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Tales Of The Unexpected : Popular Penguins - Roald Dahl

Tales Of The Unexpected : Popular Penguins


Published: 1st September 2008
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RRP $9.95

Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected is a delightfully dark collection of sixteen stories, each with a startling end. Among the unforgettable characters lurk the homicidal wife and her deadly leg of lamb, a conniving and lecherous wine connoisseur and the one-eyed brain at the mercy of his vengeful spouse. Tales of the Unexpected is an astonishing assortment of twisted treats from the master storyteller.

About The Author

When he was at school Roald Dahl received terrible reports for his writing - with one teacher actually writing in his report, 'I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper!'

After finishing school Roald Dahl, in search of adventure, travelled to East Africa to work for a company called Shell. In Africa he learnt to speak Swahili, drove from diamond mines to gold mines, and survived a bout of malaria where his temperature reached 105.5 degrees (that's very high!).

With the outbreak of the Second World War Roald Dahl joined the RAF. But being nearly two metres tall he found himself squashed into his fighter plane, knees around his ears and head jutting forward. Tragically of the 20 men in his squadron, Roald Dahl was one of only three to survive. Roald wrote about these experiences in his books Boy and Going Solo.

Later in the war Roald Dahl was sent to America. It was there that he met famous author C.S. Forester (author of the Captain Hornblower series) who asked the young pilot to write down his war experiences for a story he was writing. Forester was amazed by the result, telling Roald 'I'm bowled over. Your piece is marvellous. It is the work of a gifted writer. I didn't touch a word of it.' (an opinion which would have been news to Roald's early teachers!). Forester sent Roald Dahl's work straight to the Saturday Evening Post. Roald Dahl's growing success as an author led him to meet many famous people including Walt Disney, Franklin Roosevelt, and the movie star Patricia Neal. Patricia and Roald were married only one year after they met!

The couple bought a house in Great Missenden called Gipsy House. It was here that Roald Dahl began to tell his five children made-up bedtime stories and from those that he began to consider writing stories for children.

An old wooden shed in the back garden, with a wingbacked armchair, a sleeping bag to keep out the cold, an old suitcase to prop his feet on and always, always six yellow pencils at his hand, was where Roald created the worlds of The BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many, many more.


There were six of us to dinner that night at Mike Schofield's house in London: Mike and his wife and daughter, my wife and I, and a man called Richard Pratt.

Richard Pratt was a famous gourmet. He was president of a small society known as the Epicures, and each month he circu­lated privately to its members a pamphlet on food and wines. He organized dinners where sumptuous dishes and rare wines were served. He refused to smoke for fear of harming his palate, and when discussing wine, he had a curious, rather droll habit of referring to it as though it were a living being. 'A prudent wine,' he would say, 'rather diffident and evasive, but quite prudent.' Or, 'A good-humoured wine, benevolent and cheerful - slightly obscene, perhaps, but none the less good-humoured.'

I had been to dinner at Mike's twice before when Richard Pratt was there, and on each occasion Mike and his wife had gone out of their way to produce a special meal for the famous gourmet. And this one, clearly, was to be no exception. The moment we entered the dining-room, I could see that the table was laid for a feast. The tall candles, the yellow roses, the quan­tity of shining silver, the three wineglasses to each person, and above all, the faint scent of roasting meat from the kitchen brought the first warm oozings of saliva to my mouth.

As we sat down, I remembered that on both Richard Pratt's previous visits Mike had played a little betting game with him over the claret, challenging him to name its breed and its vintage. Pratt had replied that that should not be too difficult provided it was one of the great years. Mike had then bet him a case of the wine in question that he could not do it. Pratt had accepted, and had won both times. Tonight I felt sure that the little game would be played over again, for Mike was quite willing to lose the bet in order to prove that his wine was good enough to be recognized, and Pratt, for his part, seemed to take a grave, restrained pleasure in displaying his knowledge.

The meal began with a plate of whitebait, fried very crisp in butter, and to go with it there was a Moselle. Mike got up and poured the wine himself, and when he sat down again, I could see that he was watching Richard Pratt. He had set the bottle in front of me so that I could read the label. It said, 'Geierslay Ohligsberg, 1945'. He leaned over and whispered to me that Geierslay was a tiny village in the Moselle, almost unknown outside Germany. He said that this wine we were drinking was something unusual, that the output of the vineyard was so small that it was almost impossible for a stranger to get any of it. He had visited Geierslay personally the previous summer in order to obtain the few dozen bottles that they had finally allowed him to have.

'I doubt whether anyone else in the country has any of it at the moment; he said. I saw him glance again at Richard Pratt. 'Great thing about Moselle; he continued, raising his voice, 'it's the perfect wine to serve before a claret. A lot of people serve a Rhine wine instead, but that's because they don't know any better. A Rhine wine will kill a delicate claret, you know that? It's barbaric to serve a Rhine before a claret. But a Moselle ­ah! - a Moselle is exactly right.'

Mike Schofield was an amiable, middle-aged man. But he was a stockbroker. To be precise, he was a jobber in the stock mar­ket, and like a number of his kind, he seemed to be somewhat embarrassed, almost ashamed to find that he had made so much money with so slight a talent. In his heart he knew that he was not really much more than a bookmaker - an unctuous, infinitely respectable, secretly unscrupulous bookmaker - and he knew that his friends knew it, too. So he was seeking now to become a man of culture, to cultivate a literary and aesthetic taste, to collect paintings, music, books, and all the rest of it. His little sermon about Rhine wine and Moselle was a part of this thing, this culture that he sought.

'A charming little wine, don't you think?' he said. He was still watching Richard Pratt. I could see him give a rapid furtive glance down the table each time he dropped his head to take a mouthful of whitebait. I could almost feel him waiting for the moment when Pratt would take his first sip, and look up from his glass with a smile of pleasure, of astonishment, perhaps even of wonder, and then there would be a discussion and Mike would tell him about the village of Geierslay.

But Richard Pratt did not taste his wine. He was completely engrossed in conversation with Mike's eighteen-year-old daugh­ter, Louise. He was half turned towards her, smiling at her, telling her, so far as I could gather, some story about a chef in a Paris restaurant. As he spoke, he leaned closer and closer to her, seeming in his eagerness almost to impinge upon her, and the poor girl leaned as far as she could away from him, nodding politely, rather desperately, and looking not at his face but at the topmost button of his dinner jacket.

We finished our fish, and the maid came round removing the plates. When she came to Pratt, she saw that he had not yet touched his food, so she hesitated, and Pratt noticed her. He waved her away, broke off his conversation, and quickly began to eat, popping the little crisp brown fish quickly into his mouth with rapid jabbing movements of his fork. Then, when he had finished, he reached for his glass, and in two short swallows he tipped the wine down his throat and turned immediately to resume his conversation with Louise Schofield.

Mike saw it all. I was conscious of him sitting there, very still, containing himself, looking at his guest. His round jovial face seemed to loosen slightly and to sag, but he contained himself and was still and said nothing.

Soon the maid came forward with .the second course. This was a large roast of beef. She placed it on the table in front of Mike who stood up and carved it, cutting the slices very thin, laying them gently on the plates for the maid to take around. When he had served everyone, including himself, he put down the carving knife and leaned forward with both hands on the edge of the table.

'Now,' he said, speaking to all of us but looking at Richard Pratt. 'Now for the claret. I must go and fetch the claret, if you'll excuse me.'

ISBN: 9780141037578
ISBN-10: 0141037571
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 1st September 2008
Dimensions (cm): 18.1 x 11.3
Weight (kg): 18.1