Welcome to my writing!

For a long time I've wanted to set up an online repository of my interviews, reviews and other writings ... and here it is! Use the Subject List to the right to select an author/topic and you will get all the entries which relate to the selected subject. Have fun browsing through!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020


If you thought that Doctor Who had died in 1989 when the TV series came off the air, then you could not be more incorrect.

Since then, an ever increasing number of novels featuring the seventh Doctor and his companions Ace, and latterly Bernice, have been published by Virgin Publishing. These novels, while bearing the name Doctor Who, are in many respects far removed from the TV series that spawned them. 'Stories too broad and too deep for the small screen' ran the original publicity, and this approach seems to have paid off, with every new novel selling as many as 25,000 copies.

To find out more about the range of books, and to meet some of the authors involved, David J Howe met with editor-in-chief Peter Darvill-Evans, assistant editor Rebecca Levene and writers Paul Cornell, Gareth Roberts, Andy Lane and Jim Mortimore.

'Doctor Who The New Adventures comes out of a long tradition of publishing books that related to the Doctor Who television series,' explains Peter. 'Virgin Publishing gained permission to publish new novels at about the same time as Doctor Who ended on television. As it became more and more apparent that there wouldn't be any more Doctor Who on television, the New Adventures became more and more important as the standard bearers of Doctor Who. But it also meant that we were increasingly able to regard the novels as taking Doctor Who into a completely new medium, with completely new types of stories and perhaps a different type of audience.'

To this end, Peter created a lengthy writer's guide which, as well as giving basic information on how to write, what Virgin's house style was, and the sort of stories they were after, also contained the concept of the Time Wyrm - a running theme which was to tie together the first four books.

Paul Cornell was the first previously unpublished author to write one of the New Adventures and his book, Revelation, concluded the first 'season' of books.

'The story which became Revelation was already there as a six part piece of fan fiction I had written for a fanzine called Queen Bat,' reveals Paul. 'The story was absolutely the same. I think that fan fiction has fed the New Adventures to quite a large degree. Peter has very cleverly tapped in to that aspect of fandom and has got quite a few of the people who were writing in that fan fiction boom doing the same kind of things for the New Adventures today, and that's a very good thing.'

Despite having written a large amount of fan fiction, Paul found the process of actually writing a novel pretty gruelling. 'I'd never written anything of that length before, I had to teach myself how to write a novel as I went along. It's a great challenge. I think this is one of the things that a lot of first time New Adventures writers have found.'

'I'd never mounted any serious attempt to get anything published professionally,' laughs Gareth Roberts, another first-time novelist, 'but the Doctor Who connection is that I used to fill up exercise books when I was a kid with Doctor Who stories but they always stopped at around page three when I got bored. Strangely enough - and this is a confession I have to make - some of the elements in The Highest Science came from those exercise books.' 

One of the unique things about the New Adventures is the way that they are chosen. Peter revealed that almost all the manuscripts that they receive are what other publishers would call the slush pile. In other words, unsolicited submissions which have not come through literary agents or through Virgin approaching an author. 'We actually encourage our slush pile,' he exclaims, 'and we read it, which most publishers don't do. Rebecca will go through all the submissions and read every one. I then read the ones she recommends. The process of getting a book published is long and hard but we do our best to work with the authors, to encourage and suggest, and hopefully to end up with a good book.'

'I've never known any publisher take the amount of care and lavish the attention that Virgin do on their writers, especially encouraging new writers,' comments Andy Lane. Andy had, like Paul written a great deal of fan fiction, but had also branched out into factual writing, his work appearing regularly in Starburst and many other genre magazines.

'It's very important in publishing to encourage new people to come along and then to develop them,' he states. 'Publishers must encourage the next generation of writers. As far as I can see Virgin are one of the few who are doing that and all praise to them for it. If you look at the nearest equivalent to what Virgin are doing here, to the Star Trek books, it's nowhere near the same. They take established authors who write standard Star Trek plots. What Peter and Rebecca are doing is taking new, untried authors with wonderful ideas, giving them most of the latitude they want, guiding them a little bit along the way and producing something magical at the end of it, and that's marvellous.'

Paul Cornell agrees with this view: 'If we'd gone down the same path as the Trek people have then the Doctor Who series would be of a lot less interest. One of the ways in which this cultivates new authors is that we're expanding and going with the zeitgeist, the current trend, the same way as the tv series always used to.'

This willingness to explore the boundaries of fiction has resulted in a very diverse range of books. There are pure fantasy novels (Witch Mark), horror novels (Nightshade, White Darkness), science fiction (Lucifer Rising, Shadowmind), cyberpunk (Love and War, Transit) and others which embrace any number of combinations of the above genres.

'It's experimentation,' states Andy. 'We're given the freedom to experiment and just find new ways of writing these books; I don't think anybody else is given that freedom.'

Gareth agrees: 'I think where the New Adventures score over the television series is that the television series was quite limited. There was a wide, open-ranging format of times and places but the same kind of plots were coming around a lot of the time. Whereas in the novels some of the actual stylistic changes are incredible. The jump between Marc Platt's Time's Crucible and Andrew Cartmel's Warhead is amazing. You go from Platt's Dostoevsky-esque Doctor Who history based book to a gritty futuristic cyberpunk thing, which you could never do in the television series. So that freedom which was always talked about Doctor Who is actually coming into its own.'

This freedom has only recently extended to featuring old enemies of the Doctor, and Jim Mortimore's next New Adventure, Blood Heat, features the return of the Silurians, first seen on TV back in 1970 and again in 1984.

'The thing that appeals to me most of all about the chance to write a novel in this sequence of Doctor Who books is the fact that you don't actually have to write Doctor Who stories,' explains Jim. 'Part of the brief is to write science fiction stories. Science fiction has always, when it's been done well, commented on what's going on socially, politically and emotionally in the world. That's what appeals to me. By a quirky coincidence, all I've done is managed to address the sort of things I'd like to address by way of stealing a very obvious bit of Doctor Who continuity. I kind of smashed together both worlds really and hopefully the result is quite interesting. Certainly it wasn't done as an exercise in continuity. Some of the things that I like about television drama are when you can see reflected what's going on in the world and I tried to encompass some of that.'

'You can write any story you want to and it can be a Doctor Who story,' agrees Peter. 'We briefly touched on the matter of genres, you can write horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime thriller, historical romance ... all of these can still be Doctor Who stories. But it's not just a matter of genres. You can also cover any subject you want to from any angle you want to. Doctor Who itself is an infinitely flexible subject matter. You can do anything with it.'

