From the age of 14, Roald Dahl‘s annual school reports bemoaned his inability to construct a grammatically correct sentence, let alone write a decent essay. Twelve years later, in 1942, when he was invalided out of the RAF, the writer C.S. Forester sought him out to write about his heroic and daring combat flying exploits. His first story, titled A Piece of Cake was published in the Saturday Evening Post, and many others followed in national magazines.
Once Dahl had run out of true stories, he started making them up. He enjoyed writing his children’s stories the most, and the popularity of these were (and still are) down to his never patronising his audience. He acknowledged children’s ability to understand dark humour, involving rudeness, naughtiness, nastiness, and a fascination for the scatological. He also dared to show just how beastly adults can be to children.
When my children were at primary school, they were given a reading list for the Summer holiday, which to their disgust banned all Roald Dahl books. …Why? Not because the stories were shocking or lacking in literary merit, but because his were the only novels the pupils would read, given a choice.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, to create something as enthralling and entertaining as Roald Dahl’s novels, which continued to instil a love of reading in children long after one’s death? Like Dahl, I got bad school reports, but that’s where the similarity ends. I did achieve passable marks in English and I haven’t done anything heroic enough for someone as prestigious as C.S. Forester to seek me out. That won’t stop me aspiring to emulate such a literary genius as Roald Dahl.