Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Walking With The Black Hand Gang...

Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of The Adventures Of The Black Hand Gang, a childhood favourite I first read in 1978.  Written by H. J. Press, the stories were a combination of text and illustration, originally published in weekly chapters with the solution to the week’s riddle given in the next edition of Sternchen, the children's supplement of German magazine Stern.
1978 Methuen edition, cover scan of my much-loved and much-read copy
The illustrations are fantastic and superbly crafted, with a deceptively simple style that's so thoroughly detailed it invites repeat viewing.  Press was one of the inventors and a key proponent (along with Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel, he’s regarded as a father of the ‘overcrowded’ style) of the "Wimmelbild", a genre of illustration deliberately overcrowded with detail, to please children as they search for items.

On a family holiday to Yorkshire, we decided to call into Robin Hood's Bay, a small fishing village and bay in the North York Moors National Park, five miles south of Whitby and fifteen miles north of Scarborough.  Bay Town, its local name, is built in a fissure between two steep cliffs with a maze of narrow streets and lots of steps and had a reputation (in the 1700s) for smuggling - there's a reputed network of subterranean passageways linking the houses.
Dude & I, overlooking the beach
According to the University Of York Outdoor Society, the origin of the name is uncertain but it’s doubtful “Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity”.  An English ballad said he was on a fishing trip and “encountered pirates who came to pillage the fisherman's boat. He got the French pirates to surrender and returned the goods that the pirates had robbed during the plundering of the northeast coast of England to the poor people…of the village of the bay that is now called Robin Hood's Bay.”

It's a lovely place and well worth a visit but imagine my surprise at seeing the narrow streets and steep hills, which were like stepping into one of Press' beautiful images.  While we didn't find any skulduggery afoot, Dude & I enjoyed a good walk and a delicious ice cream plus I found an excellent secondhand bookshop too.

The images all come from A Theft At The Zoo (the story which also supplies the cover of the book) - just look at the detail!

Looking over Cleveland Way, coming up from the beach
A close-up of above, with King Street leading off to the left
New Road, heading away from the beach
New Road, on the way back up to the car park.  Note the wonderful old Kodak sign on the shop

You can also check out my 'bit of nostalgia' blog about The Black Hand Gang here


  1. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing and hello from South Africa.

    1. You're welcome - and thanks for commenting!