Books in brief: Alastair Campbell cowrites a Troubles/football thriller
Plus: David Jason’s funny acting life; and an uneven collection of essays on the Bauhaus
David Jason with his waxwork double at Madame Tussaud’s, London, 1998. Photograph: Neil Munns/PA Photo
Only Fools and Stories
Arrow Books, £7.99
In My Life, David Jason told of his journey “from north London electrician with his own van to television actor with his own car”. Here he tells of the characters he played during that journey. What motivated him to give up his secure occupation and take a chance on acting was the opportunity to be other people who weren’t anything like him, “the possibility … of absolute escape into other characters and other lives”. The first character up is Derek “Del Boy” Trotter, who proved widely popular and a huge success for Jason (seven BBC series, 1981-1991, plus 16 sporadic Christmas specials up to 2003 and still regularly repeated). There followed the role of Pop Larkin in The Darling Buds of May for three years and then the very different role of Detective Inspector Jack Frost for a further 18. He had strong scripts, of course, but what emerges from the book is the deep thought and meticulous preparation he put into giving his characters their individuality and recognisability. Written with characteristic humour and warmth, this is an enjoyable read.
The Spirit of the Bauhaus
General Editors: Olivier Gabet and Anne Monier
Thames & Hudson, £40, 264pp
The word “Bauhaus” conjures certain associations: Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mies van der Rohe, the building itself in Dessau, Germany.
The school, founded in 1919 with the intention of uniting the teaching of the arts under one roof, was closed by the Nazis in 1933. And while this book never puts its finger on exactly what Bauhaus means (“spirit” is more representative of the nebulous idea of one of the defining creative forces in 20th-century modernism), its English translation is welcome. For one, it features less lauded disciplines such as ceramics and sculpture, alongside the renowned architecture and furniture.
The essays are uneven, but the images in the book are striking, as would be expected (how could Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s photographs be anything else?).
There’s a view that the Bauhaus influenced Ikea; the Swedish company representing its apotheosis of minimum materials and maximum accessibility (albeit a bland version). Perhaps it will achieve an ambition the Bauhaus once strove for: “(our) ...sitting on a flexible column of air.” Or maybe not.
Saturday Bloody Saturday
By Alastair Campbell and Paul Fletcher
Orion Books, 403pp, £18.99
This Jack Higgins-esque thriller – described by Delia Smith as “a gripping combination of football and terrorism” – is cowritten by Tony Blair’s former director of communications, Alistair Campbell, and ex-Burnley striker Paul Fletcher. Against the backdrop of both the 1974 UK general election and the IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain, football manager Charlie Gordon needs a decent FA Cup run to keep him in a job. Yet as his club travels to London for a once-in-a-lifetime game against Chelsea, an IRA cell is preparing a Brighton-style attack on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State. Campbell and Fletcher are at their best when writing about football, and the sense of pride in the small-town club and the excitement of “studs on concrete” on match day are lovingly portrayed. The sheer number of characters can make it difficult to keep track of the tangled plot, and there are many – such as Paul, an IRA man who harbours a secret love for another man – who might have been more fully explored. Johnny Giles sums it up best: “a lot of football and a fair bit of Ireland”.