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Wibberley, Leonard

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1915-1983) Irish journalist and author, in the UK from about 1930, in the US from 1943, who published over 100 books, some of his detective fiction being as by Leonard Holton; much of his work was for children, many of these titles being as by Patrick O'Connor or Christopher Webb. Only a modest proportion of his output was sf or fantasy. His first and most famous sf novel, the ostensibly adult tale which begins the Grand Fenwick Ruritanian spoof sequence, was The Mouse that Roared (25 December 1954-29 January 1955 Saturday Evening Post as "The Day New York Was Invaded"; 1955; vt The Wrath of Grapes 1955), in which the tiny European Duchy of Grand Fenwick, having declared war on America with the intention of losing and gaining aid, invades New York when it is deserted due to a Civil Defense exercise; the Fenwick army stumbles over a doomsday super-Weapon, the Q-bomb, and imposes peace on the world. The book was filmed as The Mouse that Roared (1959) directed by Jack Arnold. Most of the subsequent volumes – Beware of the Mouse (1958), which is a prequel, The Mouse on Wall Street (1969), The Mouse That Poured (1981) and The True and Secret History of How the World Oil Crisis Was Solved by the Duchy of Grand Fenwick; Or, the Mouse that Saved the West (1981) – make little use of sf devices except in the most cursory fashion. The notable exception is The Mouse on the Moon (1962), which involves a farcical Space Flight to the Moon via an Antigravity principle which is found in Grand Fenwick's local wine and enables their makeshift Spaceship to beat both America and Russia to the goal of a first lunar touchdown; this was filmed as The Mouse on the Moon (1963).

The Uncle Bill sequence comprising Encounter Near Venus (1967) and Journey to Untor (1970) is fantasy, though most of it is set in space, and has been described as Children's SF. A singleton, One in Four (1976), depicts an America threatened by immaterial entities from the Far Future. Of fantasy interest were several further juveniles, including Mrs Searwood's Secret Weapon (1954), McGillicuddy McGotham (1956), Take Me to Your President (1957), The Quest of Excalibur (1959), Stranger at Killknock (1961) and The Crime of Martin Coverly (1981). Wibberley was an intermittently clever writer whose books were eaten by sweetness. [JC]

see also: Dalek I Love You.

Leonard Patrick O'Connor Wibberley

born Dublin, Ireland: 9 April 1915

died Santa Monica, California: 22 November 1983



Grand Fenwick

Uncle Bill

  • Encounter Near Venus (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Ariel Books, 1967) [Uncle Bill: hb/]
  • Journey to Untor (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Ariel Books, 1970) [Uncle Bill: hb/]

individual titles



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