Author Spotlight Interview: Ian Dickerson
Today, we’re continuing our series of author interviews by chatting to Ian Dickerson – who has written amazing guides to some of the most iconic characters in literature and television including The Saint, Sherlock Holmes and The Falcon. Based in beautiful Hampshire, England, Ian kindly spent a bit of time telling us about the unique path that got to see his name in print, attached to some of the fictional characters who inspired and entertained him and thousands of others growing up.
HG: So, tell me who YOU are, how you describe yourself!
ID: How would I describe myself? Oh, husband, father, writer, juggler…
HG: …director, producer, writer… Any other feathers in your cap? Man of mystery? With a furled umbrella and secret, buccaneering dreams?
HG: So, you write books about really cool things – Sherlock Holmes, the Saint, the Falcon. How did you end up doing that?
ID: No short answer I’m afraid… When I was eight years old I watched Return of the Saint when it was first run on TV. I loved it, but was even happier when I discovered that one of my brothers had a couple of books about The Saint. They quickly got nicked, er, borrowed…and I discovered that they were even better than the TV show! So, I spent the next few years, and a lot of pocket money, buying as many of them as I could.
In the early eighties, when I was in my early teens, the BBC started showing the old RKO Saint movies, The Falcon movies and the Rathbone and Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. I watched them all.
Cut to thirty years later. A long-ish friendship with Leslie Charteris – author of The Saint – had lead to an even longer friendship with his widow and family. I’d done a fair amount of work for his Estate with regard to rights and trademark utilization. Network DVD in the UK had asked me to make some documentaries on the making of the old Saint TV shows, which I had a lot of fun doing. Indeed at one stage I got to sit next to Roger Moore in a recording studio whilst he recorded a script I’d written – and by then, I’d come to realize that no one had really written the book about the Saint’s TV career.
Sure, a few had been done – but they were either seriously dated or lacking some key information. I wanted to tell the story of what made it on screen and what didn’t. So luckily enough I found a small publisher for that book and despite his problems, it seemed to sell reasonably well.
I’d also helped license some of the old Saint radio shows to Radio Spirits and they asked me to write some sleeve notes for their CDs. In talking to them they wanted to set up a publishing arm, so having written The Saint on TV I pitched them The Saint on the Radio…which seemed to sell well enough for them to accept my pitch for a book about The Falcon. I’d always been fascinated by the Falcon for he was a gentleman detective on film and a hardboiled PI on the radio, and I wanted to try and examine why and how they got away with it.
As for Holmes, well what kicked that off was the death of my friend Audrey Charteris in 2014. She and Leslie had a flat in Dublin since the 1970s and the family asked if I wouldn’t mind going out there to take stock of what was there. Amongst many things I found a stack of Leslie’s radio scripts, many of which were from the Sherlock Holmes series…
HG: NO WAY! I didn’t know that! Were you a fan of Sherlock Holmes before?
ID: Yeah, my brother introduced me to Holmes when I was about fourteen but it never quite grabbed me the way the Saint did . But having persuaded Purview to reprint some of Leslie’s scripts for the Holmes show I wanted to know more about the people involved with it, and make sure I knew when Leslie started writing for it, when and why he stopped etc. So I started digging and the result is one of my new books, Sherlock Holmes and his Adventures on American Radio.
What fascinates me about Holmes on radio is that his adventures are almost as old as radio itself…and that he got on USA radio years before he got on UK radio…and that Richard Gordon, one of the most popular radio Holmes’ in the 30s, was one of radio’s first celebrities and even went so far as to give out his home address on air when trying to encourage a letter writing campaign to keep the show on air!
HG: I LOVE that. You’ve been keeping The Saint alive. In fact, you’ve embraced a few classic icons. You directed the documentary on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), didn’t you?
ID: Randall was simply the next release that Network wanted to do after The Saint and I pointed out to them that I loved the show–still do.
HG: So, how did you get into writing in the first place? And has it always been non-fiction? I mean, I’ve read your Saint short story and it’s FAB.