'The other thing is that the New Adventures are character driven,' adds Rebecca. 'Regardless of the actual stories, it's the characters you put in them and the fact that you can see everything from different viewpoints. Our characters are very important in the novels. I also think it's interesting to compare our books to the Star Trek novels. In those books there is a large and fixed cast and you're stuck with them. You can't introduce many new characters, you can't even kill the existing ones off. Whereas with the New Adventures you take a small TARDIS crew, you put them in a strange setting and you have lots of other characters to play with. They are really the reader's eyes onto a whole new situation and every novel has a whole new cast who also have viewpoints to be explored.'

As a final comment, Peter stresses that while the New Adventures form an ongoing series, they are very much designed as a series of one-off novels. 'We do our best to organise it so that the books tend to contrast with their predecessors and successors so that although we are publishing in a series we don't get a bland, series feel. For the regular reader there's a fluctuation of style and content that is hopefully refreshing in that they don't know what to expect next, but equally to the person who just comes along, sees a book on the shelf and decides to buy it, we hope that they're not going to feel totally alienated.'


It’s December 1997 and David Howe travels deep into the Surrey countryside in search of a film crew currently working on the television adaptation of novelist Stephen Gallagher’s 1988 novel Oktober.

The car I’m travelling in jolts and bumps over potholes as we pass through what appears to be the middle of a Bavarian pine forest, although we are in fact just outside the M25 in Surrey. The muddy track is grooved and scarred by the passage of many vehicles, and the light drizzle speckles the mud-splattered windshield as we move deeper into the woods. Small white arrows are pinned to jauntily-angled wooden stakes along the way. Some say ‘UNIT’, others ‘OKTOBER’. We are on the right track.

Suddenly the leafy canopy breaks and we emerge into an open area in which an unfeasible number of cars, jeeps and land rovers are parked. Across the makeshift car park is a line of caravans and generators, and, off in the distance, bright lights can be seen shining across a lake.

Leaving the warmth and dryness of the car behind, I trudge across some of the muddiest ground I have ever encountered (the suggestion to ‘wear boots’ was never more appreciated) and head towards the lake, where a small wooden house is surrounded by technicians scurrying to and fro, setting up lights and cameras and generally preparing for the evening’s filming.

Seemingly unperturbed by all this frenzied activity is my host for the shoot, Stephen Gallagher himself. Not only did he write the novel on which the television show is based, but he also wrote the screenplay and is directing. As dusk starts to fall, I manage to grab Steve for some pictures with a soon-to-be-crashed Mercedes before retiring to the warmth of a crew bus to find out how Oktober came about and how it has all been going.

‘It’s been good,’ smiled Steve. ‘It’s been one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had. It’s also been extremely wearying and exhausting and in one or two places quite harrowing as well.’ Steve is being modest. He and his crew are currently on the sixth week of a seven week shoot. The end result will be three, hour long episodes of a dramatic thriller with science fiction undertones, starring Stephen Tompkinson of Ballykissangel and Drop The Dead Donkey fame.

‘We have 42 days altogether,’ confirms Steve, ‘and I’ve got three second unit days with a reduced unit of around six people that’ll take it back to France to do some ski sequences that we just weren’t able to get while we were over there.’

The filming in France seems to have been fraught with problems, not least because the French truck drivers decided to go on strike the week they were due to travel out. Ultimately, however, this turned out to be the least of their problems. ‘We had a week spent in Geneva and [Chamonie] in France where we spent three days on top of the [edwee de midi] near Mont Blank which is 4,000 metres up. A lot of the crew suffered badly from the lack of oxygen and we had people dropping out left right and centre. The unit nurse was loading them onto the cable car and sending them down. At least one guy was hospitalised. I felt like Erik von Stronheim having led them up there. There were only three of us that weren’t affected. Luckily the three were the cameraman, Stephen Tompkinson and myself.

‘It was a frightening time. There was the lack of oxygen … the cable car journey was quite scary to some people … the claustrophobia once we got up there … There was an element of nervousness which communicated itself when the first couple of people fell ill. I mean everyone really hung in there and tried to do the best they could. It was a really tough time. On the second day we took up the mountain everybody we thought was OK from the first day. The first day we lost something like eleven people which meant that my storyboards went out the window and I had to rethink everything. “What can I get on film to tell the story with those people I’ve got left?” On the second day we lost a further eight people. Even the nurse was having to take oxygen by the end of it.’

Oktober is the story of one Jim Harper, who finds himself on the run from a large multinational organisation as his body is host to one of their experiments, and they want him back. Gallagher first started writing the novel in 1983 and it wasn’t published until 1988. Like many authors, Gallagher’s work has variously been optioned for film and television adaptation, but unlike others, Gallagher seems to be hitting projects which actually happen.

The road to getting Oktober on screen was complex and involved, as Gallagher explains. ‘What happened was that about two years ago I was approached by a script editor at the BBC to ask if I had any ideas for series for BBC 2. They wanted an open-ended, long-running series. A sort of contemporary thriller but with a weird edge to it. Although the words “British X-Files” were never used, you could tell that this was what they were really after.

‘Now we back-track a little. Around 1990, a producer called Ian Smith had optioned Oktober, two years after it had been published, and Mike Newell was going to direct it. I had numerous meetings with Mike, I very much enjoyed the contact, but at the end of the day, the funding wasn’t there and we went our separate ways. Ian went on to be production manager on City Of Joy, and I think the last thing he was production manager on was The Fifth Element, for Luc Bessant, while Mike went on to do Four Weddings And A Funeral! As for me, I went back to my little office and carried on writing novels. However, as a result of this, I had some half developed ideas of what I would do with Oktober for the screen. Therefore when BBC-2 asked about ideas for new series, I wrote them a little presentation about Oktober and asked them what they thought.

‘They got quite excited about it and within two weeks, it had shot up through the entire strata of the BBC, and arrived on the desk of Michael Jackson, the controller of BBC-2, who would give me an answer by Thursday. Thursday came and went, and the next Thursday came and went. And a full six months went by with no response or contact whatsoever and there’s nothing more frustrating and annoying than that. Those lower down the ladder were all quite gung-ho to get this in motion, the idea being that we would adapt the book, and then at the end of the story those characters who were left alive would move on into other stories involving corporate misdeeds or whatever. Time passed, and all these people moved onto other projects and the impetus that had been built up was lost. I have not to this day had any response from controller level at the BBC on Oktober. Well … we’ve shot the thing now. I’ll probably get a call next week asking to go in and talk about it.

‘Given that no-one at the BBC had actually paid me anything, and also that I’d got the thing up and running and still had a certain head of steam about it, I decided to take it elsewhere. And the only other game in town is really ITV.

