CHAPEAU MELON ET BOTTES DE CUIR - THE AVENGERS
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++++Andrew Pixley, The Avengers Files++++

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++++Andrew Pixley, The Avengers Files++++

Message  Invité le Mer 1 Oct 2008 - 10:24

When and how did you discover The Avengers?

"The Avengers" wafted around on the periphery of my consciousness when I was about five or six years old and the Tara King episodes were being re-run on Yorkshire Television (the local ITV station where I lived), but it wasn't something I watched. As such, the first story I probably followed was - ironically - the very final strip featuring Steed and Tara in "TV Comic" in 1972 (the one about protecting Mother from some assassins when he returned to his old school's sportsday). There were then late-night re-runs of "The Avengers" with Diana Rigg (the colour episodes) in 1975/6 and I caught the odd bits which I loved (notably "Never, Never Say Die") although generally, it was way past my bedtime. Then "The New Avengers" popped up on Yorkshire on Fridays nights at 8pm, and from the opening moments of "The Eagle's Nest", I was hooked. When Yorkshire abandoned the first series four episodes off the end, I tuned into the neighbouring territory of ATV to catch episodes like "Three Handed Game". Then, in November 1982, I sat up to the early hours to watch the heavily edited print of "From Venus With Love" which kicked off "The Avengers" run on the brand new Channel 4, and its style, wit and sillyness ensnared my imagination for good.

What are your favourite season and episodes?

I used to say that the fifth season (i.e. the first sixteen colour episodes - I'm not sure which terminology you adhere to on your site, and very much respect that it's each to their own where opinions about season breaks are concerned) were my favourite, but I'm not sure that's true any more. Those early colour shows are terrific fun and have incredible style, but they do lack the variety of the videotaped shows and those which come immediately before and after it. So, these days, I don't think I have a favourite season. The show varies in style so much and I like it in all its different forms. I'd rather watch a good comedy episode than a bad thriller episode, and a good thriller episode than a bad fantasy episode, and a good fantasy episode than a bad comedy episode. So many wonderful flavours packed into one programme! We're very, very fortunate.

Favourite episodes? Well, "From Venus With Love" obviously has a very special place in my heart alongside "School for Traitors", "Brief for Murder", "Don't Look Behind You", "Dressed to Kill", "Esprit de Corps", "The Grave-Diggers" (or "The Gravediggers" depending on which print you watch), "A Surfeit of H20", "The Hour That Never Was", "The House That Jack Built", "The Winged Avenger", "Something Nasty in the Nursery", "Dead Man's Treasure", "All Done With Mirrors", "Look (stop me ...", "Requiem", "Cat Amongst the Pigeons", "Target!", "Three Handed Game", "K is for Kill" and "Emily". Oh, so many good ones and for so many reasons!

Why did you decide to write The Avengers Files?

“The Avengers Files” was written purely because Reynolds and Hearn had a licence from Canal+ to publish a book about “The Avengers”. Marcus Hearn is an old friend of mine whom I’ve worked with since 1991, and he knew that I was a very great fan of “The Avengers”; indeed, we worked together on the Titan Magazine’s special devoted to the 1998 movie. He asked if I had any ideas for a book and offered me a chance to write something, and after some time thinking about it, I suggested that we could have fun with some sort of lexicon or encyclopedia about the series. The idea of a book on “The Avengers” hadn’t crossed my mind before that. Generally, I don’t enjoy working on book projects that much, but I was delighted to find that this one would be full authorized and licensed so that we could use photographs and have access to all the paperwork we needed.

Did you watch again all episodes with a notepad in order to write the book?

Yes indeed; that was very important as I’ve seen so many other books which I’ve been disappointed with because the author hasn’t watched the programmes. My wife and I watched all the episodes released on DVD by Contender in the UK in production order, then the movie, and then doubled back to view the available first series material and the French DVDs of the second series. The original idea of an A to Z was soon abandoned when I found we were amassing so much trivia material on Steed and his cohorts themselves.

You only had six weeks to achieve the writing. How did you manage it?

The six weeks wasn’t the original plan. The research spanned 2003 and then I originally had until August 2004 to write and deliver. Then in late January 2004, Reynolds and Hearn had a problem and Marcus explained to me that they’d had to change their schedules with the printers and that they needed the text by the end of February. With any other publisher, I’d have simply walked away from the project as I have in the past; I write as a hobby in my spare time and want it to be enjoyable. Also, I wasn’t under contract at all. However, since Marcus had been such a very good friend to me over the years, I agreed that I could deliver something by mid-March to help the company out. I don't believe that you should let your friends down. After that, it was really simply a matter of assembling all the information and delivering the text. It was a hectic scheduled since I could only work on it in the evening and weekends, but Reynolds and Hearn had also been so wonderful in giving me such support on this very silly concept that it was too good a chance to miss. And, although I’m not a professional writer, I believe that if you’ve given a professional commission that you work in a professional manner and deliver on deadline.

Did you have any help from Canal + England ? (Canal+ in France is quite disdainful about the series)

Canal+ in England were quite wonderful from the research aspect. They provided me with material which I needed to view again (e.g. “Girl on the Trapeze”, etc) and my wife and I also spent a day going through all the existing paperwork and scripts on the series at their archive, allowing us to confirm the spellings of various names, items of music, and also production orders and working titles. They were great; very helpful indeed. Nice guys.

What was Dave Rogers’s influence on the book?

Dave’s only influence on the book was that I know I didn’t want to do anything remotely like his books. Why bother? Dave did some superb books and has been immensely supportive with many of my projects since the mid-1980s. Look at that original version of “The Avengers” published by Michael Joseph. It’s just one of the most wonderful and brilliant books I’ve ever purchased … and back in 1983 it was immensely important. Dave was demonstrating that, yes, it is practical to publish books of this level of detail on archival TV shows. He then refined his work with “The Complete Avengers” and “The Ultimate Avengers” as well. And for all the small faults that are now debated on the internet, they are still quite brilliant. I certainly couldn’t compete with those, so why bother? It’s what made me want to do something very silly with “The Avengers” instead, in keeping with the tone of the series. It looks serious … but isn’t.

It was when I was working on the book that I last spoke to Dave and was deeply upset to hear how poorly he sounded. I was so pleased to hear that his health improved when he moved to a warmer climate.

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

I had feedback from Brian Clemens to say that he liked it, but most of the feedback I’ve had is from readers. What I’ve always done as a writer is to write something and then assume that nobody else will like the finished work at all. I do it purely to please myself. As such, if any one person even vaguely says, “Oh, I rather liked that,” then that’s an added bonus. I get the impression that a lot of people thought that “The Avengers Files” would be a behind-the-scenes book with a production history … but I didn’t feel there was anything new to say that Dave hadn’t covered in his books. The original publicity blurb on the internet from various wholesalers was also grossly misleading. So, I can understand why people might be upset after shelling out for what they believed would be an episode guide book … and instead received a very, very silly volume which took trivia lists and dressed them up as a fake set of biographies (indeed, to send up the notion of an episode guide, because if the characters were real, the events wouldn’t fit into discrete “episodes”). But I had a lot of fun doing it, the people who got the “joke” seemed to like it, and all credit to Reynolds and Hearn for being prepared to back such a ludicrous fan idea and have it published as such a beautiful finished item.
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