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The Usborne Detective’s Handbook

#1 · Posted: 16 Mar 2010 06:12
Hi everyone. First post here.

When I was a kid, I regularly checked out a series of children's books from the library that presented the basics of detective work and espionage. The illustrations were a major aspect of why I loved the books, and in encountering Tintin over the past few years and learning about the ligne claire style, I thought you all might find, as I have, that the artists on the series, especially Colin King, seem influenced by Hergé.

I turned up this nostalgic review of the Detective’s Handbook, with some photographs of the books.

I also found this page from the Usborne site, where you can browse a few of the inside pages (though, sadly, these sample pages are some of the weakest of the lot).

And finally, here are some different selections I found from a now out-of-print version of a collection.

Hope this proves interesting for you all. Thanks for having many discussions worth lurking through!
#2 · Posted: 16 Mar 2010 12:11
Interesting to see those again - I’m sure my little brother read them too, or at least similar ones. It was always amusing how much of it was totally inappropriate for children: never mind the obvious risks of picking out “suspicious” looking members of the public and wandering off after them to goodness-knows where, I’m talking about the idea that a ten year-old could disguise themsleves with a bald-cap made out of a balloon and a moustache fashioned from wool and attached with sticky-tape, and then blend into the background without attracting any sort of comment, let alone being spotted by the villains… (“I could ’ave sworn we woz being followed by that amazing kid detective, ’arry!” - “No Knuckles - the only person anywhere behind us is that short, weedy looking bald guy with the moustache, wearing the school uniform, who in no way resembles him…”).

I’m not certain that the influence of Hergé is very strong in those examples - they look to be pretty straight-forward editorial cartoon style of the period to me; I think ligne-claire needs to have a much more consistent use of the line than the illustrator is using here, but it’s interesting to know that you have seen similarities yourself.
#3 · Posted: 16 Mar 2010 17:35
I'm glad I'm not the only one to remember these books. There was much in them that was probably inappropriate for kids to attempt, and my parents drew limits on especially many of the activities in the spy guides (I wasn't able to find any images from those for the first post, but they're done in mostly the same style). But at least there's no "blackface" in the disguise section!

Perhaps it's not a great example of ligne claire, but the line weights are relatively the same across the series. I'm also perhaps reading Hergé's influence a little too much in the use of colors, the proportions of the bodies, and the rosiness of the cheeks.

So there might be nothing to it, but I hope you guys find something to enjoy in the images anyway. I guess I'll know if I find myself being suddenly followed by a mysterious figure with a cut up balloon on his head.

(Sorry about the links!)
#4 · Posted: 8 Aug 2011 16:30
I actually have the three books that make up The Good Detective Guide, my favourite being Fakes and Forgeries.
One of the problems with this particular volume is that I can't seem to find the modern light that was supposedly included in the phony painting by Bruegel on pages 24-25, even though I did find many of the other discrepancies. The text referring to the tyre tracks has been deleted in the modern version.
UK Correspondent
#5 · Posted: 8 Aug 2011 22:10
I used to have some of these Usborne books, including this detective one. I also had How To Draw Cartoons And Caricatures (Amazon link here) which actually had a double-page spread on Tintin & Hergé, including a couple of strips from Prisoners of the Sun illustrating various storytelling methods.
#6 · Posted: 9 Aug 2011 20:18
I've still got my copy, along with The Spy's Guidebook.

One amusing thing is bit about a suspect taking his girlfriend to Spain as a sign that he has more money than he's letting on.

I was thinking of it just a few days ago, and how it seems just a bit quaint.
#7 · Posted: 12 Aug 2011 08:13
I was thinking of it just a few days ago, & how it seems just a bit quaint.

I’d agree with you, if these pictures hadn’t come to light: real photos of disguises suggested for use by the Stasi (Secret Police) of pre-unification East Germany.

Now the Handbook actually seems quite sophisticated…!

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