Despite running for thirty years between 1978 and 2008, Grange Hill only generated a fairly small number of tie-in novels (and none after 1988). Lion Books produced six during 1980 and 1984 with Magnet Books then taking up the mantle by publishing seven books between 1986 and 1988.
But first off the mark were BBC Books in 1979 with this volume written by Phil Redmond. 95 pages long, it’s split into five chapters with separate storylines for Benny, Trisha, Justin and Penny before a final chapter which features a typical knockabout adventure for Tucker and Benny.
The stories are set at various points during series one and two, developing threads seen on television. For example, A Pair of Boots depicts Benny desperation to buy a pair of football boots which will enable him to take his place in the school team. Benny’s impoverished family life had been touched upon a number of times during various episodes, but it’s hammered home here a little more forcibly.
Although the series, especially in its early years, generated some negative publicity (concerning the antics of its unruly pupils) GH always had a strong moral feel. There might be mischief, but there would always be consequences for the miscreants. This tone is replicated throughout the book as several characters – beginning with Benny – are forced to do the right thing.
After it seems unlikely Benny’s parents will be able to afford to buy him his prized boots, it looks for a short while that providence has provided him with the solution – his newsagent boss drops a five pound note on the floor and doesn’t miss it, at least to begin with. Benny quickly pockets it, but equally quickly is wracked by guilt and fear. Like Trisha and Justin in later chapters, Benny is then prone to an lengthy internal monologue as he debates the rights and wrongs of his situation.
A Question of Uniform reveals that Trisha has a younger sister – Jenny – something which was never developed on television. Like Benny, Trisha quickly finds herself in a difficult situation as she’s forced to tell lie after lie (it’s the sort of story that would have quite easily slotted into the anthology style of the first series).
Odd One Out features Justin in hospital, convalescing after his misadventures with Tucker and Benny in the warehouse. This one offers Justin an excellent spot of character development, which makes me a little sorry something like it wasn’t attempted on television (as it rather bridges the gap between Justin’s early appearances as an easily bullied type and his emergence as a more confident character from the second series onwards).
The Mystery of the Missing Gnomes doesn’t dig into Penny’s character too deeply but it’s still an entertaining enough tale – as she takes on Doyle and his henchmen and wins. The collection of stories is rounded off with Two’s Company, which sees Tucker and Benny decide to absent themselves from their school trip (as the museum is a rather boring one) and pop into an intriguing store nearby.
Although it’s not named, it seems that the store was Harrods, which would have made for an entertaining television spectacle. Although given how unlikely filming permission would have been, we’ll just have to enjoy it in prose.
For the way it builds on various moments already seen on television, Grange Hill Stories is a decent little volume that’s worth tracking down.