Writer Terry Nation was celebrated for creating the Daleks, Blake's 7 & Survivors. He also wrote a lot of other stuff to & Turner has done a sterling job giving us the whole picture of Terry Nation the author. This is not so much of a biography of the man and information on his personal life is briefly covered e.g. a smallish section on his Cardiff childhood does cover the sort of family and setting he grew up in & likely influences on his writing but we are quickly joining him in London; writing his own material as a stand-up and being told "great material, poor delivery" leading to an inevitable change to writing full-time.
There's a great deal here that isn't so well known e.g. the help he was given in the form of money by Spike Milligan with a loose agreement to write some Goon Show material and his time at Associated London Scripts-home of Milligan, Galton & Simpson and Eric Sykes.
His association with Tony Hancock is a well known one (leading of course to the Daleks once Hancock sacked him and he needed work immediately) but we learn in some detail what it was like for Nation, writing for a truly talented man on the downslide in his career, who had some immense emotional problems-the audition to become a writer involved over 24 hours drinking & debating philosophy.
It's these sections of lesser known material that really make this books for me e.g his start in variety based radio shows, writing science fiction before Dr Who ( notably an adaptation of Isaac Asmiov's Caves of Steel)& his extensive work for ITC. For ITC in their golden age he worked on The Saint, The Baron, The Avengers & The Persuaders in the capacity variously as writer, script editor and some associate producer type role.
For his work on Dr Who, Turner's research is extensive enough to be aware of his abandoned historical The Red Fort. He covers the 2 non-Dalek stories but devotes more time to the Daleks, splitting them into 2 parts-the 60's when Dalek mania was at unequalled heights & the return to a smaller but more sustained popularity when he wrote new stories for Jon Pertwee & Tom Baker. Here as well as the well known stories behind this time he covers things such as the part ancillary merchandise played e.g Turner implies that having been thwarted in leaving a sign Davros did not die at the end of Genesis of the Daleks, Nation had an article on the character in a Dalek Annual include the idea that Davros was still alive, pre-empting his return in Destiny of the Daleks.
Blake's 7 & Survivors are also covered in detail, how the ideas for them came, what his input beyond being a writer was (e.g. suggesting a kind of story arc in series 2 of Blake)& why he ultimately walked from both. There's also detail on the other series he created "The Incredible Robert Baldick" which only ran to a pilot.
Turner traces Nation's sources from his own work and from other's, not without success but it does lead to my only critcism. It gets a little repetitive to be constantly told that there's an element of Caves of Steel in this script or that script. Play a Caves of Steel drinking game while reading and you won't go into work the next day!
Turner does not pretend that he was an unalloyed genius, he outlines why certain scripts are generally not considered a success, but in the main he successfully argues Nation's strengths as a writer.
The last section of the book is bittersweet, Nation finally realising a dream of working in Hollywood but at the price of seeing very little come to the screen. His time was often taken up with fruitless attempts to revive, Blake's 7, Survivors and after its cancellation, Dr Who.
Peppered with quotes from many including the man himself, I recommend this warmly to all fans of Terry Nation's work, who will all learn things about him. I'd love to see similar volumes on other writers such as Robert Holmes.