Most Sindy doll collectors are aware that the Sindy, Paul and Patch dolls starred in adventures in comic strips and short stories published in magazines and annuals such ‘June’ in the 1960’s. However, many people are not aware that Sindy and co. also featured in a set of six full-length adventure novels.
The books first appeared in the 1966/67 catalogue and are described as ‘six great adventure stories,’ ‘with colourful pictures galore.’ The colourful pictures are actually two colour sketches by Daphne Rowles but they are carefully detailed and the characters are shown in actual outfits such as ‘Dream Date,’ ‘Birthday Party’ and ‘London Look’. Each book also has an interesting, colour cover illustration depicting a scene from the book, although they’re not always entirely accurate to the story. ‘Adventures with your teenage favourite’ is printed on each book.
The books were published by Young World Productions Ltd. but made and printed in the Netherlands by N.V. Drukkerji Bosch, Utrect. There are no authors credited, and while the books stick to a basic formula, it’s clear they were written by at least two different hands. There are a few editing problems, typography errors and even a couple of continuity errors but these don’t get in the way of a good story.
Judging by these stories, Sindy and Patch are nomadic orphans, as their parents are not mentioned in any of the books, but we do meet a raft of friends and relatives with whom the girls travel the world and find adventure. With the exception of one book, Sindy is generally depicted as an outgoing, independent young woman, while Patch is described as a daring ten year old.
The stories offer up lessons in manners, geography and history as well as an insight into life in the sixties. Sindy, Paul and Patch dance to the latest records, entertain themselves by listening to the radio, doing jigsaws and playing ping-pong. The language and grammar is a world away from what we use today and it’s plainly obvious that political correctness is not a 1960’s concept. The male characters make themselves scarce whenever there is any cooking, cleaning or other work to be done and characters utter language that no one would even consider printing in this day and age. So, here is a brief synopsis of each of the Sindy adventure novels.
The Curious Clock: A clock with a deadly secret, a mysterious Italian Count, and a daring car chase start the Sindy Adventure Stories in fine style. We find Sindy and Patch in London staying with Sindy’s model friend Cressida. We also learn that Paul lives in a London flat with his friend Tom Saunders. While at an auction to buy Patch a tennis racket (because sports stores are so passé?), Sindy successfully bids on a 17th century ‘clock of foreign design’. The intrigue begins when those who come into close contact with the clock – including Paul – have fainting spells. The clock is stolen before the mysterious illness can be investigated, but finding an important clue, Sindy and Paul are off to the police. Patch, meanwhile, decides to ‘play detective’ and travels alone across London to the unsavoury ‘Rat Wharf’ where she sneaks into a derelict house to free a stranger she finds bound and gagged. Not bad for a 10 year old. Sindy, Paul, Patch and the mysterious Count Fersson, follow the police and after a daring and dangerous car chase through the London streets, it’s Paul and Patch who eventually tackle the crook. The Curious Clock is donated to a Naples museum and the adventure is over in time for a late lunch. Sindy is depicted liberated young woman, picking Paul up in her little red sports car, causing him to declare that Sindy is the ‘only girl driver he felt comfortable with.’ (Hmmmm!) The dialogue is great too, with statements such as ‘Isn’t Cressida the limit!’ and Count Fersson speaking in equally dodgy Italian and English.
Down Texas Way: The Wild West, cowboys and a precious Pekinese pooch are the ingredients of this adventure. We discover Sindy works for Paul’s Aunt Martha Blackwood, at her dog breeding kennels. Sindy, Patch and ‘favourite nephew’ Paul fly to Texas with ‘intrepid’ Aunt Martha to deliver Yo Yo, a Crufts dog show champion Pekinese, to a Texas millionaire who has paid several thousand dollars for the dog. Patch is disappointed in Fort Worth as she ‘thought it was a fort built to keep the Red Indians in order.’ Very PC – not! On the way to the millionaire’s ranch Yo Yo runs away and The Sindy Set are soon off on his trail. The search leads to a stay at Ma Curry’s ranch, which gives Patch a chance to meet real cowboys. On yet another dangerous solo caper Patch nearly gets caught in a cattle stampede. Before he can be found poor Yo Yo is dog-napped and Sindy, Paul and Patch must rescue him, help capture an escaped criminal and deliver the little dog to millionaire Briscoe Hartman. This book is full of stereotypical characters with the cowboys described as ‘real, old-time cowboys…’ ‘both with bandy legs, lantern jaws and weather beaten faces.’ The Texan drawl lends for some great dialogue with Yo Yo being referred to as a ‘dorg’ and cowboys riding on a ‘hoss.’
