Hayles, Brian

About the author

Brian Hayles (7 March 1930 – 30 October 1978) was a scriptwriter and novelist, best known for the six episodes he wrote for Dr Who in the 1960s. His one essay into the pony book genre, Moon Stallion, only has a tangential connection to the horsy world: the story is a conventional mystery with predictable fantasy elements. The television series on which the book was based has now been re-issued: hopefully its better than the book it spawned.

The book is a novelisation of a 1970s BBC serial (which completely passed me by). It’s not really a classical pony book – more a story that happens to have a horse in it.

The Moon Stallion of the title is a white horse who is connected to the White Horse of Uffington. The story is set in either late Victorian or Edwardian times (it’s not specific) and opens with an archaeologist, Professor Purwell, and his children, Diana and Paul going to Uffington. The Professor has been asked by Sir George Mortenhurze, a local squire, to seek out the true facts about the historical King Arthur.

It soon emerges that Mortenhurze, and Todman, his stablemaster, have designs on the Moon Stallion: Mortenhurze because he wants revenge on it for having, he thinks, caused the death of his wife, and Todman, who as well as being Mortenhurze’s stablemaster is also a horse warlock, because he wants the power the Moon Stallion has. The plot centres around Diana, who is blind, but who has a connection with the Moon Stallion and does in fact turn out to be the Moon Child.

I won’t give the plot away completely, though it does end pretty much as you would expect. Novelisations aren’t always the most successful literary form, and this one doesn’t do much to improve the genre. The author has a disturbingly literal approach, and it is as if he is describing exactly what he sees on the screen. As he was a scriptwriter this is possibly why. It leads to a mire of redundant adjectives and description, and left me longing for a red pen to get rid of all the verbiage. Here’s an example:

‘Thank God you’re safe, child!’ whispered Purwell into his daughter’s hair, as he hugged her to him, not ashamed to cry as her gentle fingertips caressed his face. Paul bubbled over with excited laughter and cheerfully pulled Estelle into the heart of the family confusion.

You might have spotted that Purwell whispered: and in the whole book no one ever says anything: they demand, retort, grunt, smile … All of this makes the book a bit of an effort to read. The constant packing in of all those unnecessary words makes it tedious in places, and instead of introducing emotional subtlety it’s rather more as if you’re being hit over the head by an author who is constantly trying to impress you with the accuracy of their description. Here’s a bit more:

A shadow crossed her face, and she called out, into the shadowy interior, quietly troubled.

Why quietly troubled? Just troubled would have done. Maybe if I’d seen the TV series, I’d have had enough of a sense of magic for the story to have taken over, but it just didn’t work for me.

Finding the book
It is very rare, which means it’s often erratically priced.

Sources and links
Wikipedia on Brian Hayles


Moon Stallion

Mirror Books, London, 1978, 144pp.