ID: I’ve always written. One of the first pieces I remember writing was a horrendous piece of Blake’s 7 fan fiction in primary school. I was nine years old at the time. Fortunately all I can really remember of it was the ending where our heroes broke through some sort of shield to get to the Liberator. I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, it’s just easier to get the non-fiction stuff published at the moment. I have in fact written two Saint novels (glad you liked the short story by the way) which people seem to like but I can’t get the rights to get them published (bloody film deal). That is, in part, why I turned my attention to The Lone Wolf, because it’s a public domain character who could be a lot like the Saint. Certainly I haven’t published much fiction in the last few years – but once I finish my current crop of contracted work I’m hoping that will change.
HG: I used to LOVE Blake’s 7. Avon Kerr was such a great character. Ooooh, fan fiction – I love how it’s exploded now. I think it’s a great introduction to the craft of writing. Okay, so how extensively do you plan out your writing ahead of time?
ID: Hahahahahahaha! What’s a plan?
HG: Too true!
ID: I focus on those books I have contracts for and when I get bored writing about, for example, Hiram Holliday, go work on a book I’m not contracted for. Or switch from non-fiction to fiction.
HG: Do you have a writing space? Or are you a grab-your-laptop-and-go-to-Costa-Coffee kind of writer?
ID: I do have a space–the smallest bedroom in the house which has a desk and a lot of shelves in. But I do a lot of my work mentally–I like walking so will often walk around the town getting my head straight and then come back and work better. But I can and will work anywhere.
HG: Do you use a laptop? Desktop? Pad and paper?
ID: Being an ex-broadcast engineer I’m a laptop kinda guy. Though have been known to use pen and paper as well…
HG: So, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received about writing?
ID: It’s a toss up between “arse to chair, pen to paper” (Brian Clemens) or “Less is best” (Leslie Charteris). I think of both quotes and indeed both men, often.
HG: I LOVE Brian Clemens, too! How do you feel about the rise of self-publishing, and the ebook revolution?
ID: That’s tough, for without it–and print on demand in particular–I wouldn’t have these books to my name. It’s clearly allowed a lot of people to get published who wouldn’t have been previously, and as long as they’ve got a good story to tell that can only be a good thing. Of course, with this increase in quantity, the quality bar has dropped somewhat, which isn’t so good. But I’m a sucker for a good story and I’ve read some very good ones that have been self-published. Then again nothing, but nothing beats the feeling of holding a book in your hand, or walking into a bookshop, or the look, feel and touch of a book…
HG: My mum refused to read my last novel until I sent her a paperback, lol!
ID: My Mum had a kindle which she loved…and an awful lot of books as well!
HG: Aside from the ones you’ve mentioned, who are your favorite authors and books?
ID: I inherited all of Leslie and Audrey’s books when she died and that’s killed any desire I have to acquire more…in fact I’m getting rid of lots… That’s a tough one…I used to have loads but I’ve drifted away from many of them…I like Max Allan Collins…Anthony Horowitz…Will Graham…Simon Kernick…
HG: Where can people go and find your books, and more about you?
ID: My biography of Leslie Charteris – A Saint I Ain’t – is released by Spiteful Puppet on December 13, and Bear Manor Media published my book on Sherlock Holmes, which is also available on Amazon.
HG: And what’s next for Ian Dickerson? What are you working on now?
ID: Between all my work on The Saint, The Falcon and Sherlock Holmes…and now The Lone Wolf...I’m keen to come up with a way to reinvent (I will not say reimagine!) the gentleman detective for the 21st century…
HG: Sounds wonderful! The world needs him!
If you liked the sound of Ian’s books, be sure to check them out! And remember, whether you love fiction or non-fiction, romance or thrillers, horror or more, you’ll receive FREE invitations to read and review digital copies of the hottest new books on Amazon when you sign up to Hidden Gems. Just give us your email address, pick and choose from any or all of over 15 different genres, and get reading!