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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a jazz-crazed playwright
Alan Plater is best known for The Beiderbecke Trilogy TV series and has had a sustained and wide-ranging career as a professional writer for theatre, TV and radio since 1960, with Close the Coalhouse Door, Rest in Peace Uncle Fred, Fortunes of War, Barchester Chronicles, A Very British Coup and Trinity Tales amongst his other notable work, as well as episodes of Z Cars,...
Published on 15 Feb. 2006 by Bill Blake

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doggin' Around
I'm an Alan Plater fan but this is not one of his best. Not for me at anyrate. But I would read it again.
Published on 30 Nov. 2012 by Morag Henriksen


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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memoirs of a jazz-crazed playwright, 15 Feb. 2006
This review is from: Doggin' Around (Paperback)
Alan Plater is best known for The Beiderbecke Trilogy TV series and has had a sustained and wide-ranging career as a professional writer for theatre, TV and radio since 1960, with Close the Coalhouse Door, Rest in Peace Uncle Fred, Fortunes of War, Barchester Chronicles, A Very British Coup and Trinity Tales amongst his other notable work, as well as episodes of Z Cars, and Softly Softly.
These entertaining and engrossing memoirs illustrate just how far music, in this case jazz, can often suffuse an artist's life and work. Doggin' Around shares its title with Plater's fine TV play and came originally from a tune by Herschel Evans, recorded in New York in 1938 by the great "Old Testament" Count Basie Orchestra.
For Plater, jazz is 'the major creative contribution to the twentieth century' and musical collaborations and associations are a big part of his writing. Along the way we're treated to encounters with such musicians as Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Ian Carr, Cleo Lane, Alan Barnes, Carla Bley, Kenny Baker, Sir Peter Maxwell Davis, a teenage trombonist who might just have been Eric Burdon, and even a brief forray into the world of prog rock with the Dave Greenslade/Alan Plater rock opera Curriculee Curicula.
The anecdotes range from wartime Jarrow, '50s Hull and Newcastle, to '60s London and after much 'globe-trolling' (sic.) end with a short but emotional account of a tour of New Orleans, with a postscript on the shameful human tragedy in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Mixed in amongst the jazz and reminiscences are evocative accounts of Plater's experiences in provincial and international theatre. The book allows him to right a few wrongs too, such as when Kathleen Stobbart, (tenor sax coach to Judi Dench in The Last of the Blonde Bombshells), tells a little of her own experiences as a woman instrumentalist in World War II Britain; he includes this material here, saying that he regrets having only heard her stories after writing the original play.
As a memoir rather than an autobiography, enthusiasms take precedence over introspection and he says that he's not sufficiently interested in his own psyche 'to spend 300 pages analysing it'. Plater is a great storyteller who wears his learning, wisdom and experience with a deceptively casual ease. He observes that 'the sharper the suit the nastier the man', and is reluctant to 'stink up the place' with too much deep thought - even while quoting Le Corbusier. His pencil is sharp however and his cartoon drawings cheerfully point up the text to great effect, as do the song lyrics.
Making a living is always subordinate to living. His own working methods and achievements are mentioned occasionally and modestly, but the focus always returns to the music, whether going to Ronnie Scott's, or out on the road with a band doing 'Alan's patter' between tunes, or simply putting a record on in the living room. 'Music illuminates the writing process…that's the challenge…it's your job to sound like yourself'. The personal voice that emerges from this book is in the tradition of English writers on jazz such as Lyttelton, Clayton & Gammond, Melly and Jones, and is a distinctive and special one for sure.
Songs for Unseen Heroes and Seven ages of Jazz, CD recordings of Plater's songs with Alan Barnes and Liz Fletcher, are promised for springtime 2006 on the Woodville label.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most illuminating, 4 April 2010
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Anonymous (Gosport,, Hampshire. United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doggin' Around (Paperback)
Marvellous book. If it's done one thing, it's made me realise I am no oddity for liking jazz! So many parts of the book struck a chord with events in my life. Mr Plater has done so many things that I have never heard of, or seen on TV. Where did they all go? Why do we get so much dross today, when there are people like him around? I would advise anyone to buy and read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one Hull of a guy!, 21 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Doggin' Around (Paperback)
The late Alan Plater is such a likeable and modest guy in this book that his "namedrops" of jazz musicians, writers and people on the Hull arts scene etc sound like happy accidents and not forced . We see how his love of jazz has integrated into his writing for TV and stage and we get a taste of his unique voice over his life as a working writer. His analogy with instantly recognising the "voice" of someone like Miles Davis after a few notes and his dislike of the modern writing jargon like "character arc" should be read by all who aspire. There are also some good jokes and I would have loved to have seen his 44 acrobats act (42 of which didnt turn up!)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 2 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Doggin' Around (Paperback)
My current bedside book. Alan is one of my favourite authors and this is an autobiography with his special humour coming through.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doggin' Around, 30 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Doggin' Around (Paperback)
I'm an Alan Plater fan but this is not one of his best. Not for me at anyrate. But I would read it again.
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Doggin' Around
Doggin' Around by Alan Plater (Paperback - 3 Feb. 2006)
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