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The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson [Paperback]

Louis Barfe
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.15 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2012
Les Dawson was a Northern lad who climbed out of the slums thanks to an uncommonly brilliant mind.

Married twice in real life, he had a third wife in his comic world - a fictional ogre built from spare parts left by fleeing Nazis at the end of World War II - and an equally frightening mother-in-law. He was down to earth, yet given to eloquent, absurd flights of fancy. He was endlessly generous with his time, but slow to buy a round of drinks. He was a mass of contradictions. In short, he was human, he was genuine, and that's why audiences loved him.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848872518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848872516
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

From 11 series of Sez Les to the wilder lunacies of Blankety Blank, Les Dawson was always around and always hilarious... We shall probably never see his like again... All praise to Louis Barfe. He's got the context as well as the jokes right here. He gives you more than the booze and fags and the sometimes tortured hero of standard showbiz biographies. He makes us realise what we lost when Les Dawson died. --Observer

Louis Barfe succeeds in digging beneath the television personality to uncover Dawson's hidden layers. --Time Out

[A] conscientious, heartfelt book... In today's hard times, we could do with another comic like Dawson. --New Statesman



Lugubrious, complex and always funny, Les Dawson gets the biography he deserves. --Scotsman

About the Author

Louis Barfe was born in 1973 in Epsom, Surrey. He studied at Lancaster University. He has written for Private Eye, The Oldie, New Statesman and the Independent on Sunday. His books include Where Have All the Good Times Gone: The Rise and Fall of the Record Industry and Turned Out Nice Again: The Story of British Light Entertainment.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging Genuinely Funny Man 6 Feb 2012
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Louis Barfe's in depth well-researched biography of Les Dawson is a tribute to its subject as well as its author. Humble upbringing in Collyhurst, Manchester, taking jobs wherever they came, national service, learning piano and trying singing, life deposited him in civvy street. His early round of the venues saw him as a frustrated filler in of comedy.

Aged 25, he pondered on his future. Johnny Ball worked on the same circuit and describes Les as being 'one of the lads' on stage and off, as funny in the bar as not (apparently if he was not buying). The big break was 'Opportunity Knocks' in 1967 (aged 36 and a veteran of the clubs). A huge hit, within 2 years 'Sez Les' was peaktime television. Loved by the public and fellow artists (John Cleese loved him, Bernard Manning did not,says a lot). Les Dawson played his infamous mother-in-law jokes, facial contortions as Ada but was much more (Mr Guerner, boxing jaw-broken dramatic). Barfe's biographical portrayal of Les Dawson is unusual in that there is not any bone of contention that he was anything other than 'a nice bloke'. No contoversy. No Sunday paper exploits. He had none of the obvious life-slides (up and down) affecting Milligan, Cooper, Hancock, Cleese etc (all brilliant), although a heavy smoker and a user of whisky (doing 'Blankety Blank', what else, 'I'm not going out there to face that lot without').

His loyalty to his wife Meg and family are described in the context of his career. Also his second marriage to Tracy Roper are set in his short life (died aged 62). The meat and bones of Les Dawson are here. His talent is undeniable and it is a privilege to have been there and reap his legacy. A fitting reminder of the man and his life. His droll persona is reminiscent of Ken Platt (for olders), but not copied and far more recently we see his dryness in interpretation with Jack Dee. A worthy read about a man who kept scripts (Tommy Cooper did the same). Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindness Itself 26 Dec 2012
By Neutral VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Anyone familiar with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, or Larry Parks's portrayal of Al Jolson in The Jolson Story, will find this biography of Les Dawson a refreshing change. This portrayal of a man whose personality on the stage was a reflection of his life off it was marred only by his lack of appreciation of what was important in life. For Dawson money talked but only to say goodbye as he made up for his childhood years of deprivation in Manchester. Whereas another Manchester comedian, Bernard Manning, would boast about his achievements but couldn't wait to get back to his home turf, Dawson enjoyed the experience of traveling and working. Unlike Manning he was never motivated by a desire to look after number one. He was generous with his time and saw the comedian as part of a team who all benefited if the show was a success. And success it was, thanks largely to Dawson's representation of 'the phlegmatic, resigned, sarcastic, glorious British attitude to life' and his personal philosophy 'Be kind'.

