Spike Milligan changed the face of British comedy--and many later comedians (notably the Monty Python team) would constantly reiterate their debt to him--and yet he died a bitter man, feeling neglected by the BBC (for which he had done such creative work) and seemingly unable to hear the voices of the younger comedians who sang his praises. For over 50 years, in every conceivable medium, Spike's quirky surrealistic humour made him among the best-loved of comedy talents in this country--and yet (it was remarked) he was best loved by those who didn't actually know him. His prickliness was legendary, and his career dissatisfaction, combined with the mental problems he suffered for most of his adult life, made it impossible for him to accept his considerable status in his field.
Drawing on Spike's own writing, Carpenter presents a picture of a fascinating and conflicted man. From his unsettling move as a child from India to a grey and cheerless England, Spike struggled with manic depression while still creating the much-loved Goon Show (with the equally troubled Peter Sellers). That period is faultlessly recreated here, along with Spike's acrimonious battles with his BBC bosses. Revealing new material tells us of the love affairs he conducted during his three marriages, and the children who were the results of those liaisons--these sections are among the most telling in painting a picture of a complex man. Whether you're interested in the history of British comedy or simply want to learn more about a fascinating writer and performer, you'll find Carpenter's biography riveting stuff. --Barry Forshaw
'Carpenter has made a very good job, scholarly and entertaining, of turning the adventures of one of Britain's strangest ever talents into a reliable narrative' (Word 20030803)
'In this definitive biography, Humphrey Carpenter demonstrates how Milligan was his own worst enemy - a brilliant, impulsive, impatient man who never quite belonged to the human race ... The beauty of Carpenter's biography is that this man of contradictions is laid before us in all his crazy glory.' (Sunday Express 20030803)
'This experienced and genial biographer settles down into his familiar, businesslike style, unafraid of addressing the less savoury aspects of his subject.' (Observer 20030810)
'This biography takes us at a cracking pace through Milligan's war service, the Goon Show years, his literary career, and his attempts, largely unsuccessful, to repeat the mass appeal of The Goons ... It is all part of a complex personality that Carpenter has done well to grapple into a readable biography.' (The Sunday Times 20030810)
'Humphrey Carpenter chronicles all his (Spike's) antisocial and depressive behaviour with tremendous diligence.' (Mail on Sunday 20030803)
'Carpenter has raided the BBC archives to reproduce memos and letters which give a vivid picture of life at the Beeb when Spike was at his creative acme. He is good at describing the chemistry and backstage tension of The Goons, and the extracts from shows are well-chosen ...
Carpenter's elegant scissors-and-paste job will probably become the new standard text.' (Evening Standard 20030803)
'Humphrey Carpenter's chatty yet perceptive biography charts the fascinating ebb and flow between the poles of his personality ... From dodgy racial jokes to extramarital affairs, Carpenter soberly charts Spike's indiscretions without salaciousness or sycophancy.' (Independent 20030803)
'Nothing flash, no tricks of style... but at the end a feeling that what you have read has been as close a likeness as you will get.' (Spectator 20030803)