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John Garforth - Avengers novels writer!
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DiVicenzo
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:24 am    Post subject: John Garforth - Avengers novels writer! Reply with quote


Here is a blog that talks about Mr. Garforth and I have printed the entry from his website about The Avengers below.

http://brooligan.blogspot.com/2009/04/john-garforth.html

Thanks to Denis for your investigation! Not sure if this has been mentioned before. If it has please don't tell me off!



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


*****

My Avengers Past Catching Up with Me

I have recently received correspondence from the webmaster of the French Avengers fansite who came across this website. Here is the correspondence.

Good afternoon Mr Garforth,

I have spent a couple of hours reading your site. I've found it by luck. I'm the webmaster of the French site dedicated to The Avengers, Le Monde des Avengers (http://www.theavengers.fr/index.htm) and I was very surprised when I read the following assertion :

I assume that anybody coming to this website is concerned with my activities as a Staffordshire County Councillor or my work as an activist in the Labour party. So most of this material is devoted to those aspects of my life.

I have read your four novels and that is how I've found your website ! In fact, I had to explore the website to be sure you are the same person !

I have written a review of each book concerning the series and here is the one about the novels: http://www.theavengers.fr/faq/faqbibliotheque_romans.htm#1

My favourite ones are : The Laugh was on Lazarus and Heil Harris !

I would be very honoured if you accept to answer the following questions for the site.

1 When and how did you discover The Avengers ?

2 What are your favourite season and episodes ?

3 Why did you decide to write novels on The Avengers ?

4 What is your favourite one ?

5 You wrote you have met Diana Rigg: What was her reaction to the novels ?

6 Did you meet other members of the cast or production ?

7 Was it easy to write on Steed and Mrs Peel, compared with others novelizations of televisions series like The Champions and Paul Temple ?

8 Were the novels based on episodes of the series ?

9 Did you have any feedback from actors, the production or fans ?

10 Your novels were a world wide success (They were translated in French, German, Dutch and they were even sold in Chile). How do you explain that success ?

11 Why did you write on your website the following passage. Don't you think it is a privilege that these novels are still popular among fans forty years after their publication ?

I recommend that if anybody comes across any of these works in second hand shops or jumble sales you buy them and destroy them unread and I will reimburse you the 50p or whatever you paid, as a service to literature.

Best

Denis

My reply is as follows:

Hi Denis,

It was kind of you to write so good naturedly about my rather frivolous comment quoted at the end of your letter. It is of course quite unwarranted and since posting it I have several times thought of removing it. The fact is that for a ‘serious’ novelist my c.v. is a disqualification from being thought a proper writer. At the time, in the mid-60s I approached the task with genuine enthusiasm. ‘The Laugh Was on Lazarus’ was conceived as I thought with originality, an imaginative opening chapter (I have given public readings of it) and contains some effective writing. ‘Heil Harris’ must have some virtue because the German publisher used the other three but refused to publish that one. My own favourite was ‘Gloria Munday’ because for me it was a very 60s-Twiggy-pirate radio saturated time which I thought then that I had captured quite well. My main regret is that I was writing the four books to a printer’s deadline, and I think the fourth of them (Heil Harris) was rushed and therefore suffered.

The fact that television spin-offs were a despised genre was brought home to me on the occasion that I met Diana Rigg at her flat in Dolphin Square with her PA (or an ITV PA assigned to her) called Marie Donaldson. I don’t think Diana Rigg had read any of them, but Marie Donaldson vetted them all and she thought that one of them (probably Gloria Munday) verged dangerously towards an explicit sex scene. I explained that what I was trying to do – and Miss Rigg interrupted imperiously with ‘I know what you’re trying to do!’ So I gave up any attempt to talk intelligently to her. She thought she was royalty and was treated so by all her hangers-on.

That is why my favourite Avengers series was the Joanna Lumley period, I’m sure I’d have fallen in love with her. But by 1967 the Avengers was already in deep trouble because the Americans thought Patrick McNee was too old and they wanted him replaced by Roger Moore, who in fact had bigger fish to fry. Around this time they also brought back the original producer (John Pierce or some such name) who wasted a lot of my time discussing writing ideas – the old mantra about new ideas and new writers – before dishing out the new series (it was Tara King by then) to the same old gang who wrote everything around that time.