Dawson's imagination enabled him to tell stories which were plausible without necessarily being accurate. As a child he learned he had a talent for writing and an ability to make his contemporaries laugh. He found humour in the comedy of Norman Evans, Frank Randle and Jimmy James who unwittingly provided material for his own work. For my generation it's impossible to see Dawson and Roy Barraclough as Ada Shufflebotham and Cissie Braithwaite without remembering Evans's 'Over The Garden Wall' which inspired it. Dawson's gurning became part of Ada's physical appearance and his portrayal of Cosmo Smallpiece whose serious approach to car engines collapsed when he started talking about its 'big end'. Dawson discovered his musical talent by accident.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warm and humane - like the subject himself 7 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent read about a genuine warm man of the people. Louis Barfe has conducted extensive interviews with Dawson's collaborators to produce an excellent account of his ascent to the top of show business that combines pathos with humour and takes us back to the lost world of TV variety and clubland.

There are also detailed accounts of Dawson's little known serious fiction which serve as a constant reminder that Dawson was a highly intelligent man deeply in love with painting pictures with words.

Whether he is as well remembered as the book makes out I'm not sure. If you say the words "Les Dawson" to anyone over 40 and I would imagine their first reaction is to smile - which is as much a legacy as any comedian may wish for. But his tragically early death (relatively speaking) means that for anyone under 30, he is probably someone their parents watched than anything else.

I would heartily recommend this book though as a reminder of how genuinely funny Les Dawson was and to confirm that he was as down to earth off screen as he appeared on it - Cheers Les!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better 4 Sep 2013
By Peter Lee TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
At one time Les Dawson was almost always on the TV, popping up on chat shows, game shows, variety shows and the like, and his unique style was always entertaining. This book attempts to paint a picture of the man and in some areas it succeeds, but in others it fails. On the positive side it is an enjoyable read and his humour really comes through, so there are plenty of laughs to be found in these pages, and there is good coverage of his work on stage and screen. This is also a negative of the book in some respects, in that rather too much of the book seems to focus on his work rather than the man himself - I was hoping for a little more of an insight into Les, but the book seems to concentrate on his work. It's a quick, enjoyable read, but I felt it was lacking in the biographical detail.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars If Dawson had done even half of what he claims, he'd have been dead by...
A good read that compliments Dawson's two autobiographies, straightening out some bent bits and sympathetically correcting some of Dawson's inaccuracies, whilst adding some new... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Guaglione Malavita
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me happy and sad
Excellent book which reveals a lot about one of my favourite comedians, I guess you wont be disappointed by this book
Published 4 months ago by Neil Angus
5.0 out of 5 stars Just finished reading
About 60% of the book is taken up with the story, the rest is all the notes, linked to from within the main body of the book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Radiojock
4.0 out of 5 stars my Husband
Got this for him he really enjoyed this book as les was such a good camidan of all times has pass on to his friend.
Published 9 months ago by Bejam
3.0 out of 5 stars Some new pearls of wisdom but not much thats new.
This book is worth the read, it explodes some of the myths about the man which have just been taken as fact in the past. EG. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Robert Temple
2.0 out of 5 stars Sorry not one for me.
Hard going, it seemed more about the author than les. I read about half of this book but couldnt read anymore. long winded.
Published 15 months ago by Mol 57
3.0 out of 5 stars too much focus on stage performances
Les Dawson was a very interesting person - well read, serious and complicated, contrary to his stage persona. Read more
Published 15 months ago by midget gem
4.0 out of 5 stars In depth exploration of the life and times of Les Dawson
A third of the way through this book (and enjoying reading it) the thoroughness and attention to detail became a bit too much. Read more
Published 15 months ago by M. J. Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars The Trials and Triumphs of Les Dawson.
Started with Les in his early years and showed how he struggled to get himself established, went on to show how his popularity went before him and showed how the normal man in the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by rightknee1
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I enjoyed reading this book because I thought Les Dawson was a brilliant comedian, and wanted to find out more about him and this book told me a lot about htis wonderful man. Read more
Published 16 months ago by pete m
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