The Amazing Mr Blunden came as an added extra with the new bluray edition of the film from Second Sight. Emil and the Detectives I found for €1 in a second hand shop in Haarlem, yellowed and forlorn, and right at the back of the building on a pile of other books nobody else was interested in.
Emil was published in 1929; Mr Blunden in 1969. Here’s the funny thing though; for me they read as though it’s the other way round. I found Mr Blunden rather a trudge, with the story continually slowing down for acres of internal musings by the characters. Only at the end, when a fire takes hold and the children’s lives are in danger, does action take precedence over thinking. It’s a short book, but it feels a lot longer.
Emil is even shorter, but it just belts along, packed with coincidence and convenient, not say unbelievable, plot twists. (I doubt a publisher in the world would accept such a storyline today. Small children? Taking a train ride alone? Hanging around outside a big city hotel to catch a pickpocket? On their own?) Yet the characters are lively, the pace never lets up, and it’s all such innocent fun you couldn’t care less. I can’t think why I never took the time to read it before.