‘It just so happened that Nick Elliot, who was Head of series and serials at the BBC, had just left the Corporation and had joined the ITV network centre. Virtually the last thing he saw as he was leaving the BBC was the last Bugs script that I did for them, and virtually the first thing he saw when he arrived at ITV was a letter from me talking about Oktober. He knew my work and so wrote to me asking if I’d come and talk about it, let them see some material and they’d see what they thought. Initially, I thought that was all going to go nowhere as it all seemed a little luke warm, however, Elliot’s assistant, a lady called Jenny Reece, really championed the project. She read it and bent Nick’s ear about it and eventually, they suggested I try and get a producer involved in order to pay for a script to be developed. I didn’t tell them this, but I would happily have done a script for nothing in order to advance the project further. So I went to Brian Eastman with whom I’d been working on Bugs. I explained to him that I had this thing up and running with ITV but I couldn’t do it on my own, so was he interested in coming on board. He read the material – he’d never read the book as it turned out – and he optioned it on the basis of the outline and knowing what I wanted to do.

‘It was around that time that I basically attached myself to the project more directly. At the BBC, there’d never been any inkling that I’d be directing it, but when I took it across to ITV, I did so on the basis that I would both write and direct it, and waited for someone to challenge that view, but no-one ever did.

‘So I had a script and a producer, but we still weren’t home and dry because ITV started this little dance, saying that they really liked it, but they had seven projects they liked but only three slots in which to place them. It was Brian who suggested coming up with some ideas for casting, as if we could attach some names to it, then we might be able to swing the balance with ITV in our favour. I’d wanted Stephen Tompkinson for the part of Joe Lucas in Rain when that was in development for the BBC but whenever I’d suggested him, everyone looked at Drop The Dead Donkey and thought “Light Entertainment”: how can you cast him in a thriller? It was only when he did Brassed Off and showed that there was a dark side to him as well, that people started to take my suggestion seriously. Steve was the very first actor I suggested for the part of Jim Harper in Oktober, he’s the only one I put forward. He was the first and only actor we showed it to: I had lunch with him and his agent and he came along thinking he was just up for the part and had to pitch for it. We were there just hoping he’d like it. We got on like a house on fire and he really liked the material and we just took it forward from there.

‘Within two weeks of attaching Stephen’s name to the project we received the go-ahead from ITV. They claim that this was coincidence, and that Stephen being attached to the project had nothing to do with their decision, but I have my doubts.’

Over this extended period of development, the basic requirement for the production kept changing, and each time the scripts needed adjusting to take these things into account. ‘One of the difficulties with Oktober was that the brief I kept getting back from the potential producers kept changing,’ explained Gallagher. ‘First it was going to be four, one hour episodes, and then they wanted it to be three hours long in two 90 minute parts. Then it finally settled down as three one hour parts and the structure had to change quite a bit to accommodate all those alterations.

‘The two 90 minute ones were quite exciting because the climaxes from the original story fell in the most natural places. When we went to three one hour episodes they wanted the climax of the first part to fall in the same place as that between the 90 minute episodes, which meant that I had to do a bit of radical restructuring and re-plotting a bit later on. I don’t think I’ve been in any way unfaithful to the original book, although I’ve changed a lot of incident and dialogue, but, let’s face it, it’s several years on from when I did the original book. I don’t feel I need to slavishly do the same thing again. I confident that I’ve taken all the same impulses and have told the story with pictures instead of words.’

Steve Gallagher is primarily a writer, used to telling his stories with words, and creating pictures in his readers’ minds. How has he found the switch from writer to director, especially as Oktober has been his first experience of directing.

‘What I’ve found the hardest is going right in at the deep end. I’m surrounded by people with lots of technical knowledge, but I don’t have the terminology with which to put my ideas over. I’ve been learning new terms, words and approaches from the very start. On Day One I found out what a ‘dirty single’ was. This is the term for an over the shoulder shot where you have a close up of somebody, but someone else’s’ shoulder is just fringing the shot. In the old days, such an image was unthinkable, you just couldn’t do it, but modern camera techniques allow you that flexibility and it’s also considered acceptable. Every day I’m discovering new ideas and techniques, and different ways that I can tell my story on screen. It’s very exiting.

‘Despite my initial problems with communication, every day I start out with a long list of shots that I want to get and I strike them off the list as I do them. I look at the rushes at the end of each day and, one way or another, what I intended to get has been what I actually did get. So somehow the crew are managing to pick my brains as I stumble inarticulately through what I want to achieve and they’re giving me pretty much what I want.

‘In some cases, I’m seeing something in the rushes that’s better than I’d hoped or expected, and in other cases there are things that just didn’t work out. We’re running over anyway, and so I suspect that some scenes will be cut and others will be treated in a different editorial manner. I’ve even been able to go back and re-shoot some material even though we are on an enormously tight schedule.

‘I was told by the first assistant director after the first week of shooting that whatever I do after this, I’ll never do anything as hard as this. I suppose it really has been a case of jumping in at the deep end and has been something of a baptism of fire. Stephen Tompkinson has been wonderful for me in that respect because not only is he an extremely good actor, he’s also technically competent and very generous. When you get those three things together in one actor, you’re smiling. Stephen is right at the centre of the production and his presence on screen really holds the whole thing together. The strength that he brings to the part is of great benefit to me because I don’t have to worry about the central performance, which is very much critical to the overall success of the production.’

With much of the filming complete, how has Gallagher found directing the necessary action sequences, including what is to happen at the cabin today.

‘We started as we meant to go on,’ he laughs. ‘In the first week down at Woolwich we had a 100 foot stunt dive off the top of a building. We then moved down to Broadstairs for the second week and drowned a Volkswagen in the sea, right up to its doors. All our actors, cameramen and even the camera were kitted out in wetsuits and everyone was in the freezing sea up to their armpits. I was pleased with that material as we managed to achieve very good production values and it’s all there on the screen. It all went a bit quiet after that until we were 4000 metres up and everyone was being stretchered down off the mountain suffering from oxygen deprivation. We’ve had a couple of extremely good looking fight scenes that were superbly choreographed and executed. One of them was in a dissection room that we built out in Wembley, and the other was a big set-piece fight which comes just before the finale of episode three, and that was shot in the dog-pen set which we built down in Camden, so those were quite big sequences.’

Outside in the growing dusk, the drizzle has eased off leaving it simply cold and muddy. A tea wagon steams to itself in the background and people make frequent trips to obtain polystyrene beakers of hot liquid, partly to drink, but mostly to warm the hands.

Inside the cabin, preparations are nearing completion for one of the main sequences, in which a car is driven into the cabin, smashing through the wall. Stephen Tompkinson and Maria Lennon playing Jim Harper and his friend Linda disable the driver and then drive off in the car, just before the cabin catches fire.

‘Today is probably the biggest and most complex sequence of the entire shoot,’ explains Stephen. ‘It depends on a combination of a number of skills. We’ve got three cameras rolling on it, we’ve got the stunt driver, we’ve got the riggers who have rigged the house to break away, there are pyrotechnics as well. This is just a gravel area by a lake and the cabin doesn’t exist.’

