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INTO THE UNKNOWN - THE FANTASTIC LIFE OF NIGEL KNEALE
By Andy Murray
Headpress
REVIEW BY Andrew Screen

First announced at the end of 2005 for publication in early 2006, but delayed several months due to updating chapters on the BBC 4 remake of The Quatermass Experiment, this is the much anticipated first ever biography of the seminal writer Nigel Kneale.

Author Andy Murray kicks the book off in confident manner by debunking several myths around Kneale (who aided Murray in his research by not only allowing the biographer full access to his scripts and files, but also by offering his recollections). Sadly, however, this excellent start somehow loses momentum and the book ends up a rather flat and dull read. Perhaps it was the long wait and the crest of anticipation that gathered in that period as this is, surprisingly the first ever account of without a doubt one of the seminal British TV writers still living, but somehow this book, whilst providing an adequate and informative account of Kneale's early life and body of work, becomes repetitive and monotone.

The book does, however, score very high when it comes to recounting the unmade projects, possibly purely because they have never been fully covered before, but this is all let down by a lack of any indexes which could have certainly boosted the value of the book. A lack of an extensive filmogaphy, including unmade projects, or any kind of referencing difficult. Also Headpress have evidently been restricted in what sources they can afford to pool photographs from, but at least they have had the confidence to spot what will still hope will be a commercial success despite my negative responses.

It's surprising that a book regarding Kneale has taken this long to be published and this is a competent enough book and is a solid enough overview of Kneale's work, but it all somehow lacks cohesion and in-depth insight. More detail in to how the productions were made would have been certainly welcome as would more analysis of the social and cultural impact Kneale's work has had. These topics are often left to quotes from fans who now work in the industry (including film director John Carpenter and League of Gentleman stars Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson) or from surviving members of the production teams that made Kneale's work and this has the problem of turning the book in to a long stream of anecdotes rather than a cohesive overview.

Despite its failings this is still a solid book, but one that should have been much more incisive and polished and as such it is not a fitting enough tribute to Kneale and his impact on broadcasting - that book is still to be written, but for now this will do.




Headpress

ISBN: 0-00-719099-9