On one of these occasions when I was summoned to Elstree I watched Tara King dodging in and out of doors and running along a balcony in what I assume was an audition. That was also how I met Bette Davis.

Now back to your questions:

1. I discovered The Avengers during the Honor Blackman series, which were probably taken more seriously forty five years ago than they are now.

2. I can’t answer this – in my memory they are a continuum, no longer divided up into episodes. My favourite series was either Honor Blackman’s or Joanna Lumley’s.It always seemed to me that Diana Rigg was acting with subtitles across the bottom of the screen, ‘acting’ and she was more serious than this stuff. But them I’m prejudiced. It wasn’t until Bleak House that I took her seriously again.

3. I didn’t decide – my agent at the time asked me to do it because he thought my work combined thriller and comedy and class and thought I could do the job.

4. see above

5. see above.

6. see above

7. I found them all easy – I think that was why I was chosen for the jobs. If you have read The Champions you’ll see that I set myself the challenge of combining the pilot (which had not been seen at the time) and the first couple of episodes into an integrated plot. I thought I did it quite well, but that is for others to judge. At least it kept me interested.

8. Not The Avengers novels, The Champions and Paul Temple yes. The Paul Temple scripts were old radio serials from the Bristol days which I thought were dated so I tried to make them slicker, like the Francis Matthews TV series to which they were linked. I think Francis Durbridge was slightly hurt that the same old gang (see para 2) wrote the TV series instead of Francis himself and he was suspicious of me, deleting any comedy that he detected.

9. I had no feedback. Performers do not react to the written script. They count the number of words, evaluate their role, when it goes out if it succeeds they take the credit and if it fails it was badly written. Which is generally fair, we have many more brilliant performers than writers.

10. The success of The Avengers novels was due to the success of the television series. The novels were re-published in various countries in the early 1990s because of Joanna Lumley and AbFab. No credit to me.

Okay, Denis, I think I’ve answered all your questions.

I’m sorry that my website was politically motivated and treated my 60s and 70s hack life as peripheral. I know a couple of people in Tamworth who treat me with respect because of The Champions.

I’ll read your reviews of the novels now, but I promise not to pop up and argue with the things you say. Your reactions are as valid (maybe more so) than my intentions forty years ago.

Take care now, with all best wishes, John
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Philippa
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Funny coincidence, I just read this on the Diana Rigg forum, and was about to post it here. You beat me to it Barry Very Happy
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DiVicenzo
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Philippa wrote:
Funny coincidence, I just read this on the Diana Rigg forum, and was about to post it here. You beat me to it Barry Very Happy


Ha! Very Happy He didn't like Diana did he? I have received one of those imperious looks from her and it can kill from 30 paces Shocked But his flip comment about his novels that Denis asked him about was extremely funny! I have them but haven't read them since I first bought them as a nipper in the 60's.
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Dandy Forsdyke
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DiVicenzo wrote:
I have them but haven't read them since I first bought them as a nipper in the 60's.


You're not missing anything. I've read a couple and I found them to be badly written, poorly reserched with characters that did not resemble the characters on the screen. Rubbish cash ins.

Deadline and Dead Duck are far better. Not perfect, but an improvement on Garfield's.
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Frankymole
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:41 am    Post subject: Re: John Garforth - Avengers novels writer! Reply with quote

DiVicenzo wrote:

But by 1967 the Avengers was already in deep trouble because the Americans thought Patrick McNee was too old and they wanted him replaced by Roger Moore
...who is a whole 2 years younger! Rolling Eyes
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DiVicenzo
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 12:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a post from a member of Avengers Suburbia which sums up my opinion on this bloke:

This fellow sounds pretty grouchy. I wonder why. He admitted he made a bundle of money. He said early in his response that he's thought of taking back his original statement that he'd reimburse anyone purchasing any of his Avengers novels if they'd just trash them, but then he went on to trash the producers, actors, directors, everyone. Well, everyone but Joanna Lumley.

I've read all of those novels. It took me forever to find them all. I searched faithfully through second-hand bookstores and flea markets and finally had them all. And though I read every word of every one, I didn't like them at all. In some of the books it seemed to me he was writing his own stories that really had nothing to do with The Avengers or the characters - almost as if he wrote the stories first and then changed the names to the show's character's names. I often found myself talking out loud to the books - or to the author - saying things like, "Have you SEEN the show?"