I look across to where it is standing: large as life. A wooden cabin containing two comfortably furnished rooms and a blazing log fire in the hearth. Certainly it is somewhere warmer than the December night that is drawing in outside. ‘Three days ago we started shooting here, and three days before that, the house wasn’t there,’ insists Stephen. ‘The production designer bought a job lot of old floorboards and built the place from scratch. He apparently based it on a houseboat that he stayed in on a lake in India. Everyone who walked into it on the first day said that it was lovely and that they could live there. Of course you wouldn’t want to live there because it would be cold and damp and filthy, but it really caught people’s hearts at that moment.

‘Because Oktober is all about archetypes and shared nightmares and the things that we all have in common in our subconscious minds, what I’m trying to do is hit as many of those unconscious pedals that are common to us all as possible. The comfort and safety of the cabin was one of these pedals and obviously I hit it with the production designer and everyone else on the unit as well because they all responded in exactly the same way to it.’

At that moment, Stephen is summoned away to supervise the sequence of filming that will culminate with the total destruction of the cabin. I watch as he puts Tompkinson and Lennon through their paces. The car revs up, and drives straight into the side wall of the cabin. Glass appears to break, wood smashes, and everyone rushes to ensure that there are no problems. There are not.

There follow more scenes inside the cabin as our heroes overpower the driver, jump in the car and reverse out of the cabin. As darkness really takes grip, preparations are made to ignite the place. The pyrotechnics are set, and the flames start. Stephen is not happy, though. It doesn’t look right, it isn’t his shot. Suddenly, the cabin itself catches – this was always a possibility – and the fire starts to burn out of control. The cameras keep rolling, Steve smiles broadly. He now has his shot, and the burning cabin is merrily warming the crew clustered around.

Another impressive sequence is in the can for Oktober, what looks like an impressive debut for Gallagher, and a thrilling television production for the spring of 1998 on ITV.


Jim Harper doesn’t know it but he’s a walking experiment. One minute he was a lovelorn teacher at a school in Switzerland, the next he’s escaping from the secret Alpine laboratory of a multi-national pharmaceutical company, with a security division larger than most governments’. They hunt him ruthlessly, for his body contains their secret enzyme which could make illegal millions for the company – and can turn him into a weapon of enormous potential. Fleeing to England, and with no-one to trust but his beautiful companion Linda, Jim has to discover what the Oktober project is and how it can be stopped. If he fails, the prospects for the world are truly terrifying.


Peter Diamond has been working as a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator in film and television for many, many years. He is one of the most experienced and accomplished at his art, and was brought onto Oktober by the first assistant, Roger Symons. ‘I’ve worked with Roger on several other things,’ explained Diamond, ‘and he got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to be the stunt gaffer on this. Luckily, another show that is quite busy for me is Hart Beat, and this was going through a quiet patch, which allowed me to fit Oktober in.

‘I met with Stephen Gallagher, who explained exactly what he wanted and then asked me how we could achieve it – which is what they hired me for. What I try and do is interpret Stephen’s ideas onto film, and it seems to be working very well.’

The stunt today involves driving a car through the wall of a cabin. How does Peter start to plan such an effect. ‘First of all you have to try and analyse the danger and then eradicate it. That’s the important thing about stunt work: we’re all in the make-believe business and you have to try and not get hurt, because if you get hurt, then the business suffers.

The most difficult aspect was that they had already filmed some scenes with the car after the crash was supposed to have happened, and so I had to try and maintain continuity with that. We had to make sure that the car didn’t get damaged and thus mess up your continuity. So the biggest problem I had was not to break the windscreen – which is usually the first thing to go on a car smash – or the headlights. We very carefully placed everything in the cabin in a good position so it would look effective on camera but in fact, would not damage the important parts of the car.

‘You can’t control exactly where everything is going to smash, but from experience – which I hope I have enough of – you can visualise where everything is most likely to go. We had a cable tied to the back of the car to slow it down once the crash happened and the reason for this was that inside the cabin there was a table made of real wood. If that had caught under the tyres, it could have been thrown off line and gone up into the radiator, the engine, anything.

‘We needed to slow the car down to ensure that it was safe. Supposing something had come through the windscreen or the side window and had knocked the driver unconscious. The car would still be running and it could have ploughed on through the cameras and everything. As a stunt co-ordinator you have to try and anticipate anything and everything. People don’t realise the work that goes into it because everything looks simple and effective on screen, but you have to think of everything.

‘The car would have reached only around 20 or 25 miles an hour when it hit the cabin, but it still did quite a lot of damage. Of course they’ll enhance the crash with sound, smashing glass and tyre squealing and so on so it’ll look far more dramatic on screen.’


In charge of the Special Effects team on Oktober is John Rafique, from Elements Specialist Design. The company has only been in existence for a few months, after John and some others set it up after working at other effects houses and wanting to strike out on their own. Shows they’ve been involved with include a children’s television series called Chucklevision – ‘a sort of knockabout show, very cheap and cheerful, with jokey props and slapstick’ – and they also worked on a Christmas television commercial for Boots, the Chemist.

For Oktober, the effects required ranged from relatively simple bullet hits up to a complex prop used to hold a dog. ‘In the storyline these dogs are penned up in cages,’ explained John, ‘and there is one cage where the dog has been fitted with medical drips and other apparatus. They wanted a special cage to keep this dog in where he would be happy and we arranged all the drip-lines so they ran to a special collar. The creation of an effect like this involves a lot of co-ordination between us and the dog handler to make sure that everything was right. For example, the production designer had specified that the floor of the cage should be made from perforated steel, and we had to check that what we wanted to use would be okay for the dog to walk on. We had to make sure of the collar size for the dog, and just about everything else to make sure that there would be no problems come the filming. We then had to prepare the cage a week early so that the dog handler could take it away to their house where the dog is most comfortable and get it used to going in the cage so that by the time we were on set all was well.

‘All these considerations had to be factored into our timescales and this was actually a bit of a problem as the effects requirements expanded, and there was considerably more than we originally planned for. As a result we lost six days from the timescale in producing the cage. We managed it but only because the dog fell ill and couldn’t look at the cage when it was originally planned. That gave us an extra couple of days to get it all finished off.

‘The most challenging effect has probably been the cabin and the car. The designer came to us and said that they wanted to see the car going through the wall of the cabin and the fire coming afterwards. So between us, the designer Julian Fullalove, Stephen Gallagher and Peter Diamond we had to figure out a way of doing this. We generally come up with the ideas and the others then tell us if there are any snags, like blocking camera angles, particular safety considerations and so on.

