Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Crediting the designer

As Tyrone Jenkins points out in  a comment on this blog, the covers of both editions of The Man Who Invented the Daleks are really rather splendid. The hardback jacket, in particular, is the best cover I've ever had.

So my thanks to the excellent Mark Swan at kid-ethic.com for doing such a fine job on both.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Shiny Daleks

I've just received a copy of the paperback edition of The Man Who Invented the Daleks, my book about Terry Nation. And very shiny and splendid it is too. The paperback isn't actually published until January, which means there's still time to get the beautifully designed hardback - the perfect Christmas gift, surely?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Quote for the Week 17

Jack Regan: 'Thank God they're going independent. We'll be able to put that wall up again.'
- Troy Kennedy Martin, 'Hard Men', The Sweeney, 1978

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Halfway to Paradise

The Harry Hammond exhibition has now opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and it looks terrific. In particular there are some photos that have been blown up to wall-size to form a backdrop for the framed shots and they look even better the bigger they get. Free admission, as well.

Another conference season

That's it, then, is it? All the party conferences over and done with. Did anyone in the real world notice?

I read some commentators claiming that Ed Miliband's speech was 'a game-changer', and then some others (though not so many) making the same claim for David Cameron.

Just in case it's not entirely obvious: neither of those things is true. Nothing happened.

For the Liberal Democrats, that's okay. Only bad stuff was ever a possibility, so no news was about as good as it was going to get.

For Labour, Miliband still doesn't look like a serious candidate to be prime minister. And all that stuff about 'one-nation Labour', haven't we heard that before? Yes we have, back in 1995 when John Prescott launched exactly the same slogan at the Labour conference. So Miliband is seeking to overcome the Blairite-Brownite legacy by outing himself as a Prescottian. There's progress for you.

But since purloining slogans is the sum total of modern political oratory, Cameron responded by declaring himself in favour of 'privilege for all', in the same way that Tony Blair used to talk about 'excellence for all'. Both cases insult the English language and the intelligence of the electorate in equal measure.

The truth is that this isn't a time for new policies. Politics itself is in suspended animation, waiting to see how long it will be before there's a genuine economic recovery (which is not the same as a set of quarterly figures showing a 0.2 per cent growth in GDP).

Is there any point to these conferences? They don't even get to the end of the week anymore, as though even they can't be bothered to make the effort. Nor is anyone else interested. Question Time last week got straight on to the real news story of the week: Jimmy Savile.

(Just in passing, there was a campaigner on the wireless last week arguing that those charged with underage sex shouldn't have a jury trial, because ordinary people don't understand the complexities of paedophile psychology. Instead he called for the equivalent of Diplock courts.)

Now that it's clear that the conferences are a waste of time, can't we save on the cost of televising and policing them? Let's have done with the pretence and adopt the American model of each party having just one big whooping rally in election year. We could fill up the television time with a three-week snooker tournament. In which case, I think my money would be on Nick Clegg.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Savile Inquiry

So where have we got to after a week of stories about Jimmy Savile?

Well, firstly, it's now acknowledged that Savile's predatory habits when it came to teenage girls was an 'open secret'. That's certainly the case. Over the years I've interviewed a fair number of people who appeared on Top of the Pops in the 1960s and '70s, and the stories about Savile were widespread and all pretty much the same. The most commonly used word to describe the world of TotP was 'disgusting'.

Savile wasn't, though, unique. While his name was always the first to be mentioned, it wasn't the only one. Others, including some behind the cameras, have also cropped up more than once in conversation.

Obviously this is all hearsay and has no place in a court, even in one of public opinion. But then I'm no insider, I have no access to any special knowledge, and all I hear is the common gossip that circulated freely in pop circles. It is not exactly to the BBC's credit that it didn't pursue the truth or otherwise of allegations that they must have heard in rather more convincing form than I ever have.

But it's worth repeating. Savile wasn't the only one. In his own account, he implied the involvement of the police in his activities. It'll be interesting to see how much of that emerges from the Met's newly launched enquiry.

Meanwhile, there seem to be rather a lot of papers who have a commercial interest in attacking the BBC who are using the Savile case as an opportunity to, er, attack the BBC. And some of that is getting silly.

The Mail Online ran a photo at the end of last week of John Peel dressed in schoolgirl uniform, as it attempted to drag him in (as it were) to a story about paedophilia. The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph also used the same photo.

This wasn't an 'open secret'. It was simply open. The photo was a (quite funny) publicity shot that was commonplace in the music press of the 1970s. But when the Mail ran it, I worried that all such imagery was now deemed to be suspect. Happily, when I then did a search for 'St Trinian's' on the Mail's site, it came up with page after page of results, many of them illustrated by photos of charming young ladies dressed as schoolgirls, complete with stockings and suspenders.

The story attached to the picture was hardly a secret either. The reason that anyone knows about Peel and teenage groupies in Texas in the early-1960s - or about his 15-year-old wife - is because he was always honest enough to talk about his life. Sometimes rather too openly, as anyone who heard his long on-air accounts in the 1970s of what was then called VD can testify. ('Just play a bloody record,' was the standard response, soon regretted when he put on side two of Meddle at the wrong speed.)

Meanwhile the story has taken a slight detour into the subject of sexism at the BBC in the old days. Undoubtedly true, though the Corporation was probably not the only employer where sexist attitudes prevailed into the 1980s. Not really in the same territory, however, as powerful men using a children's home as a supplier of sexual services.

There have also been attempts by some commentators to use the Savile case as a stick with which to beat the Leveson Inquiry. If press freedom is curtailed, runs this line, how could someone like Savile be exposed?

Well, the problem is that he wasn't exposed. The free press didn't help in this instance. Nor did it in the case of Gary Glitter. Glitter's trial in Britain on charges relating to underage sex resulted in a not-guilty verdict, largely because of the actions of the News of the World, who'd bought the story of the alleged victim.

There are arguments against the conduct of the Leveson Inquiry - and there will be arguments to be made whatever the findings of that inquiry - but Savile can't really be pressed into service on this.

We'll see where we go from here. My suspicion, however, is that this is rapidly turning into one of those stories that will miss the point, that Savile will be offered up as a sacrifice while a large number of other old men count their blessings that it wasn't them.

Friday, 5 October 2012

One for the Teenagers

I rather like Richard Littlejohn's suggestion that Ed Balls is 'the reincarnation of Ray Gunter'. Been a long time since I've seen a mention of Gunter.