attempted crime fighting

The facts

“I don’t think you can get imprisoned for life for dangerous driving,” said Ginger.
“I bet this man could fix it,” said William. “I told you he’d stop at nothin’.”

  • Number: 37.6
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William tries to save Robert from prosecution for a minor motoring offence.


When Robert has a fairly unexciting road-rage altercation with a fellow motorist, William takes the matter to heart and is determined to save Robert from the life in prison that awaits bad drivers. He convinces himself that the fellow motorist obviously staged the whole thing for the sole reason of getting Robert ‘out of the way’.

“William, what on earth’s happened to your clothes?” gasped Mrs Brown in horror.
William glanced down at his clothes. “Jus’… jus’ normal wear an’ tear, I ’spect,” he said.
“William, it couldn’t be.”
William appeared to consider deeply. “Well,” he said, “it might… it jus’ might be a bit of cement.”

He eventually abandons this fantasy as untenable, and instead sets out to “melt his heart” and persuade him not to turn Robert in.

In the course of melting his heart they manage to half-destroy his house, but all turns out well when they’re able to help him when he least expects it…

The facts

“What’s that thing he said we hadn’t got any of?” said William.
“Initiative,” said Henry.
“Oh…” said William. “What is it?”
“Doin’ things without bein’ told to,” said Henry.
“Gosh!” said William in surprise. “Seems to me we’re always doin’ that.

  • Number: 37.5
  • Published: 1968
  • Book: William the Superman
  • Synopsis: William founds a new society bent on finding adventure.


The headmaster has given the entire school a motivational talk, and, although William rather missed its point (“I thought he was talkin’ about takin’ an interest in world affairs an’ not jumpin’ over his tulip bed”), Henry was paying close attention. He heard the suggestion that the boys get together and create some extra-curricular societies to promote responsibility, industry and other desirable qualities.

William is well up for this.

“We’ll have an Adventure Society,” he said.
“What’ll we do in it?” said Douglas.
“Adventures,” said William simply.

“Now we’ve got to take an oath,” said William. “They always take oaths in secret societies. You can make up the oath, Henry. You’re better at long words than us.”
“All right,” said Henry. He cleared his throat impressively then raised his right hand. “I swear never to betray the secrets of the Adventure Society an’… an’ to carry out all its adventures” – he paused, at a loss momentarily for words, then remembered the heading on one of his mother’s tradesmen’s bills – and ended, “promptly and efficiently.”

There is some concern that Mr French, the form-master, may not be a fan of this plan, but William isn’t worried. “Ole Frenchie can’t stop us if the headmaster says we ought to. It would be mutiny.”

After agreeing a constitution for the Society (“Deadly weapons may be used but axshul murder not allowed”) they proceed to appoint Officers:

“We ought to elect a President, an’ Secretary an’ Treasurer,” said Henry.
“Well, there’s no time for that,” said William, “so I’ll be all of ’em.”

And the Adventure Society is open for business, with its first mission being the slightly vague one of fighting crime. Naturally, the person who falls most under their suspicion, after his cruel refusal to permit the Society to exist at all, is Mr French.

They cause a fair bit of chaos, but Mr French – and his new fiancée – isn’t too peeved.

The facts

“He’s been playin’ ‘Mothers an’ Fathers’ with her,” said Henry, disgustedly.
“It makes you sick,” said Ginger.
“He’s not been out with us for days,” said Henry.
“An’ Douglas!” said William. “Douglas, that never knew what to do without us till now!”

Note: today is the anniversary of Richmal Crompton’s death in 1969; zichrona livracha.


Douglas has the rare honour of being the only Outlaw, besides William, to have a story named after him. And, indeed, the only Outlaw besides William to have the ‘great experience’ of infatuation with a girl of the female persuasion.

In equal parts disgusted and pitying, the others resolve to win Douglas back – before any real danger should befall him:

“It happened to Anthony an’ Cleopatra. She got him right down same as Patsy’s got Douglas an’ that was the end of him.”
“What was the end?” said William.
“He killed himself an’ she got stung by a snake.”
“That’s jolly serious,” said William. “We don’t want that sort of thing to happen to ole Douglas.”

“You’re really rather glad it’s over, aren’t you,
Douglas?” said Henry.
“Well, it was a bit of a tie,” admitted Douglas. “but…” he sighed deeply, “it was a great experience.”

Their intervention takes the form of trying to make the girl’s father appear to be a criminal. Douglas, being a very law-abiding soul, would then naturally break off the relationship. Equally naturally, William convinces himself that Mr Willingham genuinely is a criminal and gets somewhat confused between fact and fiction.

On the downside, the boys drop his box of indoor fireworks into a water tank (believing it to be a bomb); on the upside, Douglas is indeed cured.