‘The problem was to stop the car from moving once it had crashed into the cabin and what we used was quite a simple method: weights on the back of the car. We would normally use a large piston but were unable to do so on this shoot because of the area we’re filming in. The piston has a small air hole and it’s the air pressure that lets the piston out at a steady rate, thus slowing the car down and preventing it from running out of control. That method is used because it’s infinitely variable: you can change the size of the air escape hole depending on the weight of the car involved and whatever speed it will be doing. In this environment, however, it’s too dirty to use a piston and so we used plastic bins with sandbags in instead. The car’s exhaust had to be strengthened to withstand the pull of the car, but that’s the only modification that was made.


Actor Stephen Tompkinson is on a bit of a roll at the moment. Perhaps best known for his role as Damian, the investigative reporter in Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin’s Drop the Dead Donkey and as the priest Peter Clifford in Kieran Prenderville’s Ballykissangel, Tompkinson was chosen for the part of Jim Harper in Oktober by director Stephen Gallagher based on a firm belief that he was right for the part.

‘This has been brilliant,’ enthuses the actor whilst relaxing after another gruelling day in front of the camera. ‘It’s such a departure from anything I’ve done before. Steve Gallagher saw this dark element in me which was fair enough. This is non-stop action this thriller. It’s got chase sequences in it that would put James Bond to shame!

‘This has been a hard shoot. As far as preparation went, I’ve lost a stone and have been keeping myself quite fit. The character is really all there on the page, the writing’s that good. I couldn’t wait to turn the pages of the script when I first saw it. I couldn’t believe I was being offered it, actually. It was great.

‘The appeal of the character came out of the fact that the story is very much like The Thirty-Nine Steps or North by Northwest in that everything happens to an ordinary fellow. How do you cope with it, when you’re dealing with a multinational company who are well capable in their way of just torching you rather than let you tell tales? What do you do? Who do you trust? Friends turn out to be enemies. There’s nowhere to hide.’

As the plot proceeds it becomes apparent that Harper has been given a very special sort of drug, and that certain people will stop at nothing to ensure that he does not live to tell the world about the experiments that have been carried out on him.

‘The idea behind the drug,’ explains Tompkinson, ‘is that were you to think of your loveliest and happiest thoughts and you did this in front of an audience, then they would all experience the same thing. But likewise, if you wanted to release all your darkest demons then they would experience that as well. That’s what “the company” hadn’t thought out. My character can actually put his pain onto anyone and slay them with pure emotion and feeling. It’s a fantastic idea, and there’s nothing else like this being made at the moment in this country. I’m very proud of ITV for actually getting the script to put on. It’s not like the inside of a hospital ward or a police station, or even the rural loveliness of Heartbeat or Ballykissangel. Oktober is completely raw and yet its only three episodes long. I would love it if they showed it on three consecutive nights as the plot rolls along so fast that you really get hooked by it. Steve has a beautiful economy of words and I think that the show could stay in the viewing public’s memory as, for example, Edge Of Darkness, or something like that. It really has that enduring quality. It’s a really immediate story and you care about this person because he is an innocent, and yet suddenly becomes worth 50 billion dollars on legs and it’s easier to kill him than to risk the secrets he carries being made public knowledge.’

Despite appearing in numerous shows since leaving drama school in 1987, including Chancer, Minder, The Manageress and Brassed Off, (in fact Tompkinson is proud that, since 1987, he has only been unemployed for three and a half weeks, when he went to Australia to watch the cricket) Oktober is the first time that he has really achieved ‘star billing’.

‘The other shows are real ensemble pieces, but this is the first time I’ve carried the story,’ he explains. ‘It’s not a pressure, it’s great. It’s what any actor always wants. You train for three years doing all sorts of things. I’ve worked in all manner of supporting roles since 1987 and now suddenly I’m starring. It’s as though I’ve earned my stripes.

‘What’s great is the variety. Variety is what I’ve craved. Actors are an odd breed. You’re never happy when you’re unemployed, but as soon as work comes along you worry about getting typecast. For example, when playing Damian I felt that maybe I was going to be comedic for the rest of my life, but then I won the comedy award for best actor, and then Ballykissangel happened which was poles apart from Damian, and then Brassed Off, and now this. The common link is really the strength of the scripts. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in great scripts.’


Just published is the graphic novel of David Gemmell's groundbreaking fantasy Legend. David J Howe spoke to the perpetrators.

The task of turning David Gemmell's classic book into a graphic novel was the job of the original author along with the combined talents of Stan Nicholls, who provided the words, and Chris Baker - otherwise known as Fangorn - who provided the pictures.

Stan Nicholls is perhaps better known as a journalist, interviewer and reviewer. His book review column can be found in The Dark Side magazine, and recent projects include the novelisation of the Tom and Jerry film, and the autobiography of William Roache who plays Ken Barlow in Coronation Street.

'My involvement with Legend: A Graphic Novel came about because David Gemmell had singlehandedly revitalised my interest in fantasy fiction,' explains Stan. 'I had gone completely off it because I thought it was a very moribund genre. The opportunity to interview Dave came up and I thought I'd better read his books. I was enormously impressed with Legend for its pace, its vitality and particularly for its characterization as good characterization is very rare in fantasy. Dave's books are full of human stuff, stuff you can relate to, almost domestic detail mixed in with all the battle and epic goings on. I then sat down to do an hour-long interview and were still there five hours later. I subsequently read the rest of his books and found them all to be immensely enjoyable.

'Then about two, maybe three years ago, we were talking about graphic novels. In fact we were talking about films. I'd always maintained that Legend, given a huge budget, would make a great movie and that kind of mutated into talking about how we could visualize it, and we decided to do a graphic novel. That's how it began. I wasn't given the job because I was Dave's mate, I had to audition like anybody else and he was good enough to trust me with it. Legend was Dave's first book, it was written under very peculiar, very dramatic circumstances - he thought he was dying of cancer at the time - and then he had a lot of trouble getting it published. Despite this it remains Dave's best selling book, and of course the one for which he feels the most affection. So to hand it to me and say do what you want with it was an act of great faith.

'At no point has Dave ever said "I don't like what you're doing." He's made suggestions but he's never made demands. I've found him very good to work with and very trusting. I think his attitude is, if you own a dog you don't bark yourself.'

Along with the artist, Chris Baker, David Gemmell and Stan Nicholls have formed a company called Waylander Enterprises in order to package more of Gemmell's books as Graphic Novels.

'One of Dave's books is called Waylander,' explains Stan, 'and what we are doing is creating the books to then be sold on to publishers. Legend is Waylander Enterprises' first title, Wolf in Shadow is the second and all being well we want to do not only more of Dave's books but also books by other people: fantasy, science fiction, and perhaps some horror.

