Book name: William the Gangster
Author: Richmal Crompton
Publisher: George Newnes
Genre: Vintage children’s books
Publication Date: 1934
Star Rating: 5/5
The ‘Just William’ stories were incredibly popular with their young male readership when they were published between 1922 and 1970.
Like all the books bar one, William the Gangster is a collection of short stories. There are seven stories in this volume.
William Brown is still aged eleven, as he is destined to be throughout the full series of 38 books.
Most of the stories are set during the summer months, enabling William to get up to as much mischief as possible outdoors. However, one is casually set in the run up to Christmas.
The first story gives the book its title.
William and his gang of buddies have been fighting two other gangs of boys of the same age.
They call themselves ‘The Outlaws’, and they have worked very diligently to acquire an impressive array of weapons to use against the other gangs.
However, due to an over-zealous practice in William’s back garden, these weapons have been confiscated by Mr Brown and William’s pocket money has been suspended indefinitely.
This isn’t perhaps too surprising given that Mr Brown was soaked through and two windows were broken.
Now unarmed, William and the Outlaws are utterly at the mercy of the gangs led by Bertie Franks and Hubert Lane.
We know that William’s worries are serious when he cannot finish his strawberry jelly at teatime.
Matters worsen for the boy when he finds his mother talking to the Vicar’s wife in the drawing room.
The Vicar’s wife is planning to form a local branch of the United Nations Association. William listens in despair to her homilies, only to be struck by an idea of pure genius.
He suggests forming a junior branch in order to persuade all local boys to give up their weapons and live in peace with each other.
The meeting takes place, and the weapons of the other two gangs are duly gathered in. None of the boys quite has the courage to defy the Vicar’s wife.
William then sneaks round to where the weapons are and recovers them for his own gang! The Outlaws attack their foes with a vengeance using their own weapons.
I loved this story. Like all the best ‘Just William’ stories, it absolutely captures what it is to be an eleven-year-old boy. And somehow William comes out on top even though he seldom (if ever) deserves to do so.
There are six more stories in this volume, though two are linked in that the first part features a failed attempt to acquire half a crown to buy a football. Success is achieved only in the next story.
Not all the stories in William the Gangster involve William coming out on top or evading detection when he has been naughty. This was interesting, indicating that William is beginning to understand that luck will not always be on his side.
Each story was based around a distinct premise that made each one unique even though most were set in Hadley at around the same time.
This was a cracking volume of short stories. William is likeable, and the irony with which he manages to come out ahead most of the time sharpens the narrative.
The whole reading experience was very funny, and William the Gangster was incredibly well observed.
Thank you for reading my review.
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