Full-length Novels

The Black Riders

Illustrated by Anne Bullen. Collins, 1939; Collins (Crown Library), 1954; Collins (Junior Fontana paperback), 1956; Collins (Evergreen Library), 1967; Collins (Armada Lion paperback), 1971; Girls Gone By Publishers, 2005; Stockholm, Ljus, 1947, as Svarta ryttarna, translated by Gundia Johansson.

From the jacket of the 1939 edition:

Here is a book with all the ingredients best beloved by children — adventure, excitement, romance — for it tells of an eleven-year-old hero's thrilling experiences among conspirators in a European state. The state is ruled by Count Jasper, Governor of the Citadel, and his troop of Black Riders. Dick, the young hero, falls in with Jasper's enemy, known as 1'ar Away Moses, because he is always far away when the police and secret service think they can catch him. The password is "Fortitude" — and Dick needs it. He has to journey alone among dark forests and castles and unknown hills. Sometimes he rinds a shepherd to help him; another time he finds friends among the circus people. Sometimes he travels by train, sometimes by wagon, sometimes on a donkey. But whatever happens his messages must get through.

This story transports the young reader to another world from which he or she will be very reluctant to return. It is delightfully illustrated by Anne Bullen who has entered into the spirit of it all, and who portrays Dick's adventures as vividly as Miss Needham describes them.

and from cover of the Armada paperback:edition:

The Black Riders! Dick had always dreamt of the day when he could be one of them. They stood for courage and honour, especially their commander, Jasper the Terrible. His name was feared throughout the land, for his will was made of iron and he knew no mercy.

But now that Dick has allied himself with Far Away Moses and the Confederates, the Black Riders are his sworn enemy. Dick is entrusted with secret missions that demand bravery and endurance far beyond his years -he is often perilously close to capture. And when he comes face to face with Jasper the Terrible, his courage and loyalty are tested even more strongly -but fortitude is the password of the Confederates...

and from another more modern edition:

THE BLACK RIDERS was the first of Violet Needham's exciting stories about the young boy Dick (better known as the Stormy Petrel), and his adventures among the conspirators of a European state ruled by Count Jasper, Governor of the Citadel.

It tells how Dick falls in with Jasper's enemy, known as Far Away Moses because he is always far away when the police and secret service think they can catch him. The password is " Fortitude " — and Dick needs it on his long journey alone among dark forests and castles and unknown hills. Sometimes he finds a shepherd to help him; another time he finds friends among the circus people. Sometimes he travels by train, sometimes by wagon, sometimes on a donkey. But whatever happens his message must get through.

Here is a story that will transport you to another world from which you will be very reluctant to return.

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The Emerald Crown

Illustrated by Anne Bullen. Collins, 1940; Collins (Crown Library), 1952; Collins (Evergreen Library), l970; Vicenza, Paoline, 1954, as La Corona di Smeraldi, translated by Aldo Fulizio, illustrated by Manuel Barbato.

From the jacket of the 1944 edition:

ANY children will remember Miss Needham's book of last Christmas, 'The Black Riders', which proved such a success; as the Junior Book Club wrote in recommending it, “For sheer excitement The Black Riders must be awarded very high marks.” This year the same author gives us The Emerald Crown, a stirring tale of a boy and girl in the Kingdom of Flavonia. There is unrest in the country when Alex arrives from England to spend his holidays with the young Countess Pixie. The people are ruled by a usurper, but the rumour is still strong among them that the real heir to the throne is still alive. Some say they have seen a star fall over the mountains, which signifies the return of the Prince of Valens to the throne. Pixie knows these tales, and is determined to find the Emerald Crown, without which the rightful King cannot be acclaimed. But who is the rightful King ? The peasants know, for they bow their knees; the servants know, for they stare strangely. How Pixie and Alex rind out makes an exciting story full of intrigues and adventures, of drives through the snow and rides through the forests, of loyal friends and dangerous enemies. Anne Bullen adds to the colourful background with pictures of galloping horses, mountains and castles, escapes and discoveries, and final triumph.

and from cover of the Evergreen paperback:edition:

The lost Crown of Valens! "When the snows have melted and the birds are singing in the woods the King will take the Emerald Crown. The Trollacs hold it, a Trollac finds it, but only the King can take it" To young Pixie Trollac, her grandmother's prophecy seemed like a dream, a wonderful dream if the lost Crown were to be found near Trollac Castle and a King restored to the vacant throne.