'We want to do quality graphic novels. That's what we're hoping for and that's why Legend took a long time to develop. The intention to produce something of quality grew out of the realisation of what an adaptation is. It isn't taking the book, nailing it to a piece of wood and passing it to the artist to paint. What I realised very quickly were, first of all, the nearest medium you can compare a graphic novel to is movies. The script is very similar, the way you look at it is very visual, you use some of the same terminology: jump-cut, fade-to-black and so on. The other slightly deeper realization is that you don't just take a book and turn it into a comic. It's essentially a process of deconstruction and reconstruction, in other words, you have to absorb yourself in the original and read it many, many times, then you attempt to capture the essence and then you retell the story. I think that's how you have to adapt.

'What I produce first of all is a script, just the words, but it's structured like film shooting script. It might say: "Page One, Panel One. Three men ride into a town with guns blazing, people running out of the way..." Sometimes this can be a very long and detailed description, just for the first panel.

'I can't draw a straight line, but I made myself up a dummy book corresponding to the finished product and in that dummy I worked out the flow and where the spreads were. It's very important to remember that you don't look at single pages in isolation, you look at two-page spreads, left and right, so every page of the script will have a reminder of this for the artist at the top. You also try to end a right hand page with a revelation, a close-up, something to get people to turn over and keep reading.

'We gained confidence with the format as we went through. If you look at Legend: A Graphic Novel closely, you'll see that the experimentation with the panel sizes and shapes becomes more radical as the book progresses. We also put a lot of thought into what happens to the colouring as the story unfolds. You'll find that it is more vivid towards the end than at the beginning and that in scenes of despair the colour hues are, as it were, despairing. The book is a synthesis of Chris's vision and my vision and ultimately Dave's vision, because he was the ultimate referee.

'I hope it works. It took us eighteen months to do the actual work, probably two years from the point of conception, but I hope it has all been worth it.'


'I was raised on Marvel and DC Comics and I've always wanted to see a graphic novel of Legend done well. I didn't have the time to break the script down which is where Stan came in. He's a tremendous professional, you can always rely on Stan to do what he says he'll do and he's not a prima donna. You need people you can rely on to give the thing some heart. So having decided on Stan to do the breakdowns, we then had to find a really good artist. Initially, we were looking at some of the biggest guys in the field but they are mostly booked up years ahead, men like John Bolton and Simon Bisley. We then decided to find a new talent and we saw quite a few artists' work until we were introduced to Chris Baker. He came down to see us and produced some pages of art which just knocked us out so we signed Chris there and then.

'The process of producing a graphic novel is very involved. Somebody once said the Devil was the first lawyer and if that's true, it was a publisher who hired him. But when you look at what Random House have put into this project, knowing nothing about graphic novels, I've only got the highest praise for them. Random agreed that it should be printed on the finest quality paper, at one of the best places in Europe and that it would be stitched, not glued. I'm fed up with buying graphic novels that I read twice and a page falls out. The care that the publishers took is evidenced by the fact that they flew Chris out to Milan where it was printed to judge the colour balance.

'Legend is a nice, tight story centering around a fortress under siege and a small group of heroes. There is a lot about valour, bravery, courage and nobility that made it ideal for graphic novel. It also has a central hero, an old man called Druss. Druss the Axeman is absolutely made to be painted. Chris Baker put his heart into this, it's his first graphic novel and the reaction to it has been fabulous.

'My actual involvement was as an arbiter. Chris is a great artist and he's very intense about his work. Stan knew what he felt the script should say and how the story should flow in visual terms. I basically resolved any disputes between them. The biggest problem facing Stan was the size of the novel. There's something like ninety characters in Legend, and Stan decided that we just couldn't have all the sub plots. In that respect, Chris and Stan were both against me because I'd suggest including aspects that had been dropped and they would both say "No".

'As to the future, when we were halfway through this project, Random commissioned a second graphic novel from the three of us. Chris and Stan are currently working on Wolf in Shadow which is another book of mine. Chris has produced about twenty two pages so far and his work is just getting better and better.

'Chris is an astounding artist. We sent the artwork for Legend round to John Bolton and asked him for an honest opinion. "Chris is a real find, a real talent, hang on to him," he told me. "He's done some spectacular work here; I can see some of his influences but the most important thing is that what's coming through is pure Baker, he's got his own individual voice." Coming from John Bolton, that is a great compliment.'


'I got involved through a friend. Dave and Stan were looking for an artist and a friend just mentioned my name to Dave. I had a chat with Dave, sent a couple of samples of artwork - I didn't have any comic work - and it went on from there.

'The funny thing is, I've only ever had two pages of comic work published before, and that was in the second issue of <I>Starburst<D>. After Dave asked me to produce something from Legend to show the publishers, I took a scene from the book and painted some pages, they liked them and I got the job.

'I've been painting professionally since I was at school I suppose, because I was selling stuff even then. I did a little freelancing at college, then I worked for an advertising agency for twelve years doing illustration, design and layout. In the meantime I was still freelancing. I've done a lot of games work for German companies and stuff for Waddingtons, as well as some book jackets.

'The easiest way for me to think of Legend was in terms of a film and to try and tell the story in relatively simple terms. Because Legend is rooted in a kind of reality, you can't be overly fancy with your page layouts. First and foremost you're telling a story about people and the layout and design must reflect that. I would like to be given the opportunity to come up with an original story to tell in comic terms but with Legend you are restricted in how you design a page by the story.

'I did read Dave's book, but Stan's script was the basis for the Graphic Novel. It was a watered down version of the book unfortunately, because there are a lot of scenes that I wished I could have painted. When working on something like this you quickly realise how short 96 pages is and we had problems trying to tell the story visually within that. Traditional comics are sequential art, and with Legend we had to lose some of that aspect. The action runs across the page from the first panel to the last panel and it couldn't be overly sequential because you would be trying to fit too much information into a single panel. I think that was about the only real problem I had with it: cramming the story into 96 pages.

'It must have taken me about nine months to complete the paintings. Some of them just flowed off my pen: things like people sitting at a table - they're always much easier to paint than action scenes. Because with action you really have to start thinking about the figures and the movement.

'Anything really physical I pose for myself, I tend to either use a mirror - I've got one in front of my drawing board - or photographs. There's nothing taken direct from these sources however, things just don't work out that way, I don't look anything like those people! My wife posed for a couple of things, but she doesn't look anything like the finished pictures. Part of the problem I had with Legend was that I didn't originally want to portray it that realistically. I wanted to go for a much more "from the hip" look, where you just drew from the heart but the story didn't come across that way, it wasn't abstract in any way whatsoever.

'One of my heroes is an artist called Alex Nino, and he was very much more expressionistic. You don't really hear a lot about him these days but he was very popular in the early eighties. He was a real master of comic art, of laying out pages, coming up with incredible page designs and this kind of thing, pulling the medium to its limits. That's the way I would really like to do comics.

'Currently I'm working on Wolf in Shadow which is quite different. Instead of swords and axes there's guns and rifles. There's no dramatic swinging of weapons above the head; you find yourself asking how many ways are there of showing someone being shot without getting boring? Or how many ways can you show someone actually shooting a gun? Thankfully it hasn't been a problem.


