Remembering BARRY NORMAN

Written by Mike Ripley

Barry Norman (1933-2017)

 

I first met Barry Norman ten years ago through his wife Diana, whose historical mysteries written under the name Ariana Franklin, I had enjoyed immensely and reviewed enthusiastically.

It was, ironically, as Diana/Ariana proudly proclaimed, the year Barry would move from ‘the nation’s favourite film critic’ to being ‘the pickled onion oligarch’. For years Barry had followed an old family recipe for pickling onions (and shallots) and a family friend, having tried them (and they were very good indeed) persuaded him to go into commercial production.

   

Very soon Barry Norman’s Pickled Onions graced the shelves of supermarkets nationwide and Barry didn’t turn a hair when my wife asked him to autograph a jar, which we still have though the contents have long since been consumed.

 

Barry would often accompany Diana to crime writing events and seemed to particularly enjoy joining the ‘after party’ of the annual Bodies in the Bookshop promotion at Heffers in Cambridge, which took place in a local Chinese restaurant.

(with Paul and Carla Doherty and Deryn Lake)

 

(with television critic – and film buff – Philip Purser)

Most famous for his long-running television film review shows (Film 72 to Film 98) and dozens of books about films and Hollywood, he also wrote half a dozen novels, including the comic romp Sticky Wicket (1984) about his other passion – cricket.

What is less well known is that in the 1960s, in the midst of the boom in British thrillers, he was one of many a Fleet Street journalist who tried their hand at inventing the next James Bond. His initial forays into spy thrillerdom with agent Paul Baker resulted in two books: The Matter of Mandrake (1967) and The Hounds of Sparta (1968).

    

Cinema proved more tempting than a career as a thriller-writer though, which is understandable given that Barry was the son of director Leslie Norman, famed for the original wartime epic Dunkirk (1958) and television series such as The Saint and The Persuaders.

Barry did maintain an interest in thriller writers and screen adaptations of their work and proved a fund of stories about meeting Len Deighton, Georges Simenon and Alistair MacLean, one of the few journalists the reclusive Scot seemed happy to talk to – and drink with.

Since the death of Diana in 2011 I met Barry only infrequently, usually at the annual Felix/Dick Francis book launch, but I remembered many of the stories he had told about writers and films and more than one has found its way into my book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Sadly, he was unable to come to the launch and it will be an eternal regret that I was not able to give him a copy for he was, as we used to say, a ‘top bloke’- always charming company and with a sharp sense of humour to boot.

 

Mike Ripley.

 

Andreas Norman



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