Friday, October 31, 2008

R.I.P. Writer Tony Hoare

Tony Hoare: screenwriter of The Sweeney and Minder

Oh my god, this is one of the best obits I've ever read!
Tony Hoare spent much of his early life in prison for robbing banks, but from this unlikely background he became a successful writer for television, with scripts for such programmes as Crown Court, The Sweeney and, above all, Minder.

Emphasis added by me.

Wait. It gets better:
Tony Hoare was born in Oxford in 1938. His father worked in a ball bearings factory and his mother was a waitress in one of the colleges. The family later moved to Luton, where Hoare grew up. He was a bright scholar and might have gone on to college, but on leaving school he went to London in search of excitement.

He found it as the member of a gang of bank robbers. They were never very successful. After a job in Warrington they repaired to a nearby pub but their southern accents immediately gave them away and they were arrested. Although a terrible driver, Hoare was the getaway man. He could reflect that he made far more money writing about crime for television than from his own crimes.

For much of the 1960s he was in and out of prison. He made headlines when he escaped from a high-security jail in Liverpool, had a spell in solitary confinement in Dartmoor and ended up in Hull, where he got a job in the library, read a lot and started writing. He ran a magazine called Contact, with the emphasis on the “con”, and wrote a novel which won an Arthur Koestler Award.

Emphasis added by me.

Wait. Here comes the twist:
Most importantly, he came to the attention of Alan Plater, a veteran of Z Cars and much else, who was a prison visitor and gave individual tuition to inmates interested in writing. Hoare was his star pupil. Plater suggested that he try to write a television script. Hoare had no idea where to start, so Plater showed him some of his own scripts, telling him: “Write something that’s like that.”

Hoare came up with a play called The Chaps, slang for villains, which Plater showed to friends in the business and after Hoare was released from Hull it was produced for television. Despite a further spell in prison for driving while disqualified, Hoare’s writing career quickly took off.

Emphasis added by me.

Get this:
Some of the titles of Hoare’s episodes are worth treasuring on their own. In 1984 there was If Money Be the Food of Love, Play On, in 1989 It’s a Sorry Lorry Morrie and in 1994, for the show’s 100th programme, he came up with All Things Brighton Beautiful.

And the final twist:
Hoare was often asked where he got his ideas from and had no convincing answer, though he tended to agree that writers often do their best work under pressure. He cited a Minder commission in 1982 when his life was falling apart. He had been ejected from the family home, was living out of his car and cadging beds from friends. But the script got written.

Emphasis added by me.

Talk about dedication!

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