Thursday, 22 May 2008

Alan Clarke by Richard T. Kelly (Faber, 1998)

Forgive the past beckoning me in but... it was round about 10 years ago this week that I signed off on the galley pages of my first book for Faber and Faber: Alan Clarke, an oral history of the life and times and (TV) films of the great director of Scum, Made In Britain, The Firm, Contact and many more. In great but needful haste I had begun work in early December 1997, calling on Tim Roth at a production office in Soho where he was prepping his directorial debut The War Zone. I finished the manuscript in March 1998, after 3 1/2 months of crazed gumshoe work, interviewing all round the country. But it was the time of my life, at the time anyway, and an honour to do a hugely improbable book-length tribute to a man whose work I venerated and who seemed to embody most of the good things in the world, as was confirmed by my expert witnesses.
None of the press reviews of the book are online anymore so please excuse the self-absorption of my posting the choicest nuggets up here like so:
“A quite remarkable, heartbreaking book… one of those rare movie books that makes you sit up and start reading… Kelly has had the excellent idea of letting Clarke’s mates tell the story, and he has interviewed everyone he could find, from the women in and out of Clarke’s life, to co-workers like David Yallop and Roy Minton, producer Mark Shivas, cameraman John Ward, actors Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, Ray Winstone and Eleanor Bron. There are more than sixty of them in all, and they’re cut together to make up a bewitching portrait of Clarke… Alan Clarke the book is a model of how to write film history.”
David Thomson, Independent On Sunday
“A sort of oral biography of our television times.”
David Hare, Daily Telegraph
“If there is a better book about British television in the 70s and 80s, I have yet to read it. This extraordinary assemblage of interviews, put together without editorial comment like the printed equivalent of a talking-head documentary, establishes the role of Clarke as friend, mentor and unsung champion of all that is right (and enemy of all that is wrong) with image-based culture in Britain.”
Nick Roddick, Sight & Sound
“Alan Clarke was controversial all his life and yet is hardly known, which is surprising when you read what a funny, untamed, sexy, charming scruff he was. The reason he got away with it was his prolific brilliance as a director. Richard [T.] Kelly’s book is a fascinating insight into a man of difficult, testy and passionate views.”
Angus Wolfe Murray, Scotsman
“Not so much a biography of Clarke as an oral history, Richard [T.] Kelly’s absorbing book depicts an uncompromising hellraiser who tirelessly turned his unflinching gaze on the most controversial subjects. It will make you mourn the passing of a TV industry which fostered work as challenging as his.”
John Wrathall, Premiere
“This is far more than one man and his craft, as the very essence of British culture and politics seeps through the text. A vivid portrait is painted of the unemployment and depression that was to influence Clarke and drive him to leave an anger-fuelled time capsule of society’s injustices for future generations to learn from.”
Dan Rider, Total Film

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