But Pixie was more immediately concerned with the arrival of the strange boy from England -Alexander. What was the mystery surrounding him? Why did the people around the castle react so strangely when they saw him?

Pixie feels she can fulfil the prophecy-but she needs help, and that help is cruelly refused her. The way is beset with dangers, which only courage and an honest heart can overcome.

Violet Needham tells a thrilling tale, set against the romantic background of Trollsgarde and the kingdom of Flavonia.

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The Stormy Petrel

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1942; Tom Stacey, 1971.

THE STORMY PETREL is another story about Dick, the hero of The Black Riders; another story with the same popular ingredients, adventure, excitement, and romance; another story and an even better one. The rightful heir to the throne of a powerful European state, is a sixteen-year-old boy who is ill and unpopular and lives in fear of being murdered. Bit by bit, with great ingenuity and patience, Dick, who is called the Stormy Petrel because he always seems to turn up when there is trouble brewing, unravels the plot. Suspicious noises are heard at night from the king's bedroom; a small boy is found crying on the edge of the forest; there is a man with a hare lip, and a Jewish bookseller, all add something to The Stormy Petrel's store of information, till at last he is able to save the king's life and regain for him the favour of his people.

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The Horn of Merlyns

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1943;  Collins (Crown Library), 1956; Collins (Crown Library), 1956; Stockholm, B. Wahlstrm, 1951, as Tvillingarna och trollhornet, translated by Holger Norelius.

In The Horn of Merlyns Violet Needham has written a story of mounting excitement. The chief characters are twins, a boy and girl of eleven, christened Giles and Gillian Alvington but called Jack and Gill. They were orphaned when they were six, and the death of their grandmother is the cause of their moving from a cramped existence in London to the enjoyment of all the pleasures of life in a country house. The house is named Merlyns and it has been in the family for many generations. It is said to be cursed, and the story of the curse is bound up in the loss of an ivory horn. Certainly the latter history of the Alvingtons seems to prove the truth of the old story of a curse. But it is also said that on Midsummer Eve " twain shall the magic Horn retrieve," and this is what the twins accomplish.

Readers of Violet Needham's earlier books Stormy Petrel, The Emerald Crown and The Black Riders know how well she tells a story of adventure. In The Horn of Merlyns the thrills of whispered magic, and the enchantment of the lovely setting of house, garden, woods and ponies is added to a lively story of hazard and daring.

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The Woods of Windri

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1944; Collins (Seagull Library), 1958; Jane Nissen Books, 2003.

From the jacket of the 1944 edition:

The WOODS OF WINDRI is a tale of the past with knights, monks, bandits and warriors flitting across the scene. Windri Abbey and Windri Castle contend for possession of the person of the boy, Theodore Felix Amadeus. The boy plays a major part in unmasking a plot to murder the Count of Monte Lucio, who is wooing Phillippa of Windri, and In thwarting the designs of the criminals. He is helped in his strange adventures by a hermit and by the Lord of Windri's little daughter, Magdalen, sister to Phillippa. The scene is laid partly in the great fortress of Windri Castle, partly in the southern state of Monte Lucio, but the background of the whole is the vast forest, known as the Woods of Windri, the woods that are kind and warm to “Windri folk,” but charged with mysterious fear and menace to strangers.

and from cover of a more modern :edition:

THE Lord of Windri has two daughters; Philippa, the elder; who is betrothed to the Count of Monte Lucio, and Magdalen, the tomboy, who has ' rough hoydenish ways ' and who is forever slipping out from the Castle to her beloved Woods of Wind n. And it is on one of these forbidden expeditions that she meets Theo who has run away from the Abbot of Windri and desires to be taken into the Lord of Windri*s service, Magdalen's father takes an instant liking to the lad and decides to make him a page in his household. This decision is proved to be very wise, for it is Theo who discovers that there is evil afoot in the Castle of Windri and. he who finally brings the criminals to justice.

Violet Needham's stirring tales of the past, are rich in colourful atmosphere and excitement, and The Woods of Windri with us mystery, danger and suspense, is one of the best she has ever written.

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The House of the Paladin

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1945; Collins (Crown Library), [1952]; Collins (Seagull Library), 1957.

The House of the Paladin is the tale of a lovely medieval castle and its chatelaine, the beautiful little Duchess Anastasia of Ornawitza, the boy-king Alexander, and the young English boy, Hugh Vallence, descendant of the House of Valens whose motto so aptly was "Quit you like men."