So there, Mr. Grouchforth.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm really not a fan of the Garforths. I tried reading two, gave up halfway both times, and never bothered trying the others. They didn't feel even remotely like the series, and had a very uncomfortable feel with lots of sadism and spurting blood, not terribly Avengersish. Some of the other books were bad at the characterisation, but they didn't make me squirm (except for the horrible To Catch A Rat). It's interesting reading his interview, but I won't touch those books again with a ten-foot pole.
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Bill Thinnes
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:14 pm    Post subject: Garforth novels Reply with quote

I LIKED them! I was 14 when I first read them, and a bit taken aback with the language and adult situations, but nowadays that stuff doesn't bother me, and I think it was all a bit implicit in the television show, anyway; they were constrained by the TV taboos of the time. I think if the AVENGERS had been a movie series in the late sixties, it would have resembled the Garforth books a little more closely. I found them very entertaining and they had more depth of character and situation than the subsequent Laumer and Daniels novels. It's like this: Do you prefer A TOUCH OF BRIMSTONE or EPIC? BRIMSTONE is Garforth and EPIC is the rest...
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Garforth novels Reply with quote

Bill Thinnes wrote:
I LIKED them! I was 14 when I first read them, and a bit taken aback with the language and adult situations, but nowadays that stuff doesn't bother me, and I think it was all a bit implicit in the television show, anyway; they were constrained by the TV taboos of the time. I think if the AVENGERS had been a movie series in the late sixties, it would have resembled the Garforth books a little more closely. I found them very entertaining and they had more depth of character and situation than the subsequent Laumer and Daniels novels. It's like this: Do you prefer A TOUCH OF BRIMSTONE or EPIC? BRIMSTONE is Garforth and EPIC is the rest...


Well, I'd never put Epic in my top ten or anything, but I really hate A Touch of Brimstone. It's everything the Avengers isn't. The show was so brilliant because it got away with so much with such subtlety. Brimstone feels as though everyone got too carried away reading their own press about how "kinky" everything was, and ended up trying too hard. The Garforths are the same deal. Maybe they would have been able to "get away" with more now, but that's not the point of the series. I adore Life on Mars, but the blood, nudity, and language would seem really wrongheaded in Avengerland, and that's exactly how I feel about the novels.
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denis
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember that little interview. That was quite difficult to trace the man !
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Timeless A-Peel
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While we're on this topic, has anyone here read his Champions novel? Because I've been interested in it ever since I saw the series, but when I figured out who wrote it I had second thoughts. Does it have the same sort of content as the Avengers ones, or was he able to write them without totally changing the tone of the series?
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DiVicenzo
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

denis wrote:
I remember that little interview. That was quite difficult to trace the man !


Thanks for getting Denis - well done! Merci beaucoup Smile
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Avengerholic
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I quite like 'The Gold Bomb', I thought that was very much The Avengers.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avengerholic wrote:
I quite like 'The Gold Bomb', I thought that was very much The Avengers.


That was Keith Laumer, though, and he generally did a better job. There was one scene in The Drowned Queen where Steed had his roomate vacate the cabin by telling him he had a pet snake prone to cuddling up to you for warmth. I thought it was hilarious.

I had to read some of his sci-fi for school once, though. Let's just say it fit the "disturbing and depressing" criteria beloved by English classes. Shocked
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Bill Thinnes
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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2009 9:20 pm    Post subject: Garforth novels Reply with quote

Another thing Garforth had going for him, IMHO, was the QUALITY of his writing: originality, word-play, the unexpected, and - as I mentioned in my previous post - depth of character. Steed and Emma are somewhat two dimensional [necessarily, perhaps] in the TV show. Not that I don't love it to death! But I thought Garforth's novels gave a little extra depth to the characters, largely by revealing some of their internal thoughts/musings. The later Laumer and Daniels books go for [by my book, anyway] broader humor and bizarre, obvious character-naming; rather an EPIC-like approach. I prefer the darker Garforth take... I realize I'm a minority here, but from a literature standpoint I really feel the Garforth novels are superior. Does ANYBODY out there agree??
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PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although I've been aware of the Avengers books for ages, I've never once considered tracking one down. The joy of the Avengers for me is all to do with the visuals and the feels of it; you just don't get that from a book.
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Ketman
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This John Garforth character is intriguing, to say the least. A google search turns up four Avengers novels by him, all from 1967. He also has five more novels, mostly novelizations of other TV series, written between 1969 and 1978, after which he disappears off the radar. Outside of this thread I can find no evidence that he wrote any scripts at all, either for radio or TV. Yet he seems to imply it in several places.

