Thursday, July 24, 2014

John Hornby

John Wilkinson Hornby was born in Ponteland, Northumberland, on 5 April 1913, the son of Joseph Hornby (1886?- ) and his wife Grace (nee Wilkinson, 1890?- ). He was educated at Ponteland School and Gosforth Grammar School but had his education interrupted by an illness at the age of sixteen, which meant that he spent much of his life indoors. He was the descendent of seventeenth-century English gamekeepers and foresters; his father was a gamekeeper when he married in 1912.

Hornby was a  prolific writer for children after the war, his earliest known stories appearing in magazines and annuals published by Western Book Distributors and Gerald G. Swan. He continued to contribute to comics—including Knockout and Eagle—story papers and annuals until the 1960s.

At the same time he also penned children's books for Thomas Nelson and Blackie & Son's Crusader and Kingfisher Books' series, including a number under the pen-names Joseph Grace and Gordon Summers. He also wrote a number of thrillers for Hamilton & Co. and later penned westerns, mostly under the pen-name Calvin Brent.

Hornby also wrote over twenty stories for radio programmes in Dublin, Ireland, and over forty historical articles for Tyne Tees Television. He contributed articles and stories to the BBC and to religious and general periodicals in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and India. He also wrote material for War on Want.

He lived in Jackson Avenue, Ponteland, and died in 1978, aged 65.


Alpine Crack Up. London, Hamilton & Co., Apr 1951.
Here Today - Dead Tomorrow. London, Hamilton & Co., Jun 1951.
Die Quickly, Brother. London, Hamilton & Co., Sep 1951.
Death Pays Dividends. London, Hamilton & Co., Oct 1951.
Justice Doesn’t Die (by Calvin Brent). London, Coker, Feb 1953.
Ghost Town Guns (by Calvin Brent). London, Coker, Mar 1953.
Red Hot Triggers. Leicester, Fiction House, Jan 1956.

Novels (for children)
The Missing Cargo. London, Thomas Nelson, 1947.
The Red Scarf, illus. Enid Locke. London, Thomas Nelson, Dec 1950.
Avocet Island. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Crusader Series 7), May 1951.
River of Silver. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Crusader Series 8), May 1951.
Men o’ the Mists. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Crusader Series 5), Jun 1951.
The Young Traders, illus. A. Barclay. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Dec 1951.
A Bone for Biff (by Joseph Grace), illus. W. Gale. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Apr 1952.
The Puppet Theatre, and No Show Without Toby, illus. Monica Brailey. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Jun 1952.
The Winbeck Whistle, illus. Desmond Walduck. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Jun 1952.
The Jungle Company (by Gordon Summers), illus. Raymond Sheppard. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Crusade Series 1), Jul 1952.
Fen Laughs Last, illus. Raymond Sheppard. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Crusader Series 9), Jul 1952.
The Beachcombers Bell, illus. Eric Wade. London, Macmillan (Far & Wide Stories 1), Sep 1952.
The Iron Hills, illus. A. Barclay. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Nov 1952.
The Secret of the Valley, illus. Philip Townsend. London, Macmillan (Far & Wide Stories 2), Dec 1952.
Priory Island, illus. Barbara Gray. London, Thomas Nelson (Speedwell Readers), Mar 1953.
Jacko Comes Home, illus. Monica Brailey. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Sep 1954.
The Secret of the Sails (by Joseph Grace), illus. Eric Wade. London & Glasgow, Blackie (Kingfisher Books), Sep 1954.
Amazon Adventure, illus. Eric Wade. London, Macmillan (Far & Wide Stories 9), Oct 1957.
Mystery in Maori Land, illus. Lunt Roberts. London, Macmillan (Far & Wide Stories 12), 1958.
Swords for the King, illus. William Stobbs. London, Macmillan, 1964; New York, St Martin’s Press, 1964.

