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-1960

Kiss Kiss

In these dark, disturbing stories Roald Dahl explores the sinister side of human nature: the cunning, sly selfish part of each of us that leads into the territory of the unexpected and unsettling.

Originally published in 1960, Kiss Kiss brings together 11 of Roald's macabre adult tales. William and Mary was later adapted for Roald's American television series 'Way Out and several of the stories appeared in British television adaptations for the series Tales of the Unexpected in the 1980s. Also included here is The Champion of the World - the first time Roald wrote about the man who would go on to become Danny's dad in Danny the Champion of the World.

In 2011, three of the stories in this collection - William and Mary, The Landlady and Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat - were adapted for the theatre by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, along with two of Roald's other short stories to form the Twisted Tales production, which enjoyed a short run at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre.

The stories featured in Kiss Kiss are: 

  • The Landlady
  • William and Mary
  • The Way up to Heaven
  • Parson's Pleasure
  • Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat
  • Royal Jelly
  • Georgy Porgy
  • Genesis and Catastrophe
  • Edward the Conqueror
  • Pig
  • The Champion of the World

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-November 1961

James and the Giant Peach

James Henry Trotter lives with his two horrid aunts, Spiker and Sponge. He hasn't got a single friend in the whole wide world. That is not, until he meets the Old Green Grasshopper and the rest of the insects aboard a giant, magical peach!

James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl's first classic novel for children. Although The Gremlins is sometimes referred to as an earlier example of his writing for children, James was Roald's first conscious attempt to write for a younger audience after several years of writing primarily adult short stories. Roald started writing it in 1959 after encouragement from his agent, Sheila St Lawrence.

In the orchard at Roald's home in the Buckinghamshire countryside, there was a cherry tree. Seeing this tree made him wonder: what if, one day, one of those cherries just kept on and on growing bigger and bigger? From giant cherries Roald also considered ever-increasing pears and even apples, but eventually settled on a giant peach as the method for James's magical journey. The book is dedicated to his two eldest daughters, Olivia and Tessa. It was first published in 1961 to glowing reviews and marked the beginning of his prolific career as a children's author.

James and the Giant Peach is still a favourite more than 50 years later. In 1996, an animated film version featuring the voices of Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes, Pete Postlethwaite and Susan Sarandon was released, while David Wood's theatrical adaptation remains popular, playing across the UK.

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-September 1964

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Nobody has seen Willy Wonka - or inside his amazing chocolate factory - for years. When he announces plans to invite the winners of five Golden Tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars to visit his factory, the whole world is after those tickets!

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is perhaps Roald Dahl’s best-known story. The story of Charlie Bucket, the five Golden Tickets, the Oompa-Loompas and the amazing Mr Willy Wonka has become firmly embedded in our culture since it was first published in 1964. Conservative estimates suggest the original book has sold over 20 million copies worldwide; it is now available in 55 languages. 

Roald Dahl began working on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1961 shortly after finishing James and the Giant Peach, but its origins can be traced all the way back to Roald's own childhood. In Boy he tells us how, while at school in England, he and his fellow Repton students were engaged as 'taste testers' for a chocolate company - something that seems to have started him thinking about chocolate factories and inventing rooms long before Mr Wonka was on the scene. But when he came to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the story went through several drafts - for example, at first Charlie was one of ten children to enter the factory. Roald re-drafted three or four times until the story as we now know it was released in 1964.

Since its release Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which Roald dedicated to his son Theo, has proved to be one of the most enduring children’s books of all time. The story has reached all corners of the world and even unearthed a real-life Willy Wonka, who sent Roald a letter in 1971 - the year the first film adaptation of the book was released.

Roald wrote the screenplay for the film release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. It was a process that came with some difficulties but the film went on to become a classic, with its now-iconic depictions of many of the story's key elements, from Golden Tickets to Everlasting Gobstoppers. In 2005, 15 years after Roald’s death, renowned filmmaker Tim Burton released his own adaptation of the book. His Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starred Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. In 2010 The Golden Ticket - an opera based on the story, composed by Peter Ash with libretto by Donald Sturrock - premiered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. And, in 2013, a new musical production opened in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Douglas Hodge as Mr Wonka.

In 2014 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory celebrates its 50th anniversary. As part of the many events planned to mark this special occasion, author Lucy Mangan will be taking a look at how the story of Charlie has become a story itself in a new book that will take us all inside the Chocolate Factory, published in September 2014.

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-1966

The Magic Finger

When the girl in this story gets cross, strange things start happening. Above all, she can't bear it when people are cruel to animals. So when her neighbours the Greggs go shooting, her magic finger teaches them a lesson they'll never forget...

Roald Dahl began work on The Almost Ducks, as The Magic Finger was originally known, in 1962. In the story, an unnamed eight-year-old girl tells the story of her neighbours, the Gregg family. The Greggs like to hunt, but the girl can't stand to see animals killed just for fun. Her sense of injustice makes her angry and through her anger she develops a special power - not dissimilar to Matilda Wormwood, another of Roald's young female protagonists.

The Almost Ducks was part of a project in which a group of adult writers were each asked to create a story about "all the brave deer hunters and duck hunters in the country," as Roald described to his publishers. Roald was very much against animal cruelty and his story reflects this, as the girl turns the tables on the Greggs and their love of hunting.

After Roald had finished his publishers, wary of offending the powerful US gun lobby, sat on the manuscript until their option to publish had expired. It was a further three years before the story - which Roald dedicated to two of his daughters, Ophelia and Lucy - was eventually published by Harper & Row in 1966 as The Magic Finger

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-1967

You Only Live Twice

You only live twice... and "twice" is the only way to live!

In 1966 Roald Dahl was approached by James Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who asked him if he would be interested in writing the screenplay for You Only Live Twice, the fifth film in the Bond series. Roald agreed and began working on the film with input from LA television writer Harold Jack Bloom. 

You Only Live Twice was loosely based on Ian Fleming's 1964 novel of the same name, but it was the first of the Bond films to discard much of Fleming's original plot. Roald knew Bond's creator Ian Fleming from his war days, though Fleming had died two years before Roald began work on his screenplay. They had been friends, but Roald was not keen on You Only Live Twice. The producers agreed with his opinion that it was not Fleming's best work and allowed Roald and Bloom to amend the story, resulting in a movie plot that differed quite significantly from the original book.

In the film, Bond - played by Sean Connery - travels to Japan at the height of the Cold War, after American and Soviet spacecrafts disappear in orbit. There he faces Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of global terrorist organisation SPECTRE. Some of the plot details in the film were to crop up later in Roald's book Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Upon its release in 1967, You Only Live Twice enjoyed great success. The experience encouraged producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli to ask Roald whether he would be interested in adapting another of Fleming's books - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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-1968

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The most fantasmagorical musical entertainment in the history of everything!

Released in 1968, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a musical film adaptation loosely based on Ian Fleming's children's book of the same name. It was the second of Fleming's books Roald Dahl had adapted after working on the James Bond film You Only Live Twice - or the third, if you also count the fact that Fleming had given Roald the idea for the short story Lamb to the Slaughter.

Roald and director Ken Hughes worked on the script for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli - with whom Roald had also worked with on You Only Live Twice - produced the film. Much of the action was filmed in Turville, a small English village in the Buckinghamshire countryside, not far from Roald's home in Great Missenden.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tells the story of two children, Jeremy and Jemima Potts. They live with their widowed father, inventor Caractacus Potts. On a day when they should be in school they meet Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of major confectionery-maker Lord Scrumptious and owner of a motorcar which the Potts' nickname Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Later, Caractacus tells them a story about a fictional country called Vulgaria and its evil rulers, Baron and Baroness Bomburst, who have imprisoned all Vulgaria's children and want to steal Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In the story, Baron Bomburst kidnaps the Potts' children's grandfather, mistakenly believing he is the magical car's inventor. Jeremy, Jemima, Truly and Caractacus travel to Vulgaria to rescue him but when they arrive, Jeremy and Jemima fall foul of the Baron's evil Child Catcher, played in the film by Robert Helpmann.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is now an established favourite, recognised as a classic family film. The character of the Child Catcher does not appear in Fleming's original book and is usually recognised as Roald's creation. A sinister and frightening figure, he is often described as one of the most terrifying movie villains more than 40 years after the film's release.

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