- BBC Radio 4
- Edward Rowett, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin Moran, Liam Williams, Martin Jarvis, Jane McVeigh, Terry Pratchett, Richmal Crompton and Janet Ellis
- Caroline Raphael
Somewhere in a small English village, a boy with unkempt hair and dirty knees, falling-down socks and wild hair, is righting wrongs and causing havoc - and is forever 11.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication in May 1922 of the first collection of Just William stories by Richmal Crompton. Over the next 50 years, Crompton published 37 more books in which the world changed but William Brown never did.
Often thought of as children's books, the Just William stories were originally written for adults, and have an overlooked comic legacy. Through the eyes of a small boy, Crompton satirised the absurdities and hypocrisies of adult life, with a flair and wit closer to PG Wodehouse than Enid Blyton, and an influence extending through work as disparate as The Likely Lads by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Edward Rowett considers how and why these books continue to delight. Just William is a major comic influence on his own work and comedy ambitions - but he swears he has never painted a dog blue, blackmailed a sauce magnate, or accidentally abducted a Sunday school.
He discovers another possible source for the inspiration of William Brown and finds himself increasingly intrigued by Richmal Crompton herself.
He analyses Crompton's prose and talks to fellow devotees Neil Gaiman, Caitlin Moran, Liam Williams and, of course, the voice of William for so many, Martin Jarvis. Dr Jane McVeigh author of a new literary biography of Richmal Crompton, Just William: A Literary Life, shows Edward around the Richmal Crompton archive.
- First broadcast
- Sunday 1st May 2022 at 4:30pm on BBC Radio 4
- Episode length
- 30 minutes
- All previous repeats
- Saturday 7th May 2022 at 11:30pm on Radio 4