The stories have elements of revenge, the macabre (dead cats), bullying and violence, and hints about sex, making them far from childish or idealised, unlike the typical school story. The critic Edmund Wilson, in The Wound and the Bow, was both shocked and uncomprehending about them. For example, Beetle pokes fun at an earlier, more earnest, boys' book, Eric, or, Little by Little, thus flaunting his more worldly outlook.
An additional story was written by Kipling, but never published; named Scylla and Charybdis, it saw Stalky and his friends catch a colonel cheating at golf. The story existed only in manuscript form, attached to the end of the original manuscript copy of Stalky & Co..
On his death in 1936, Kipling bequeathed the Stalky & Co manuscript to the Imperial Service Trust, the body which operated his old school, the Imperial Service College (formerly the United Services College); it passed into the possession of Haileybury and Imperial Service College when that school absorbed the Imperial Service College in 1942. The manuscript finally was displayed at Haileybury in 1962, in an exhibition to mark the school's centenary; in 1989 it moved permanently to the College archives after spending many years in a bank vault.
Whilst the story was known to exist in the volume, it had never been transcribed, or widely discussed; the school eventually decided to publish it in association with the Kipling Society, and it was published to the world in 2004.
The tales were adapted for television by the BBC in 1982. The six part series starred Robert Addie as Stalky and David Parfitt as Beetle. It was directed by Rodney Bennett and produced by Barry Letts.