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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Recent Reading . . . and some Writing . . . Part 1

I have quite a wide taste in what I enjoy reading. I've had a passion for good reading since I was quite a young age. When I was at school we were always supposed to have something to read, taken out of the school library or else bought from a local shop. Infant, it's a habit which I have continued to this day. I always have a book to read and once one is read I have another to read.  I read Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" and the later books which featured the same characters. "We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea" which I believe was set in and around Essex, along the coast from where we used to go on holiday when I was a child, Frinton-On-Sea, Walton-On-Naze and all the little inlets along that stretch of coast. The characters were real to me, and the stories were good. I'm not sure whether children read them today. I think they were written in the 1920's and 30's so perhaps they wouldn't appeal to modern children, bought up with iPads, Gameboys, Nintendo etc. My father was a sailor and had yachts which were sailed along that bit of coast, around the Colne Estuary, Brightlingsea as well as Frinton (see earlier blog posts on our family holidays.) So a series of books featuring children who sailed was of interest to me, not that I was a sailor myself. My father put me off, to some extent, as he wasn't the most patient of people, when it came to his children in a boat he was sailing. When I went to work as a D.S.M. at Century Theatre in Keswick in the early 1970's they were in the process of making a film version of "Swallows and Amazons" on Lake Windermere, although I was too busy with the season of plays we were producing to be able to watch any of the filming, which was a real shame.

I got hooked on anything with a really good plot. I was a radio drama fan (something I doubt children of today can say.) Radio Four (or the good old Home Service it was named up until about 1967 when the B.B.C. introduced us to Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4. No doubt it was easier to give the stations numbers than to come up with any other name.) I think it's the fact that, with a radio adaptation, you have to use your imagination far wore than when it's done in a visual medium, such as film or television or even stage. For that I think Radio Four is quite unique. Where else can you get such a rich selection of drama? Nowhere I can think of. I got hooked on adaptations of novels, done as "Saturday Night Theatre" as well as a Sunday night adaptation of books as well as stage plays. It was through an adaptation of "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier, that I discovered not only that novel, but all, or about all, her other novels, such as "Frenchman's Cove", "Jamaica Inn" as well as her later novels such as "The House On The Strand." Such an incredible author, how she could evoke a place, such as Cornwall where most of her earlier novels are set. "The House On The Strand" is a particularly clever piece of writing, and it worked so well as a radio piece and wouldn't work as a film or a television series (thankfully.) and knowing today's television it would be ruined. "Rebecca" is perhaps best known as being made into a film by Albert Hitchcock and starring Laurence Olivier as Max DeWinter. It has been adapted for television a couple of times, the first with Joanna David as "The Girl" and then much more recently with Charles Dance. More of Daphne DuMaurier's stories have  been made into films, most famously, another Hitchcock adaptation being "The Birds" as well as "Don't Look Now" with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland and directed by Nicholas Roeg. It's a really scary film and, although a good 40-plus years old, well worth a view if you get a chance to see it. It's shown regularly on television although you could get it on DVD. I supposed DuMaurier would be considered a 'woman's novelist' and I suppose, when I first came across her, not having then read anything of hers, it would have put me off,  as I think I might have thought the novels to be sort of 'Mills and Boon-ish', but how wrong could I be, as her books are so well plotted and the characters so captivating, particularly "Rebecca" that I was soon hooked and had to read more of them.

In the late 1960's Radio Four did a quite brilliant serialisation of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel "The Hobbit." It was done in eight episodes. I have recently managed to purchase this adaptation of a set of CD's from "The Works" in Milton Keynes. As a result of the radio adaptation I read the book and later on I discovered "The Lord of The Rings" (also adapted for B.B.C. Radio and part of the CD set.) I had it originally in a very thick paperback edition which I think I bought on a trip into London and took with me when I went to work as an A.S.M. at Liverpool Playhouse in the early 1970's. I read it every decade or so after that, and had it in three hard-bound editions, I think purchased from Book Club Associates and later I had an illustrated, one volume edition. So I know the trilogy very well and enjoyed the Peter Jackson movie trilogy which was pretty faithful to the original. At the time of writing this I haven't seen "The Hobbit." It seems unnecessary to me to make it into three films, because it's a relatively straightforward book. No doubt it was done for financial reasons, which seems a shame. I may eventually get round to viewing it on D.V.D.

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