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on 18 June 2001
Alan Plater's light mystery/romance, written for television and filmed in 1995 by BBC Wales, is here given a delightful reading by "Oliver" himself, Alan Bates. Fans of the mini series (which was never issued on video) will enjoy the occasional differences between the written and filmed versions.
Though abridged, the story feels complete, and Bates finds all the wry wit and subtlety in the relationship of WPC Diane Priest and the anagram-loving academic with one name. Highly recommended -- you might find yourself on a summer ramble to the Orkneys following the path of these sleuths.
The mini has been compared to Plater's earlier "Biederbecke Affair," and there are many similarities, even a few direct quotes. But to this reader/viewer, "Oliver" in any version is far superior.
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NOTE THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE ACTUAL PAPERBACK BOOK (not the Cassette abridged version)

Alan Plater wrote really good books which mada wonderful unforgetable Television series.

Why?

Simply because he creates such fabulous characters.
The secret to a good book is not as most people think a good story rather it is the creation of a good character and then the story hangs around that character.

Don't believe me?
Think of Arthur Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.
Now not all the stories were brilliant BUT they all contained Sherlock which was enough to make the story special.
Take it one further and consdier all your favourite televison series- the characters are the main attracting and not the story. Certainly there are some good stories but can you think of a brilliant book that had a good story but with poor characters?)

Enough.
Back to Oliver's Travels.

In Oliver's Travels Plater has in fact created not just one brilliant character but two. Oliver- the name of the main character is really good but W.P.C. Dianne Priest - Oliver's reluctant- well at fist reluctant paramour is better.
Plater writes really strong female characters that as women match true life in that it is the females that actually get things done and solve the puzzle.
The support of wild and eccentric characters who have offbeat yet oddly convincing takes on life are wonderful.
The hook to Oliver's travels is that he stumbles into an old murder mystery and turns over a few stones to reveal something that Big Business does not want to be revealled.
His gimic is that he is a crossword fanatic and loves anagrams.
These provide the 'Maguffin' that brings this book up to a whole new level.

Alan Plater has written a really enjoyable mystery/light romance/gentle comedy in which big business- a security company is really running the show.
Brilliant throw away phrases a=bound in this warm comedy as Oliver made redundant from his post at a University crosses paths with Priest and promptly gets her suspended.

If you liked the Biederbecke affair and the other books in the series
The Beiderbecke Trilogy
Beiderbecke Affair
The Beiderbecke Connection
The Beiderbecke Tapes
then this is right up your back alley/ten foot/ginnel or even your back passage.

A really enjoyable read.

On a lighter note about the television series Alan Bates was totally wrong for the Oliver Character- even Plater said so.

If the right actor in the James Bollam School of acting had been selected Oliver's Travels would not have been the big flop it was and would certainly not be as forgotten as it is now.
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on 10 July 2015
Cryptic crossword savant, Mastermind specialist question-setter and former lecturer in comparative religion, Oliver becomes a reluctant super-sleuth in what is possibly the most wittily insightful and charmingly reflective novel I have ever read. A sort of late twentieth century, devoutly working class intellectual equivalent of Oscar Wilde, if that's possible.
An earlier reviewer said he thought Oliver's Travels was too similar to the Beiderbecke trilogy. But Plater had been developing and improvising on certain themes and ideas for years (from "Get Lost!" through "The Beiderbecke Trilogy" and culminating in "Oliver's Travels"), like a jazz musician or a performer in the Commedia dell'Arte with his capacious jest book, stock characters and scenarios. In my opinion, Oliver's Travels is by far the best of these and it is such a shame that the bureaucrats at the BBC insisted that the TV dramatisation should be shortened from six to five episodes and so missing out much of the delightful, throwaway lines and casual observations (including the joke about the horse that likes to sit on eggs), which is really what it's about. (Interestingly, Wilde was also forced to abridge "The Importance of Being Earnest" from a four act to a three act play with, in my view, similar consequences.) Ironically, the suits missed the point, not unlike certain characters in the novel itself. To end with some of Oliver's advice to his students, "Disregard the universal. Pursue the trivial, preferably side-ways. The truth isn't on the main road. It's more likely to be on a side-street, or in an alleyway round the back."
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on 23 September 1999
You'll come to love the developing relationship of Oliver and Diane. The humor and the locale add immensely to the Travels! Wish there were more.
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on 15 January 2006
As most readers know, "Oliver's Travels" has at last been issued (in the US) on DVD. The audiobook is another way to enjoy the story, and to remember Alan Bates.
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on 6 June 2010
Great story. We have the dvd too and there are slight differences, but generally its the same.

Good story line and interesting info.
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on 29 September 2015
Good book
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on 5 July 2011
Vintage Plater. I bought this because I really enjoyed the Beiderbeck series and....this was almost identical: same type of couple, same quick dialogue etc. Too much the same and I gave up.
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