When the story opens the two friends Henry Hillman and Hugh Vallence are travelling together during their school holidays. The sudden and unexpected recall of Henry leaves Hugh alone and open to all the exciting adventures which befall him.

The account of the trials of Anastasia, her courage and resourcefulness in the face of the devilish schemes of her wicked uncle the Marquis Miglione and the part played by the romantic figure Dick Fauconbois, "The Stormy Petrel," are full of excitement and thrills and the suspense is sustained until the very end.

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The Changeling of Monte Lucio

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1946; Collins (Crown Library), 1953; Collins (Evergreen Library), 1968; Collins (Armada Lion paperback), 1971; Vicenza, Paoline, 1954, as I Conti di Monte Lucio, translated by C. Bignoli, illustrated by Manuel Barbato.

From the jacket of the 1946 edition:

THE CHANGELING OF MONTE LUCIO is the story of Philip, Count of Monte Lucio, and his twin brother, Hugo. The Changeling, a name given by his enemies in mockery of his curious appearance and difficult temperament, is a passionate, headstrong character of intelligence and perception. His guardians and relations, who cordially dislike him, are intriguing to depose him and set his twin brother in his place, and a gipsy's prophecy that the dark one, Hugo, shall rule, though the fair one, Philip, shall attain the greater fame leads the populace to believe that Hugo is the destined ruler. Hugo, devoted to his brother, gives no countenance to the suggestion and Philip, aware of the intrigues against him also discovers another plot to oust both himself and Hugo from their inheritance. His measures to foil the aim of both parties are undertaken with the help of his friends and kinsmen, Richard de Chateaufort and Roger of Windri and his jester, Boniface, also plays his part.

The story unfolds partly in the city of Monte Lucio, where the Changeling spies on the 'Sandalmen' as the conspirators call themselves, and partly in Windri Castle, whither he goes to enlist the aid of Roger of Windri, and partly at Windri Abbey. Here at the Abbey in the midst of the Woods of Windri the saintly Abbot guides the Changeling's wrong-headed, though unselfish ideas, into the way of peace and fulfilment. The final issue is fought out in the great Battle of the Plain, where a well-timed cavalry charge headed by Philip and Roger of Windri tips the scale of victory in favour of right and justice. Nevertheless the gipsy's prophecy is fulfilled in that the dark one rules, but the fair one has the greater fame.

and from a more modern edition:

The Changeling was the name given to Philip, Count of Monte Lucio, in mockery of his curious appearance and headstrong character. Philip had a twin brother, Hugo, who though devoted to Philip was the victim of a scheme to make him ruler in place of his twin.

Philip was aware of the intrigues against him and discovered yet another plot to oust both himself and Hugo from their inheritance. His measures to foil the aims of the schemes are described with Violet Needham's usual skill and verve.

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The Bell of the Four Evangelists

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1947; Collins (Crown Library), 1953.


THIS story tells of the unravelling of a mystery, and like other books by Violet Needham, is not easy to stop reading. The heroine, a small girl called Penelope, feels that there is some strange secret about Marvel's Folly from the moment that she goes to stay in the old house with her invalid cousin. "Queer things happen by moonlight and the owl's cry," the old gardener warned her, and as the summer passes events become more and more intriguing and very certainly queer.

In the same exciting tradition as Black Riders and The Changeling of Monte Lucio this is a book that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls.

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The Boy in Red

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1948; Collins (Crown Library), [1952].

IT was in a picturesque house in Holland that Violet Needham first saw the Boy in Red. He stood in an old picture, debonair in a scarlet tunic, with a falcon on his wrist and a pheasant's feather in his cap. The picture left a haunting impression on Miss Needham's imagination, and gradually she wove around it a fitting story of action and romance in a far-away age.

In this book the Boy in Red comes to life as Maurice St. Annalands, page to William the Silent, the heroic leader of the Netherlands in the fight for freedom. Among many daring exploits he carries messages through the enemy lines, becomes entangled with a beautiful Spanish Duchess, and saves the life of his Prince at the siege of Antwerp.

The adventures which Miss Needham attributes to her young hero are inspired by the many tales of devoted loyalty and high courage which characterised even the youngest in 16th-century Holland. The Boy in Red will probably rank as the most exciting of Violet Needham's ever popular books.

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The Betrayer

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1950; Collins (Seagull Library), 1957; Children’s Book Club, n.d.

