42 Word Retrospectives

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate by Stephen Gallagher, writing as John Lydecker restored from the original extended manuscript (1981); audiobook read by Jon Culshaw (with John Leeson as K9) (BBC Audio, 2019) Even in heavily expurgated form, the version of Warriors’ Gate published in 1982 outshone all but a few of the original Target novelisations. The 2019 audiobook restores Gallagher’s original…

A Memoir of Vincent van Gogh

A Memoir of Vincent van Gogh by Jo Van Gogh-Bonger (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018) (Originally published in 1913) A pocket-sized biography of Vincent van Gogh penned by his sister-in-law, whose written testimony and overseeing of his works did much posthumously to secure van Gogh’s historical standing. Van Gogh-Bonger’s account is accessible if measured, and liberal in its reproduction…

The Adventures of Sally

The Adventures of Sally by P G Wodehouse (Herbert Jenkins, 1922); audiobook read by Frederick Davidson (Blackstone, 1997) Wodehouse’s American stories tend to be a little more staid than those set in England. The plot here is clever and the prose witty. Sally is a winning protagonist. But Davidson’s audiobook reading plays no small role in enlivening the whole shebang.…

Sold – For a Spaceship

Sold – For a Spaceship by Philip E High (Robert Hale, 1973) High deploys his customary optimism in having the remnants of the human race awake from suspended animation to reclaim their much-changed planet. An enjoyable helter-skelter hodgepodge of pulp SF ideas, characters and landscapes, marred by male-female interactions that are early Hollywood cringeworthy.    

Cyril of the Apes

Cyril of the Apes by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy; ill. Quentin Blake (Jonathan Cape, 1987) A middling middle-grade adventure in which the protagonist—a crotchety writer with no redeeming features—embroils himself in various perils and through happenstance alone escapes them. The illustrations and tone of writing suggest this is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t.    

The Colour of Magic

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Colin Smythe, 1983); audiobook read by Nigel Planer (Isis, 1995) Pratchett’s first Discworld novel is a bubbling primordial soup of imagination. It sets the scene but at this burgeoning stage is less a crowning achievement in comedy and more the concomitant satire of a very funny man trying to write serious fantasy.  …

The Wombles

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford (Ernest Benn, 1968) The book that started a phenomenon. Beresford envisaged bear-like creatures living on Wimbledon Common. They are honest, hardworking, kind, curious and tidy but the younger Wombles are sometimes led into trouble by their childlike foibles. Each chapter relates a sweet, safe mini-adventure.    

The Dock Brief

The Dock Brief [aka “Trial and Error”] dir. James Hill (1962) Peter Sellers stars as an ineffectual barrister who has waited years for his first case, and Richard Attenborough as his unhelpfully guilty client. The performances are subtle and serious, while the script offers up a wistful character piece, not the comedy promised.