When I moved to Blair in late 2003, I worked on a book that was called
A Literary Casebook. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson investigated the strange cases of famous male writers of their era: John Ruskin, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy and J.M. Barrie. Very strange cases.

My agent, Ed Jaspers of Conville and Walsh, tried manfully to get a publisher but didn't even come close. So, in late 2004, I adjusted my literary periscope - looked through it from the other end - and came up with a take on Enid Blyton, which Ed did find a publisher for. Philip Gwyn Jones at Portobello Books, the bold editor who first published Magnus Mills.

Looking For Enid

The Mysterious and Inventive Life of Enid Blyton
Portobello Books

Dust-jacket blurb from the hardback edition pictured below:

'ENID BLYTON gave us the Famous Five and Fatty's Find-Outers, the Enchanted Wood and the Wishing Chair. Some of us, encouraged by austere critics, have pretended no longer to want what Enid gave. We have pretended that we were not once upon a time enthralled by every book she wrote, all 600+ of them. We have chosen to forget how much we loved the time we spent in their company. And we have feigned disdain. Now Duncan McLaren offers lapsed devotees the possibility of honest redemption. If you're willing to acknowledge that Enid Blyton once mattered, enormously, to you, you are warmly invited to accompany Duncan and Kate on an adventure that will investigate what made Enid Enid and endeavour to reach the source of her torrent of stories, the stories that came when she was "letting her mind go free".'

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The Blyton collection of Enid's daughter, Gillian, was sold at auction in 2011. I bought the set of Fatty and the Find Outers books, partly because each chapter in my book ends with a pastiche of this series. Some of Gillian's collection was originally her mother's. At the front of The Mystery of the Hidden House, its author has written in ink: "This book belongs to Enid Blyton. Please return to Green Hedges, Beaconsfield." Well, sorry Enid, but the book is staying in Blairgowrie for now.

Press quotes:
'Looking for Enid opens with an ambiguity: is it Enid Blyton's life that is properly described as 'mysterious and inventive' in its subtitle, or Duncan McLaren's 'Life' of Blyton? Both, in fact, as the present author undertakes his search for the past author in a curious and constructive, or reconstructive, way. McLaren keeps his childhood delight in the story, while giving free rein to an adult investigation of its sources. Sources and forces - erotic, therapeutic, but never too serious – are what animate his book, as he goes about the business of getting to the bottom of Blyton with charm and ingenuity. The effect of Looking for Enid's abundant idiosyncrasies is disorientating, illuminating and entertaining, affording a way into all manner of mysteries, enchantments and secrets.'
Patricia Craig, The Independent

'Hurrah for Little Noddy! Hurrah for Enid Blyton! And Hurrah for Duncan McLaren's horribly hilarious, hideously brilliant quest to discover what made Enid tick. Believe me I laughed so hard at one point that I spat out the vodka - oops! I mean ginger beer – that I was sipping, and drenched my dog… With irony skipping pixie-like across every page, his entire book is a wicked wind up.'
Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail

'Looking For Enid is a romp around the various Blytonian sites. It's cheerful and inventive – packed with pastiche, imaginary encounters and literary criticism. Imagine Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with lashings of ginger beer instead of hallucinogenics.'
Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Times

'McLaren's background as a respected writer on the many sillinesses of contemporary art practice suits him well in this whimsical, often hilarious examination of Blyton's life and work. Starting with Proust, McLaren ends with the claim that Blyton is up there with Isaac Newton. To his credit, we are never quite sure whether he is being serious or playing an extended jeu d'esprit.'
Marc Lambert, Scotland on Sunday

'There is something moving about this enterprise. McLaren, a genuine enthusiast, readily refers to "the trainspotting sector of my brain" and maintains an ironic awareness of what he is doing. '
Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian

The book can be bought
here on Amazon.

The adventure continues on my Enid Blyton site, where - amongst other things - I discover where Fatty lived (where Fatty forever lives) and interview Enid Blyton shortly before the end of her life.