THIS book has been written at the request of many children who wanted to know what happened to the Stormy Petrel after his adventures in Black Riders, The Stormy Petrel and The House of the Paladin. The first story told how Dick joined the confederates, and this one ends with a member of the confederation, long since broken up, betraying all it had stood for. It is a story of divided loyalties in which many old friends take part : Jasper the Terrible, his daughter Judith, Far Away Moses, Dame Martha, Anastasia, the Emperor Carol. Only Dick, however, is able to see the whole story, and, torn by conflicting allegiances, has to face his hardest decision. It is for him a bitter experience and involves tragedy, but the Stormy Petrel at last flies free to follow the alluring figure of Adventure wherever it may beckon.

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Pandora of Parrham Royal

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1951.

WHEN Pandora comes to Parrham Royal she finds many problems and a strange mystery facing her. During the war years she and her mother had lived and worked with a band, of guerrillas in Greece. After her mother's tragic death she comes to England to live with her father, whom she barely remembers, and her cousins, whom she does not know at all. It is not easy to take her place in the household, and she has also to solve the riddle of the ancient temple on the hill and the treasure which may be hidden there. Over all is the uncanny influence of the Greek God Dionysus; and Pandora has need of a cool head and high courage, for she has to make decisions which may bring happiness to those she loves or may involve them all in terrible disaster.

Violet Needham has long been a favourite author, and in this book she is at her best, telling a story which will hold enthralled every imaginative and mystery-loving child.

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The Avenue

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1952; Collins, 1957.

WHEN Mary becomes the ward of Sir Peregrine and Lady Hamlyn she finds-for the first time in her life-true affection. But 1688 is a year of unrest, and this new security is destroyed when they learn that a warrant has been issued against Sir Peregrine for high treason and that law officers have taken possession of Hamlyn Manor. Regretfully leaving Mary behind, Lady Hamlyn flees to join her husband, whom she believes to be in Holland. But Sir Peregrine has already left for England in order to collect some vital papers for the Prince of Orange. With him he brings Dirck, young descendant of The Boy in Red, who longs to do deeds of valour as did his famous ancestor. The papers are hidden in Hamlyn Manor, so the odds against Sir Peregrine retrieving them and escaping with his life seem insurmountably high. But both Mary and Dirck are determined to help him, and though there are many things to fill them with fear, they have the courage and loyalty to persevere. For Mary particularly it is a time of great tribulation, but at last she wins her way to the avenue of her dreams and can run up it with a carefree heart to those who wait to give her happiness.

Those who have followed the adventures of the Stormy Petrel in Black Riders, House of the Paladin and The Betrayer, and who have read the other favourites which include Pandora of Parrham Royal and The Boy In Red, will find THE AVENUE to be one of the best books this author has given us.

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How Many Miles to Babylon?

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1953.

CLAUDE GILROY lived quietly with his father, an architect, in the country, and it came as an unpleasant surprise to him when he was suddenly told one day that a girl would be coming to live with them. Claude hadn't much use for girls, and though when Miranda arrived (for that was her name) he did his utmost to be kind to her, he was not best pleased by the change in their lives. Gradually Claude, like the rest of the household, became intrigued with Miranda's strange, often wilful ways and by her constant harping on the old nursery rhyme,

How many miles to Babylon ?
Three score and ten. Can I get there by candle-light ?
Yes, and back again.

This rhyme was linked in her confused mind with the tragedy of her father, a composer, who had just died and her mother whom she could barely remember. It was also linked to a haunting melody composed by her father that she used to play endlessly on the piano, but whose conclusion had never been written. The story of how the tune ended, and how Miranda eventually arrived at Babylon, forms the plot of Miss Needham's new story, and it will keep many of her devoted readers, particularly the older ones, entranced and captivated till the last page.

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Adventures at Hampton Court

Illustrated by Will Nickless. Lutterworth Press, 1954.

Julian Massingham is a boy who comes to live at Hampton Court Palace with his mother. Miss Needham tells the story of the palace from its first building by Cardinal Wolsey to the time of Charles I, who was imprisoned at Hampton Court and who escaped from it; all this is seen through the eyes of Julian, who in his dreams goes back into history, and as a royal page sees Henry VIII, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and young Edward VI; and as a young actor takes part in the splendid entertainments of the first James and Charles.

