(1880-1966) UK author and Methodist minister whose popular Uncle sequence of absurdist Children's Fantasies comprises Uncle (1964), Uncle Cleans Up (1965), Uncle and His Detective (1966), Uncle and the Treacle Trouble (1967), Uncle and Claudius the Camel (1969) and Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown (1973). Uncle is an elephant characterized by immense wealth, lofty rhetoric and exotic dressing-gowns. His residence is a fantastically elaborate Edifice called Homeward, set in a post-industrial Never-Never Land: its unexplored towers and outbuildings are full of strange machinery, secret doors and memorable eccentrics in the English Nonsense tradition (many of them Talking Animals). Nearby, in slum-like Badfort, the unregenerate Beaver Hateman and his gang swill "Black Tom", wear revolting sack outfits, scribble furiously in their "hating books", and continually harass Homeward's inhabitants: many comic clashes ensue. JPM has been accused of excessive violence (for example, Uncle's cartoon-like habit of kicking foes high into the air when provoked) and also of "classism" . . . but this is to miss the subversive elements. Lip-service is paid to Uncle's rank and privilege, yet he is gently revealed as pompous, patronizing and not terribly bright – while the opposition is full of clever schemes and entertainingly wicked energy.
The stories, originally narrated by JPM to his children, tend to be rambling and episodic: Uncle and His Detective, with its treasure hunt for "dlog" (a cryptogram which Uncle alone cannot unravel), perhaps comes closest to having a plot. JPM's daughter Helen Estella Currey edited the manuscripts left after his death, producing the three posthumous novels. All six books are quirkily and appropriately illustrated by Quentin Blake. [DRL]
J P Martin