About The Avengers, he says: "Around this time they also brought back the original producer (John Pierce or some such name) who wasted a lot of my time discussing writing ideas – the old mantra about new ideas and new writers – before dishing out the new series (it was Tara King by then) to the same old gang who wrote everything around that time."

He's talking like an insider whose time is valuable, but we need a reality check. Garforth has has no imdb entry, either as a scriptwriter or anything else. When someone with no TV credits to his name gets to meet a producer, we can take it that he was the one asking for the meeting. Presumably he's sent in scripts in the hope of being invited to write for the series. If the producer spends time with an untried scriptwriter discussing and explaining what he wants, and it comes to nothing, that would have to be called a waste of the producer's time, rather than the writer's. If the Avengers didn't use Garforth, and no other show used him either, the reason might just be that he wasn't any good.

In answer to the question "Did you have any feedback from actors, the production or fans?" he says this:

"I had no feedback. Performers do not react to the written script. They count the number of words, evaluate their role, when it goes out if it succeeds they take the credit and if it fails it was badly written. Which is generally fair, we have many more brilliant performers than writers."

That leads us to believe he was employed as a scriptwriter. But where is the evidence?

But this next reminiscence is the unlikeliest of all:

"The fact that television spin-offs were a despised genre was brought home to me on the occasion that I met Diana Rigg at her flat in Dolphin Square with her PA (or an ITV PA assigned to her) called Marie Donaldson. I don’t think Diana Rigg had read any of them, but Marie Donaldson vetted them all and she thought that one of them (probably Gloria Munday) verged dangerously towards an explicit sex scene. I explained that what I was trying to do – and Miss Rigg interrupted imperiously with ‘I know what you’re trying to do!’ So I gave up any attempt to talk intelligently to her. She thought she was royalty and was treated so by all her hangers-on."

First, notice that it contradicts what he said before - that actors give very little feedback to scriptwriters. That would be even more true of spin-off writers whose connection to the show is only peripheral. The Avengers was a sabbatical for Diana Rigg, a break from her more serious work, and she was already growing tired of it. She'd rather have watched a puddle evaporate than read one of Garforth's novelizations, never mind comment on it. Second, Marie Donaldson was not anyone's PA. She was ABC's Press Officer. As such she'd have an office of her own, and wouldn't need to arrange meetings in Diana Rigg's flat, especially meetings in which Diana could have no personal interest. But it's hard to see why Ms Donaldson would meet him at all. If she had the power to vet novelizations of the series (and who gave her the power, and why?) she would communicate with the publisher, not the writer. He would have no authority to negotiate content with her. Doing novelizations of TV shows is absolutely the bottom rung of the fiction-writing ladder. It's done by hacks who write at home and do all their business through their agent. Sometimes they don't even meet their own publisher. There would be several layers of authority between Garforth and Marie Donaldson, and the chances of his being called to a high-powered meeting with her and Diana Rigg are just about nil. It's an anecdote fabricated out of nothing by a hack writer trying to big himself up.
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Frankymole
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ketman wrote:

He's talking like an insider whose time is valuable, but we need a reality check. Garforth has has no imdb entry, either as a scriptwriter or anything else.
It could be a nom de plume though, lots of novelists or scriptwriters have written novelisations under assumed names (Stephen Gallagher as John Lydecker, for instance) so their reputation for "serious" work isn't compromised.
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Ketman
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Garforth is his nom de plume. His real name is Anthony Hussey. There is no writer listed under either name on imdb.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ketman wrote:
John Garforth is his nom de plume. His real name is Anthony Hussey. There is no writer listed under either name on imdb.
Perhaps he had a different nom de plume for television scripts Wink
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