Today I have been reading through the typescript of The Mystery of Holly Lane, from the Five Find-Outers series. I have been writing the catalogue description, and comparing the typescript against the published book. As with most of Blyton’s typescripts, the draft is pretty much identical to the published work. But I was struck by a brief marginal note in ink, on one of the pages. The note, in Blyton’s hand, reads: “Artist – please note that in this chapter Fatty has his overcoat on”. It appears mid-way through chapter 3, at the point where Mrs Trotteville is explaining to the gang that Chief Inspector Jenks is now Superintendent Jenks.
It is a curious anomaly to see a note like this to the illustrator. I have found no other examples of this in any of the other typescripts. It also seems a slightly curious place to insert such a note – why, at this particular point, is Blyton so concerned about Fatty’s overcoat? A few paragraphs further on, Mrs Trotteville does notice that the buttons on Fatty’s “tight overcoat” look as if they are about to burst off. Did Blyton know that this was going to be one of the scenes illustrated for the book, or was she drawing attention to the overcoat just in case? Had she previously been concerned by discrepancies between the text and the illustrations? Was she worried that the artist, in this case Treyer Evans, did not pay enough attention to the detail of her written descriptions? Why was it so important, at this point in this draft, to note this little detail for the illustrator?
I can only speculate as to her reasons, but whatever else it may or may not mean, it shows her attention to detail, her concern that everything about her books should be exactly right. She may have written her books quickly, but she certainly wasn’t careless about any of them!