Since 1981, F Paul Wilson has chilled and terrified readers through a growing series of top-rate horror novels.

It started in 1981, when his novel The Keep was published. But the roots of Paul's addiction to writing go even further back.

"It started for me in Second Grade. I remember back when I was six or seven, there was an edition of Life magazine with dinosaurs on the cover. I was flipping through it and I came to a picture of tyrannosaurus rex standing there, fixing me with that beady little eye. Something just clicked inside me and I wanted to learn more about these things; these monsters. Dinosaurs and rocket ships, those were the two things that defined my youth.

"I have always tended to think of myself more as a story teller than a writer, in the sense that being able to capture the audience is important to me, and not just writing what I'm feeling."

As well as being a writer, Paul is a practising doctor. I wondered if he had ever considered taking up writing full-time.

"Writing is still my hobby, in a sense, although I'm earning more money from that than from being a physician. I'm a family practitioner so I'm at the bottom end of the doctor income level. For me, writing isn't 'working', but if I quit medicine it would become my job and I don't think I'd like that. I don't want to give up medicine completely as I think writing makes me a better doctor and doctoring makes me a better writer. Writing is a compulsion. I want to get up there and do it - I'm anxious to get to it. I can have been slaving away in the medical office all day but then really look forward to getting home so I can produce some more words in the evening."

Although the bulk of Paul's work is in the horror field, he initially started writing Science Fiction with Healer (1976) and Wheels Within Wheels (1978). It was with The Keep (1981), however, that Paul found his first major commercial success.

"That was my biggest seller. It sold over a million copies in America and it's been sold to almost every country you can think of. I wanted it to be horror; it's got a vampire red herring, it's set in the Transylvania Alps, features immortal beings (that's the Lovecraft influence that comes in with the cosmic horror). It came about because I read Chelsea Quinn Yarboro's Hotel Transylvania which has a sympathetic, good vampire and I said to myself that that's impossible, you can't have a good vampire. They are parasites by nature. So I started thinking about a vampire that seemed good but really wasn't, that was leading you on. Was he even a vampire? What if he wasn't afraid of the crucifix but something else that just looked like a cross? All of a sudden it hit me: the hilt of a sword!

"The novel just built from there. There were a lot of things I could play with. I liked the different levels of evil: human evil, the Nazis, all that kind of stuff."

The Keep was followed in 1984 by another horror book, this time taking a different approach, and introducing one of Paul's most endearing and memorable characters. Repairman Jack is, as the name suggests, a man who 'repairs' things, in the same way as Edward Woodwood's character 'equalised' things in the TV series of the same name. Jack is a brilliant character who shines from the pages as if he is real. The Tomb did not, however, find immediate favour with the publishers.

"My American publisher hated The Tomb and wouldn't publish it, but it was published in the UK by New English Library. It's a lot of people's favourite. I get letters all the time asking when I am going to write more about Repairman Jack. When he's ready, is the reply. I've got some short stories about him but he's not ready for another novel just yet."

Following The Tomb came The Touch which contained a dramatic change of pace from the previous two books.

"The Touch was developed out of my own frustrations in medicine. There are always things you come up against ... your whole job is supposed to be counteracting disease and so many times you can't. So much of it is tragic; the girl who comes in with bruises all over her back and she wants them cleared up in time for her prom. You do a blood count and realise that she's not actually going to live to see her prom. You're helpless. A sixteen year old girl is going to die from leukaemia and there is nothing you can do! That's where a lot of this kind of fiction comes from."

Although these three books are distinct from each other, Paul has cleverly pulled all the concepts and characters together, along with two novels which expand on the ideas laid out in The Keep - Reborn and Reprisal - into his most recent paperback horror novel, Nightworld. Paul explained that this was not intentional from the start, but that it developed towards the end of the series.

"Reborn was actually started between The Keep and The Tomb. It was quite a different book at that time but it still contained the ideas of cloning and the Antichrist story. I couldn't get it to work at that time and the Repairman Jack character was nibbling away at me and so I had to write The Tomb next.

"Reborn, Reprisal and Nightworld were all planned out at once, as one story, and I resurrected Reborn at that time. What happened was that I didn't really want to do an Antichrist story. I wanted some other evil entity for my heroine to give birth to. So I thought, what about Rasalom in The Keep? Why don't I use him?

"Then I wanted a small town near New York in which to set the book, because I could then have scenes in New York City. In The Touch, there's the close-to-New York town of Munro. Maybe, I thought, I can pull in the third book as well - and I could. There was this nice, complete little circle. So then in order to finish Reborn and tie it into Nightworld I needed a bridging book which is where Reprisal came from. So that's the way it happened and I was really amazed at the way it worked."

Nightworld, of all the six books, is unashamedly a horror novel. New York is afflicted with the opening of a bottomless pit as Rasalom engineers his re-birth. From the pit spew all manner of nasty creepy, crawly, slithery, flapping creatures which sting, bite and generally harass as many humans as they can sink their teeth, tentacles and stingers into.

"It's a nineteen fifties B movie," laughs Paul. "I had a lot of fun with it. But the underlying theme, the one that carried along all the way from The Keep is: who are you?

"That was the question Cuza had to answer in The Keep when he had his religion taken away from him. When he thought he could help against the Nazis, he became a different kind of person. Alan Bulmer becomes a different kind of person at the end of The Touch and Repairman Jack's always asking himself who he is in The Tomb.

"In Nightworld the question is posed again: in the situation of civil panic which erupts in the city, are you going to be the guy who kicks the old lady in the ribs to get to the last can of beans or are you going to be something else? Where do you stand? Which side do you fall on?"

Paul's most recent hardback, Sister Night also poses this question. The novel concerns the unusual death of a young woman, which is then investigated by her twin sister. It involves possession and uncertainty and features a startling twist in the tail.

"To me the biggest horror is being taken over, whether it be by an idea, a misconception or anything. Becoming totally out of control, someone you aren't, something less than you should and can and would be really terrifies me. Sister Night is all about loss of control. The book was actually written in the middle of my working on Reprisal; I suddenly got the last plot twist which I'd been thinking about for years, and I just had to write it.

"With regards to the twist, I'm amazed that I have apparently been able to fool a lot of other writers. Usually writers are one step ahead of each other, when you read someone else's book, you've generally tried the same tricks before, so it's so nice when someone can deliver a punchline which you don't see coming. A lot of writers have called me up and said they'd never spotted it coming. That's very rewarding."