Pegasus Books. London, Newnes Educational, 1953.
The United Nations. London, Macmillan (Picture Pageant 1), 1954 [Jan 1955]; 2nd edition, 1959.
Introducing the Sailor in the Merchant Service and the Royal Navy. London, Macmillan, Nov 1955.
Forestry in Britain. London, Macmillan (Picture Pageant 3), 1957 [1958]
Undersea World. London, Macmillan (Picture Pageant 5), 1960.
Turret Readers series. London, Macmillan, 1961; New York, Macmillan, 1961.
  1: Eaglets for the Legion.
  2: Song of the Saxons, illus. G.S. Ronalds.
  3: Viking Fire, illus. G.S. Ronalds.
Clowns Through the Ages, illus. Siriol Clarry. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd (Signpost Library 2), 1962; New York, Henry Z. Walck, 1963.
Gypsies, illus. David Gentleman. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd (Signpost Library 10), 1965; New York, Henry Z. Walck, 1967.
Travel by Water, illus. Virginia Smith. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd (Open Gate Library 11), 1968; as The True Book of Travel by Water, Chicago, Children’s Press, 1969.
Toys Down the Ages, illus. Virginia Smith. London, Chatto & Windus, 1972.


Short Stories
Hellfire Comes to Paradise (Hands Up! 1, 1946)
Buffalo Hunter’s Trick (Hands Up Annual, 1947, Nov 1946)
Rattlesnake Ring (Western Album 1947, Nov 1946)
Jimmy’s Magic Bullseyes (Knockout 519-529, 4 Feb-15 Apr 1949)
Packhorse Post (Christmas Book, Juvenile Publications, c.1950)
Wilf’s Will (Every Boy’s Annual, Juvenile Publications, 1950)
The Time Detective (Cute Fun Album 1952, Aug 1951)
Tabu Atoll (Eagle, 25 Apr 1952)
The Wolf-Dog of Whinside (Eagle, 4 Jul 1952)
The Huntsman’s Leap (Boys’ Fun, Mar 1953)
The Breath Saver (Boys’ Fun, Oct 1953)
Fighting Fit (Boys’ Fun, Oct 1953)
The Swimming Salesman (Cute Fun Album 1955, Aug 1954)
Trouble in the Desert (Cute Fun Album 1955, Aug 1954)
The Goats of Gardie (Girls’ Fun, Nov/Dec 1954)
Royal Hawk of Arabia (Daily Mail Annual, 1956)
The Dhow of Dawala (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1957)
Oil Oasis (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1958)
The Killer’s Trail (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
The Treble-B Trouble-Busters (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
The Mission Gold (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
Race Against Time (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
The Secret of the Atoll (The New Daily Mail Girls Annual, 1962)
The Secret of Spaniard Isle (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1963)

Stories as Pathfinder
The Red Baron Rides (Boys’ Fun, Mar 1953)
The Whistling Begger [* Credited to Hornby on cover.] (Boys’ Fun, Apr 1953)
Welcome Stranger (Cute Fun Album 1955, Aug 1954)
Wintersmoon and the Brown Bear (Boys’ Fun, Nov/Dec 1954)
“Sold Again” (Girls’ Fun Annual 1956, 1955)

Stories as Joseph Grace
Pony Post (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1958)

Some Baffling Mysteries of the Sea (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
(article about Richard Trevithick) (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1959)

Comic Strips
The Great Discoverer (Bumper Book of Thrills for Boys, Birn Bros., 1950s)
(picture story about Captain Marryat, art by John Robinson) (Daily Mail Boys Annual, 1959)


  1. I am delighted to have identified John Hornby. I have been, for years, somewhat haunted by the memory of an adventure story I read in primary school, in the 1960s. I remembered the title and some details, but not the author. It was The Missing Cargo and I have just got my copy in the post. It's a cracking good adventure story so no wonder I remembered it!

  2. Always a pleasure to hear of someone reunited with an old favourite book.

  3. Just reread my copy of Jacko Comes Home which I won as a reading prize in 1963 when I was 6. So good to read more about John Hornby here. Thanks for your research, he was a very talented writer.



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