Hardcastle, Michael

About the author

Michael Hardcastle (born 1933) is a very prolific children’s author, mostly writing books on sporting subjects. He went to Almondbury Grammar School in Huddersfield, where he wasn’t allowed to play sport. The school considered him ‘fragile’ because of his record of ill health: he had had scarlet fever and rheumatic fever, so instead of being allowed on the sports field, was sent to the library and told to read what he liked. He wanted to read stories about sport as he was sitting in the library being deprived of it, but although there were plenty of comics which had sporting stories, there were no novels. He did however, devour the Biggles books of W E Johns, and later Dickens, neither of whom are noted for their sporting content, but who do both tell rattling good tales.

A good tale is what Michael Hardcastle set out to deliver: he wanted to write the kind of book he would have liked as a child, and was the first author to write books on more mainline sports (riding of course had them in plenty) with his Soccer is Also a Game, which came out in 1966. Since then he has written over 140 titles on sporting subjects, though he does think he has perhaps written too many football books …

In his early career as a journalist for the Huddersfield Daily Examiner he learned the vital skill of being able to get his articles right first time, which is an approach he still uses with his books. He plots on the page, but there are three things he decides before he starts writing: a gripping beginning, three or four main characters and their likes and dislikes and how the book is going to end. He will generally have worked on each book for three or four months before he starts on it, jotting down ideas in a notebook he always carries with him.

His pony books are almost all about racing. Michael Hardcastle had a great enthusiasm for the sport, and when he reached the sixth form was able to do more than just follow the horses by running bets on races with a friend. In this they were aided and abetted by Tom Harper, the school caretaker, who would let them listen to races on the radio in the Book Store. I wonder if being able to watch races legitimately has meant they kept the same thrill.

In 1988, in recognition of his services to children’s literature, he was appointed MBE.

Finding the books
Mine’s a Winner, a comic-type book, is still in print. The other titles are all easy and cheap to find as paperbacks. Those that were published in hardback are generally all reasonably easy to find in that format too.

Sources and links
The Old Almondburians’ Society: recorded reminiscences and photographs here. Very useful interview on his early life and influences
Faber biography, Kickback
Many thanks to Hannah Fleetwood and Jane Pitman for their help with photos and blurbs.


Ginny Luellen series
The Saturday Horse
The Switch Horse

Puzzle series
One Good Horse

Bibliography (pony books only)

The Chasing Game

William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1968
Michael Hardcastle Publications, Southport, 1976, cover Trevor Stubley. 158 pp.

Sean becomes involved with Meryl and her horse Poor Boy after they crash out of a point to point.

The Saturday Horse

Methuen Children’s Books Ltd, London, 1977. 126 pp, illus Trevor Stubley.
Magnet, pb, 1977
Mammoth, pb, 1990

Ginny Luellen has no horse. She makes friends with an older girl who works as a stable girl at the McDade racing stable. She wants to see the horses there, and manages to catch sight of Tamela, a new arrival at the stables. Eventually she forms a relationship with the horse. Tamela doesn’t do as well as he could do at his first race, but Ginny is sure he is the stuff of which champions are made.

The Switch Horse

Methuen Children’s Books Ltd, London, 1980, illus Paul Wright
Magnet, pb, 1980, 124 pp.
Mammoth, pb, 1982

The blurb:
“On the first day of her holiday in Ireland, Ginny Luellen is horrified to discover a beautiful dappled grey thoroughbred cruelly ‘moored’ in a stream. Her passionate love of horses makes her determined to discover the horse’s owner. But her enquires plunge her into a mystery involving several shady characters and two absolutely identical
dappled grey racehorses. Which horse is being ridden at the local races? Can they both really be identical, and, most of all, are
they both safe…..?”

Double Holiday

Blackie, London, 1985, 96 pp.  Cover art Shirley Bellwood

Aimed at younger readers, this is about Ace Holiday Camp, which offers holidays for children who need a break from their parents.  However, Mrs Double, who runs the camp, is taken ill, and there is no one to run the camp apart from the Double children. Not a pony book perhaps, but there is a donkey!

Winning Rider

Methuen Children’s Books Ltd, London, 1985, 96 pp.
Magnet, pb, 1987, 110 pp. Reprinted 1988.

The blurb:
“Rachel’s burning ambition is to ride Catch boy, the 5 year old hurdler, against professional jockeys. But Catch Boy’s trainer thinks he’s a loser, a non-starter. How can Rachel prove him wrong, that Catch Boy is
a winner – and that she is the rider to prove it?”


Faber, London, 1989, 128 pp.
Faber, pb, 1992, 123 pp.  Front cover David Kearney.

“Ros is a stable-hand at Tildown House. Her charge, the highly-strung Mantola, is one of the convalescent horses. Her friends at Tildown think she has become too attached to the promising racehorse.  When Mantola disappears in suspicious circumstances, no one seems to want to find him.  But Ros is determined to recover him – at any cost.”

Racing to Win

Mammoth, London, pb, 1993, 352 pp.

Contains: The Saturday Horse, Switch Horse and Winning Rider

One Good Horse

Dent Children’s Books, 1993, 75 pp.
Orion, 1995, pb.

“For Holly, breaking down in the motorway turns out to be a stroke of luck when she meets Puzzle, an unpredictable but dazzling racehorse. As soon as she sees him she knows that this horse is something
special, but she could never have imagined just how important he will be to her family’s future.”


Orion, London, 1995, hb.
Orion, London, 1995, pb.  104 pp.

“Since he started winning novice chases the previous season, Puzzle has transformed the fortunes of the stable yard. The Hills’ daughter, Holly, is thrilled that her beloved Puzzle is in hot demand and appalled
when she discovers that his owner is thinking of selling him. But for every winner there must be several losers, and soon it looks as if the Hills may be among them. Just before a big race, Puzzle is kidnapped. Holly’s father is convinced that this will see the end of the yard, but Holly is determined to find out what
is going on and rescue Puzzle.”

Mine’s a Winner

A&C Black, London, 2000, 79 pp, illus Bob Moulder