Continuing with the theme of 'Who Am I', Paul's next novel is a medical thriller which is being published by Headline under a different name. "It's a medical school thriller called The Foundation. I submitted it under the name Colin Andrews because I was tired of my books being at the bottom of the bookcases in the shops. I also wanted it to stand on its own merits. This way I felt they would just judge the writing as they wouldn't know anything about Colin Andrews. As it happens they went crazy over it, which is great. In Britain it's going to be released as 'F Paul Wilson writing as Colin Andrews', and I can't figure out the rationale of that. Maybe they want to take me away from horror, because it's not a horror novel, it's a suspense novel. It contains a lot of threatened violence and again the theme of loss of control and an outside influence is present."


Tim White is one of the world's foremost fantasy illustrators. Ranking alongside Chris Foss, Jim Burns, Chris Achilleos and Rodney Matthews amongst others, his paintings have graced the covers of books by Arthur C Clarke, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, H P Lovecraft, Bob Shaw and many, many others.  In a career that has spanned seventeen years of fantasy illustration his name is now synonymous with realistic paintings of the impossible. 

I spoke to Tim at his house near Maidstone where he lives and 
works with his wife Lyn (herself an author) and their ten year old daughter.  The obvious subject to talk on first was what had fascinated Tim in the world of fantasy painting.

'I've always been interested in fantasy.  I entered a Blue 
Peter competition to create a robot way back in the early '60s which I would have won only I was two months too old - they gave me a trip to the BBC for my entry instead.  I've always liked the Dan Dare comics with Frank Hampson's wonderful paintings.  I went to Medway Art College, painted nothing but fantasy and then when I left there, the first approach I made was to Pan Books.  They told me to go away as the book cover market was all sewn up by a handful of people and that I didn't stand a chance.  They also asked if I had ever thought of doing other sorts of illustration!

'Then, in 1974, in the third issue of a magazine called 
Science Fiction Monthly (published by New English Library), there was a science-fiction painting competition.   I got the magazine on a Friday evening and I remember I had to ring them because I was not sure of the rules or something, and this was about 7.30 in the evening.  So I rang them and amazingly there was someone there in the art department.  He asked me if I did SF paintings, I said that I did, so he told me to forget about the competition and to come in and show them my work.  I did this and they gave me a commission there and then for a book called The Not-Quite Rain which was about acid rain.  At that time it was science fiction but now it is fact!  I did a few bits and pieces for Science Fiction Monthly [Tim's first black and white piece appears in issue 7, and his first colour in issue 11] and eventually I was made redundant from my day job and so I went freelance.  My first commission as a freelance artist was from Corgi Books with the cover to Arthur C Clarke's The Other Side of the Sky in 1974.  Other publishers started to use me following that, and it all just carried on from there.'

Like most freelance artists, Tim finds that to make a living, he 
often has to take work that he would otherwise turn down.  It seems to be the bane of the artist that he is unable to paint what he wants to, more often than not painting to the requirements of a book or an editor's ideas.  'I believe I could be a commercial artist and paint what I wanted to,' asserts Tim, 'but the money really isn't there and when you have a family to support you have to go where you can earn a living.  That's where book companies can be life savers!

'I do paint for pleasure as well.  I loved painting unicorns, 
scenes and characters from C S Lewis' Narnia books long before I really knew the great scope that SF and fantasy offers.  This genre is just a marvelous carrier for the imagination.

'To my way of thinking, reality is all around us, but fantasy 
is something different.  Lots of painters have painted reality superbly - Monet, Rembrandt, Vermeer - who can do better than those guys?  So the only real area left to explore is the imagination.

'I remember the first piece of work I ever saw by Salvadore 
Dali was on a postcard when I was about fifteen years old.  It was called Metamorphosis of Narcissus.  There is a chess board on it, and the painting is full of pockets of image and interest.  had never seen anything quite like that before.  It was quite a shock seeing it for the first time. 

'I think works of the imagination have so much going for 
them, so much more reward than in simply painting reality.  Each of us has unique dreams and that is what I try and capture as an artist. 

'I like to have a personal involvement in my pictures.  When 
I look at other artists' work I want to feel involved.  Does it pull my imagination and almost transport me?  That's what really turns me on about the genre.'

Far from being a shrine to his work, Tim's house is almost bare 
of its owner's occupation with the exception of a couple of small framed prints on the walls.  His work room too is of a functional rather than display nature and yet from cabinets around the room, three dimensional characters from Tim's paintings stare down with maniacal gleams in their eyes.  These effigies are incredibly detailed and painted and I wondered why Tim created them in three dimensions when the work he has been  commissioned to do is in two.

'What I'm after is realism in my pictures,'  he 
explained. 'Juxtaposition of images from reality (for example a field of poppies) with fantasy (for example a spacecraft landing in the field).

'I do preliminary work in three dimensions but I'm primarily 
interested in the final two dimensional image.  When you're trained as an artist you can perhaps anticipate the way light will behave on a textured shape but often it doesn't actually work out.  If you make a model then you can understand the lighting completely.  I'm interested in creating fantasy as reality and this approach helps me to do this.  The detail in the models has come about progressively.  At first, when I had a problem with lighting I would build the bit I was having problems with.  Then I took to building the complete thing - depending on the time available and whether or not I felt it was vital.  I use photographic references as well but it is always the final product that is important, getting the realism into it.'

I commented that some artists, like for example Patrick 
Woodroffe, actually use reality in their paintings, like photographs, marquetry for wood texture and so on.  What was Tim's view on this approach?

'My paintings are just that, paintings.  I try to achieve 
photo-realism but I wouldn't consider using actual photographs and re-touching them.  I can spend weeks and weeks on the preparation of a piece only to have it not work out.  It is important to me that the picture is plausible and not to have it spoilt, for example, by bad lighting.'

Tim has had two collections of his work published by Paper 
Tiger/Dragon's World;  The Science Fiction and Fantasy World of Tim White (covering his work from 1973 to 1981) and Chiaroscuro (covering 1982 to 1988).  His talents have also been on display on some video jackets ('A more restrictive market as you are tied to actors' images and the visuals of the film.  You also lose all rights in your artwork as they are signed over in totality to the film company') as well as numerous American books ('They pay more than British companies, but again are more restrictive in what you can paint').

In a new venture, a small company, Lightning Man, are producing 
four 432 x 286mm art prints of Tim's work.  The prints are beautifully reproduced on quality 170gsm art paper.

'The one thing that all the paintings being released as 
posters have in common is that they are all pictures that were originally done for myself.  Some have subsequently been used on book jackets - the robot fly was used on Terry Pratchett's The Dark Side of the Sun in 1978 and the lion on The Lion Game by James H Schmitz in 1979 - but originally they were done for no-one but me.  I  always paint such that they could be used as covers because there is always that possibility, but they were all ideas and concepts that I did because I wanted to.  

Tim White seems to only have one ambition left.  To do his own 
thing. 'I am a painter who is being an illustrator because I have to be,' he asserts. 'I get a lot of satisfaction from everything I do, but I love to work to create my own dreams and worlds.'