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Mackenzie, Compton

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1883-1972) UK author, in active service during World War One, mostly in Scotland from around 1925; best known for his influential Bildungsroman, Sinister Street (1913-1914 2vols). He contributed several fantasies for younger readers to various issues of the ongoing Joy Street anthology series between 1923 and 1936, assembling earlier contributions as Told (coll 1930) [for details of later stories see Checklist]. Water on the Brain (1933), though ostensibly light-hearted, conveys a strong bitter sense of the cost of the War through the fantasticated "antics" of some incompetent spies. The Huffam series of mild Satires beginning with The Red Tapeworm (1941), and featuring Oliver Huffam of the Ministry of Waste, and later the Ministry of Sanitation, spoofs very Near Future government bureaucracy. Two fantasies, Hunting the Fairies (1949) and The Rival Monster (1952), display the pawky whimsy which made his nonfantastic but exorbitant Todday series, set on and around a remote Outer Hebridean Island precariously maintaining an informal independence from the mainland, so popular, especially Whisky Galore (1947), which was filmed as Whisky Galore (1949) directed by Alexander Mackendrik. The later Rockets Galore (1957) – filmed as Rockets Galore (1958; vt Mad Little Island 1958) directed by Michael Relph – is also set in Todday, and verges on sf in its recounting of the conflict between the building of a new missile base and the discovery of an unknown species of gull.

Mackenzie's sf novel, The Lunatic Republic (1959), nearly the last of his many comic entertainments, depicts, in an easy-going, winning style that verges on slapstick, the Utopian society that exists at the end of the twentieth century on the Moon. An amusing Linguistic conceit is that Basic English – a subset of English with an 850-word initial vocabulary, then fashionable as a teaching language – is so universal that Moon-dwellers "naturally" speak it. Mackenzie was appointed OBE in 1919 and knighted in 1952. [JC]

see also: Food Pills.

Sir Compton Edward Montague Anthony Mackenzie

born West Hartlepool, County Durham: 17 January 1883

died Edinburgh, Scotland: 30 November 1972




  • The Red Tapeworm (London: Chatto and Windus, 1941) [Huffam: hb/Nicolas Bentley]
  • Paper Lives (London: Chatto and Windus, 1966) [Huffam: hb/Clarke Hutton]

individual titles

collections and stories

  • Santa Claus in Summer (London: Constable and Co, 1924) [coll of linked stories: illus/hb/A H Watson]
  • Told (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1930) [coll: assembling early stories from the Joy Street sequence: illus/hb/A H Watson]
  • The Conceited Doll (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1931) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Eight Joy Street (anth 1930) edited by Michael Lynn: Joy Street: hb/]
  • The Fairy in the Window-Box (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1932) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Nine Joy Street (anth 1930) edited by Michael Lynn: Joy Street: hb/]
  • The Dining-Room Battle (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1933) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Ten Joy Street (anth 1932) edited by Michael Lynn: Joy Street: hb/]
  • The Enchanted Island (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1934) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Eleven Joy Street (anth 1933) edited by Michael Lynn: Joy Street: hb/]
  • The Nautymobile (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1936) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Twelve "A" Joy Street (anth 1935) edited anonymously: Joy Street: hb/]
  • The Stairs That Kept On Going Down (Oxford, Oxfordshire: Basil Blackwell, 1937) [story: chap: first appeared in Number Fourteen Joy Street (anth 1936) edited anonymously: Joy Street: hb/]


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