Wednesday 19 June 2013

Robert Banks Stewart

With surprisingly little fanfare, Robert Banks Stewart recently published a thriller, The Hurricane's Tail. Why do I say 'surprisingly'? Well, the fact is that Mr Stewart might be described as one of the more successful crime writers of the past half-century. Yet I guess that although plenty of readers will recognise his name, they will not be quite sure why it seems so familiar.

The explanation is that the name of Robert Banks Stewart has appeared on our television screens countless times, as he has been a producer and screenplay writer of great distinction. I first became aware of him years ago, and he was involved with many of the great television series. In his early days he wrote scripts for the Edgar Wallace thriller series, as well as Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan. These were among the first crime shows I watched on the box when I was very young.

After that, the hits kept on coming. He wrote for Doctor Who and also for The Avengers - an episode featuring a parodic version of Mensa, of which his wife was a member. He created Shoestring (one of my all-time favourite TV detective shows), starring Trevor Eve, and when that came to an end, followed it up with the even more successful, if less quirky, Bergerac, starring John Nettles. What a CV!

I've been lucky enough to come into contact recently with this wonderful writer, and I asked him about the difference between writing for TV and writing a novel. He told me, "The thing you learn as a that economy is important. The picture tells the underlying a certain extent." He found that with his novel, the dialogue came easily, but that he had to work much harder to make everything else convincing: "Funny, isn't it, on screen you don't leave a lot to the imagination. In  a book, huge chunks are down to the imagination of the reader." 

The pleasure of becoming acquainted with this legendary writer has prompted me to take another look at his work, and I'll be returning to Robert Banks Stewart's brilliant career in a future post. In the meantime, The Hurricane' s Tail is definitely worth a look.

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