Tuesday, 3 April 2007
Norfolk actor Martin Shaw stars as George Gently.
by DEREK JAMES
During his lifetime, popular Norwich bookseller turned author Alan Hunter dreamed of seeing his creation appear on television.
And at last his dream is to become a reality - albeit two years after his death.
Millions will be watching this Easter as Norfolk-based actor Martin Shaw stars as George Gently, the policeman created by Alan Hunter in the back of his bookshop near the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. He wrote his first Gentle thriller in 1955 and wrote another 47 books about the mild-mannered lawman before he died in 2005. Today, his daughter Helen Hunter, from Brundall, said: “Dad would have been so proud. It is a shame he will not be able to see the programme, but we shall be watching.”
The book has been adapted for television by Our Friends in the North writer Peter Flannery, who said: “About four years ago I was rummaging in a dusty old bookshop when my hand fell on a paperback called Gently Through The Mill by Alan Hunter.”
He had never heard of the detective series but handed over a couple of pounds and entered the world of George Gently.
“Gently seemed attractively old-fashioned, not just in his methods and his mindset, but in his values. He is a creation that deserves to become the nation's favourite detective,” he added.
Alan Hunter was born in 1922 in Hoveton St John, near Wroxham, on the River Bure and grew up on the Broads. He decided to set the action in the early to mid-60s and turn the story into a television programme.
“When I first met Martin Shaw to discuss the role, I had a strong sense that he would fit the character, and the character him. He turned out to be terrific at measuring out for us the awful grief that Gentle endures in the story after the murder of his wife in the opening sequence,” he said.
Former Evening News writer Mr Hunter, who lived in Norfolk all his life and spent many years at Brundall, died in his early 80s, leaving his wife Adelaide - who once ran a city antique shop - and daughter Helen.
Just before his death Mr Hunter, who devoted his life to writing thrillers about Gently, told the Evening News: “It would have been good to have seen him on television. You never know, he could have become another Morse.”
Alan Hunter: a short biography
Alan Hunter was born in 1922 in Hoveton St John, near Wroxham, on the River Bure and grew up on the Broads.
He started writing poetry and short stories as well as natural history notes for the Evening News.
He was a country boy who loved the city and, in 1944, while serving in the RAF, he published The Norwich Poems.
Alan went on to write plays in the early 1950s performed by the Conesford Players and the Hellesdon WI Drama Group.
During the 1950s he was running a busy bookshop near The Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich and when he wasn't selling books, he would nip into the back and write about Gently.
The first book was published in 1955. Six years later he sold the shop and became a full-time writer. He moved to Brundall where he wrote a Gentle adventure every year.
In the fast and fickle world of crime-writing, he built up a small army of armchair fans hooked on the Gentle yarns.No explicit sex or violence, just cracking good thrillers and a hero you'd lend your last penny to.
George Gently will be on BBC1 on Sunday, April 8 at 9pm.