It is a storybook of adventures in history, set in Hampton Court as it is and as it was: exciting, vivid, true stories of a real place which many thousands of children visit every year.

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Richard and the Golden Horse Shoe

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1954.

FOR THE past fifteen years thousands of readers have thrilled to the adventures of the Stormy Petrel, of Count Jasper and his troop of Black Riders, of Far Away Moses and of the young and lively Anastasia, Duchess of Ornowitza. Many have wondered what, later events befell these splendid characters and it is for this reason that Violet Needham has written Richard and the Golden Horse Shoe, This story tells of equally thrilling adventures, of plot and counterplot within the Empire, of sudden and hasty journeys, of pursuits and of escapes. A rebel party is planning to supplant Anastasia by the young Count Tancred Feradio. In this they are opposed not only by the Stormy Petrel himself but by young Richard, son of the Count Jasper who was once the Stormy Petrel's sworn enemy. The story of the adventures Richard encounters while bringing a message, vital to the safety of the Empire, through the lines of the enemy, makes inspired reading.

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The Great House of Estraville

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins, 1955.

A DIFFICULT, dangerous, and in many ways mysterious search nearly always makes a good story. When it is described by a storyteller with Violet Needham's gift for keeping her readers in a state of suspense and wonder, it makes a very good story indeed. The setting is that same far, romantic country in which the adventures of The Stormy Petrel and The Changeling of Monte Lucio happened. The Estraville family are in trouble. How can their estate among the mountains and forests with its Great House, its gardens and farms-be kept up? Their fortunes are in decline; the land is neglected; the peasants are discontented. But the children of the family have heard the legend of a lost chalice, and if only that could be found, they are certain that all will be well again. So they search. They consult an old map; they explore the ruins on the hill; they bathe in the river and pick wild strawberries, and puzzle all the time about the chalice and its secret hiding place.

And who finds it? Overcoming what dangers? And does it make all well in the end? Violet Needham gradually unfolds her plot with that tantalising charm of the best storytellers in the old nursery fireside tradition.

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The Secret of the White Peacock

Illustrated by Joyce Bruce. Collins,1956.

WHEN LAURETTE is left an orphan and taken to live with her rich, surly guardian, Count Schillinger, the one really precious possession that she takes with her is a white china peacock that belonged to her scientist father. At her new home there is a real white peacock who preens himself on the terrace, as well as everything else, ponies, party frocks, pearl necklaces, that the Count can think of to spoil her with. Laurette finds her guardian a fierce, lonely man, with only one great desire in life. This is to discover a mysterious formula that would make him, as he tells her, 'master of the world'. It is only gradually that Laurette discovers how her precious white peacock could help him in his search. What happens when she reveals her secret, how she is involved with plots about which she never guessed, and how she is helped and befriended by some of the delightful characters who come into earlier books about The Stormy Petrel, makes another wonderful story set in Violet Needham's unique, romantic world of make-believe.

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Adventures at Windsor Castle

Illustrated by David Walsh. Lutterworth Press, 1957.

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The Red Rose of Ruvina

Illustrated by Richard Kennedy. Collins, 1957.

IT WAS only by chance that young Rose Ruvina discovered that her name was the same as that used by a secret society. With her new friend Tony, she overhears the leaders of the society making plans, and finds in the woods near her home, their cache of hand grenades. Whether they are plotting good or bad, it is difficult to decide. Someone must be told, something must be done; but who and what ? The children's summery school days become oppressive with their anxiety. How Rose and Tony are thrust deep into the conspirator's plot, how they are captured and escape, how they carry messages to the right people at last, makes another of the romantic, exciting stories for which Miss Needham is already well known. The setting is the Duchy of Ornowitza, with its forests and mountains( and rambling country houses, already familiar to readers of earlier books. Here again too, are some of the same characters — the Stormy Petrel, for instance, and Anastasia, and Duke Tancrec — whose lives are so rich with high drama and great deeds.

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The Sword of St Cyprian

(no cover available)

The Violet Needham Society, 1991; in The Sword of St Cyprian and other stories, illustrated by William Zawadski. The Violet Needham Society, 2003, 21-118.

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An Accursed Heritage

(no cover available)

[An extract from an uncompleted final novel] in Souvenir 34, Spring 1997, 4-9; [A larger extract and synopsis] in The Sword of St Cyprian and other stories Illustrated by William ZawadskiThe Violet Needham Society, 2003, 119-141.

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Copyright © 2006 Violet Needham Society