Lighthouse Mystery: If there’s an odd book out in the series, this is it. Paul is completely absent and a lot of the focus is on Patch. It’s Patch that is credited with the ideas and most of the action and adventure early in the book. The age of Patch and Sindy is somewhat confusing in this book too. Both are referred to as children but no actual reference to age is made. While it seems Patch may be her 10-year-old self, Sindy appears much younger than in other books. At one time she is seeking ‘boys and girls of our own age’ yet one of the children is stated as being 13 years old. She is just not portrayed as the confident young woman she is in other books. The story sees Sindy and Patch staying with their uncle, Mr English, at Downs Farm, Downscombe. After the gymkhana is rained out, the girls accompany their uncle to a property auction and Patch accidentally buys a Lighthouse for 20 pounds – as you do. The girls restore the building, and here we learn that Patch is an accomplished carpenter, declaring that she will build any furniture that they will need. Sindy thinks her sister is being, ‘a bit ambitious’ (no kidding?). She, ‘knew Patch did carpentry at school but she never bothered to think how well she did it’. Patch also takes on the task of fixing gutters and the roof of the shed adjoining the lighthouse. Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents (but no mention of the girl’s parents) send gifts including furniture kits that are so easy, ‘Even you could do it Sindy.’ The Lighthouse is turned into a holiday camp for children with, ‘No grownups allowed.’ The girls and their guests find a smugglers well, manage to light their ‘Tobias Light’ when the newer ‘Gulls Light’ fails and rescue the injured lighthouse keeper. Even the dialogue in Lighthouse Mystery is off the mark, with Patch often declaring, ‘Squawks!’ or ‘How whizzo!’ The corniest line in the whole book however, is awarded to a ships captain who exclaims ‘My! My! My! Splice the mainbrace!’
The Lone Swimmer: A summer holiday on the island of Capri is the setting for this adventure. Sindy wins a holiday for herself and Patch in a magazine general knowledge competition, while Paul had booked a holiday with a friend who had to cancel. Salvatore the fisherman tells The Sindy Set tales of a mysterious swimmer that the locals call ‘L’Uomo’ – ‘The old man of the sea’, who steals food from local gardens. The gang are sure this is just another Capri fiction the locals tell to interest the tourists but after a series of incidents that possibly involve L’Uomo, the gang start to wonder if he is real after all. Finally Sindy encounters L’Uomo in the grounds of the hotel and discovers he is an Englishman who has lost his memory. While the police begin an investigation, Sindy, Paul and Patch decide they must help a ‘fellow countryman’ without involving the Italian police who, ‘might not be very gentle in their methods…’ Again, very un-PC. Determined to solve the mystery they manage to discover L’Uomo’s identity, rescue him, get shot at and finally surrender to police having solved the mystery. There is a not-quite-so-obvious case of disappearing/reappearing Patch thanks to a continuity error and she has near death experience (again) when she nearly drowns. There are lots of references to the sights and sounds of Capri and of course lots of half-English, half-Italian dialogue.
Desert Escapade: Perhaps a better title for this book would have been ‘The amazing appearing/disappearing Patch’ due to a huge continuity error. Despite this, the romance of an exotic African location, a rich desert Sheik, and a stable of Arabian horses make for a great adventure. Sindy and Patch are staying for some months in Algeria with their Aunt Lucy who has travelled to a warm climate for her health. Sindy’s boyfriend Paul – who Sindy declares is, ‘such good fun, and so reliable,’ arrives in Algeria with his father who has business in Algiers. Sindy saves a runaway Arabian stallion, discovering it belongs to Sheik Ibn Mensour from the oasis of Ouled Negrine. It’s not long before Sindy and Paul have been invited to the oasis to meet with the Sheik and to ride his horses. However, two mysterious Frenchman, one of whom has too much interest in Sindy for Paul’s liking, seem up to no good and after some detective work, The Sindy Set discover a plot to nobble the Sheik’s horses before the Fantasia, a desert horse event. With the help of Patch’s admirer, Ali, and his donkey, Shalimar, the plot is foiled, the Sheik in their debt and everyone enjoys the Fantasia. Some of Sindy’s outfits including ‘Dream Date’ and ‘Pony Club’ are described. Patch again risks life and limb in a dangerous solo caper, climbing a scorpion infested rock pillar (is there anything this child can’t do?). The romance between Sindy and Paul is very much in focus, with Paul declaring, ‘What a girl.’
Haunted Island: This adventure finds Sindy, Paul, Patch, and Sindy’s married friends Jack and Helen Mead off for a month’s holiday on the west coast Scottish Isle of Tolsta. We learn the reason for one of Sindy’s ‘Bridesmaid’ outfits; she was Jack and Helen’s bridesmaid. The island is inhabited only by the caretaker Angus, ‘a queer ‘un,’ his, ‘queer as well as deaf’ wife Jean and a few goats. The gang learn that the island is often let, ‘but the parties didna stay long!’ Soon after settling into the big old house on the island a series of mysterious happenings have Sindy and her friends on their toes. A painting changes, a large rock is found in a hall, strange shouts and a moving clock have the friends thinking of poltergeists and ghosts. Helen is anxious to leave but Sindy is determined to explain the strange goings on, stating, ‘I hate being beaten by a mystery.’ They set out to find the person responsible for the weird events and eventually piece together the cause of the mystery, uncovering a smuggling ring (yes, another one) in the process. The isolated Scottish location and the strange happenings are suitably spooky and Angus’s colourful dialogue is written with a thick accent, ‘Ye hae the run o’ the hoose…’ making this is another great mystery-adventure.
These books are great fun and an interesting item to add to your collection. So, as the slogan says: ‘Start your Sindy library now!’