7 (halfway point!)
  • Published: 1934 (1933 in magazine form)
  • Book: William the Gangster
  • Synopsis: William tries to get Robert a girlfriend.


Robert is invited to a cricket week amongst aristocrats at Marleigh Manor, and worried about that his low social standing will be a drawback when he gets there. William tries to help out, by offering to go with Robert as a valet, by sending letters addressed to “Duke Robert Brown”, and – finally – by pretending to be a Scotland Yard agent and persuading an incredibly credulous young lady that Robert is a Russian prince who needs constant, round-the-clock bodyguarding.

“I’m a good deal older than what I look, of course. I’ve been kept small by Scotland Yard so as to be able to take on jobs like this.”

But then he uncovers a genuine crime and unintentionally gives Robert a chance to shine…

The facts

He began to haunt the Vicar, the doctor, the superintendent of the Sunday School, and the many elderly ladies of impeccable appearance who lived in the neighbourhood.

  • Number: 15.9
  • Published: 1933 (1932 in magazine form) – originally titled William the Star Detective
  • Book: William the Rebel
  • Synopsis: William has dark suspicions about one of Robert’s friends.


The policeman plunged his hand into Rupert’s coat pocket and brought out the folded paper that William had seen thrown upon the station platform.
“That’s it,” shouted William triumphantly. “Open it. You’ll find cocaine in it.”
The policeman had opened the paper and was slowly reading out the words that were written on it: “Translate II.260-360 and comment on the following constructions, giving parallel examples where possible.”

After reading a detective novel lent to him by Robert, William becomes convinced that his village is riddled with drug-pushers – the least likely suspects most likely.

But when Robert’s friend Rupert Bergson comes to stay, William knows he finally has a culprit to contend with: “his name in itself was almost a proof of guilt”.

But then, after witnessing the admittedly suspicious sight of Rupert collecting a parcel which had been thrown off a train to him before passing it to Robert, William knows that this time it’s personal.