Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recommended read: The Widow’s Tale

I came to Jackson’s work by a circuitous route.  I found his recent collection Bears of England serialised on the BBC’s Afternoon Reading and thought, This is a writer I have got to read more of.  I tracked down his Booker nominated The Underground Man and was spellbound.  Surely this is one of the least-known Booker nominees of recent times.  Then, last week, I was mooching round my local library and stumbled upon The Widow’s Tale (2010).  Jackson, who is 50 years old and, obviously, a man, entirely inhabits his character of a 63 year old widow.  Everything is experienced from her point of view.  The story, in itself, is slim, but never fails to hold the reader’s attention.  I was swept along, sometimes amused, other times squirming with the unnamed widow.  Writing of the highest order without the slightest pretention and with all the artistry masterfully disguised.  The best book I have read so far this year – and I haven’t been doing badly in that regard.

The Passing of Sarah Jane

It has been announced today that the luminous Elisabeth Sladen has died of cancer, aged only 63. Very sad.  Her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the main Dr Who was as good as most but she came into her own with the recent spin-off for CBBC, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is as good an example of serious ambitious writing for intelligent young people.

Mainstream BBC should pay tribute by running Sarah Jane on Saturday or Sunday teatime.

Best of Beryl

Readers have voted Master Georgie the winner of the Man Booker Best of Beryl prize.  Dame Beryl Bainbridge never won the Booker Prize, albeit she repeatedly made the shortlist.  That said, she enjoyed a wide and devoted readership which many Booker winners could only dream of.  All in all, it’s a fitting tribute to a great writer.  Who can doubt that a public vote is how she would preferred to win?  Master Georgie got my vote (see earlier posts below) because it seemed to me the most ambitious in theme and technique.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Gin Game on LATW

I’ve been listening to the first hour of D L Coburn’s 1977 theatre classic on the wondrous LA Theatre Works site.  The world is convinced that America doesn’t do radio drama but here is the proof.  OK, it’s an adaptation but LATW give it in full with actors of the highest quality (Harris Yulin and the magical Katherine Helmond).

The Gin Game is that rarest of dramatic forms the tragi-comedy.  Here are genuine laughs but also true tragedy.  Coburn brilliantly uses the titular card game as a paradigm for interpersonal relationships, both between the players themselves and their long lost loved ones. I can’t wait for the second hour.

Why doesn’t the BBC broadcast this version?  They have been known to broadcast LATW productions before and an informal repertory of British radio actors regularly perform for LATW live in Hollywood.  The live audience isn’t always a plus but it certainly is here.  A true gem.  Find it here ( and relish it while you can!

Much more info about the play itself can be found at  Wow, this Coburn guy is one shrewd cookie…

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Samson and Delilah

I have just listened to BBC Play of the Week podcast – Katie Hims’ contribution  to R3’s New Mystery Play series for Easter.  OK, it’s a restrictive brief and the writers only have 25 minutes or so at their disposal.  Nevertheless, this was pretty poor fare.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Horror of horrors

Here I am, blithely scanning the New York Times website ( when I stumble across news that AMC has launched an American version of The Killing, relocated to Seattle.  Please, please don’t show this abomination in the UK!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Sony drama nominations 2011

The Sony Radio Academy Award Best Drama nominations have been announced:

Every Child Matters by Christopher Reason, dir Gary Brown, BBC Radio Drama Manchester, Radio 4.

In For A Penny by the Reynolds Brothers, Tempest Productions for BBC Radio Scotland.

Murder in Samarkand by David Hare, dir Clive Brill, prod Ann Scott, Greenpoint Films for Radio 4.

RIP Boy by Neil McKay, dir/prod Melanie Harris, Red Production Company for Radio 4.

The Recordist by Sean Grundy, dir Alison Crawford, BBC Bristol for Radio 4.

Winner announced May 5.  For nominations in other categories see: