I must confess to having read every book thus far published on Kenneth Williams, including those authored by Williams himself.
Those, like me, who never tire of reading something new about Williams will be happy with this latest book to look at the life and times of someone who has achieved just as big a following from today's generation as he did from his own.
This really is the first proper full-length biography of Kenneth Williams, with the first attempt being a rather poor effort by Michael Freedland. Therefore I expected Mr. Stevens to come to his subject having delved deep into the backgrounds of the people and places that so dominated the life of Kenneth Williams. In this the author doesn't disappoint, as drawing on access to the full Diaries, he has managed to bring to the table facts that we otherwise never really knew before. For example, Kenneth's Army career is detailed in good length, including where he was posted at what times, and his early forays into army entertainment is equally nicely documented.
There are revelations scattered here and there, although do not expect anything too shocking because for one Mr Stevens respects his subject too much to allow that, and for another, we already seemed to know every facet of Williams' life that there wasn't a great deal left to find out.
The book is illustrated with some rare pictures, although more pictures would have been welcome. And my only criticism is that there are one or two errors relating to facts; for example, on page 14 the author quotes from an interview with Kenneth Williams which says how rude Charlie Williams (KW's father) was as an hairdresser, the book says the anecdote was from the Pakinson Show when in fact it comes from Desert Island Discs in 1987, which Parkinson presented. Another similar error occurs towards the end where the book states Williams was engaged with regular radio work in the 1980s such as Give Us A Clue - Give Us A Clue being, of course, a TV show.
Apart from those small errors, and an over-reliance on too many already well-known Keneth Williams anecdotes and interview quotes, the book excels at filling in some of the blanks of his early life, a controversial conclusion about his death, and lots of original interviews from people who knew and evidently loved this unique man.
A career guide at the end listing all his professional work would also have been something nice.
As for the Diaries, when will a volume come out giving us much more than the published ones ever did?