A Tale of Two Artists (and Authors)

Written by Mike Ripley

In a unique ‘double’ the two Top Notch Thrillers published by Ostara in December 2014 are by thriller writers who have considerable reputations as artists as well as authors.

     

 

Raymond John Hitchcock was born in Calcutta in 1922. The only son of a professional soldier, he grew up in army camps and seaside towns and enlisted in the Royal Engineers just after the outbreak of WW2. 

 

 

 Raymond Hitchcock aged 35.

Wounded on the Normandy beaches shortly after D-Day and discharged from the army in 1945, he finished his education at Cambridge where he studied Mechanical Sciences and after graduating went to work in the rapidly growing field of telecommunications.

Gradually he realised that what he really wanted to be was an artist of some sort.  After several cartoons were published in Punch and paintings successfully exhibited in London and Oxford, he left engineering to concentrate on a career as an artist, many of his paintings were to be bought by the Universities of Oxford and Liverpool.

{Paintings by Raymond Hitchcock: Sea of Galilee (1954); Lovers in the Poppyfields (1955) and Christ at Abbots Worthy (1972).}

 

Raymond Hitchcock’s first novel, the risqué comedy Percy, was a best-seller in 1969 and filmed version starring Hywel Bennett, Elke Sommer and Britt Ekland.

 

 In his Diaries 1969-1970 The Python Years, Michael Palin records a visit to Pinewood Studios on April 24th 1970 with Terry Jones to discuss rewriting the screenplay of Percy for producer Betty Box and director Ralph Thomas. Palin and Jones finished their rewrites on 22nd May, whilst filming location scenes for Monty Python in Torquay and having just changed hotels after a frosty reception by the proprietors of the Gleneagles Hotel. (John Cleese decided to stay at the Gleneagles and it became the inspiration for his series Fawlty Towers.) The film was released in February 1971 but neither Palin nor Jones received an on-screen credit.

Whilst continuing to paint, Hitchcock’s writing diversified into film adaptations (There’s A Girl in my Soup), science fiction, television plays for both ITV Playhouse and the BBC series Play For Today, and also thrillers, notably The Lusitania Plot and The Tunnellers (1986) set in WW1 and Sea Wrack (1980) set in the early days of WW2 and published in America under the title The Canaris Legacy.

 

Raymond Hitchcock died in Winchester in 1992.

***

If Raymond Hitchcock was an artist who later became known as a writer, Reg Gadney was a novelist and screenwriter who latterly acquired a reputation as a respected painter.

 

Reg Gadney was born in Cross Hills, Yorkshire in 1941 and educated at the Dragon School, Oxford and at Stowe. Commissioned into the Coldstream Guards he served in Libya, France and Norway, where he qualified as a NATO instructor in Winter Warfare and Arctic Survival and was subsequently employed in the British Embassy in Oslo as Assistant to the Naval, Military and Air Attaché.

He then read English, Fine Art and Architecture at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge and whilst there he became the editor of Granta. He was awarded a Theodore von Karman Scholarship to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he became a Research Fellow. In 1969 he was appointed Deputy Controller of the National Film Theatre and in 1970 became a part-time Tutor at the Royal College of Art, subsequently being made Senior Tutor, Fellow and the youngest Pro-Rector in the history of the College.

He has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Moscow.

Reg Gadney’s first novel, Drawn Blank, appeared in 1970 and his first work of non-fiction, Constable and His World in 1976.

 

Since 1970 he has written 13 novels, non-fiction and works of history. He devised and wrote the 5-hour TV drama Kennedy (1983) broadcast on NBC, which was sold to 50 countries with 27 of them broadcasting the series simultaneously. The series was nominated for three Golden Globes and four BAFTA awards and won the BAFTA for Best Drama Series. He also adapted Iris Murdoch’s The Bell (1982) and Minette Walters’ The Sculptress (1996) for the BBC, which won him BAFTA, Writers’ Guild and Mystery Writers of America ‘Edgar’ nominations.

Now also a respected painter as well as writer, his work is represented in private and public collections in the UK, USA, Canada, Norway, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and one of his oil-on-board paintings of the Suffolk coastline was chosen as the cover for the new edition of Somewhere in England.

  

Southwold from Walberswick (2000)

 

  

River Alde (2000)

His latest one-man exhibition ‘Portraits’ opened in London in May 2014, his models including Helena Bonham-Carter, Sir David Hare, Bill Nighy, Lorraine Pascale and Nicole Farhi.

              

 Portraits, Reg Gadney (2014)

  

 Reg Gadney, self-portrait (2014)

 

Mike Ripley,

Editor, Top Notch Thrillers.

 

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