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Biography Of Peter Cook Paperback – 4 Jun 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (4 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340649690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340649695
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Lively and penetrating' ( Independent on Sunday )

'At last, this book explains the mystery of Peter Cook - how someone so funny, so loveable, so handsome, could make such a total hash of his life. Harry Thompson's pedigree in television comedy makes him an authoritative commentator on Cook's performances' (Lynne Barber, Daily Telegraph )

'Unputdownable, level-headed and intelligent' (Nicholas Lezard, Guardian )

'This definitive biography...as heartbreaking as it is entertaining' (Jessica Berens, Times Literary Supplement ) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Harry Thompson invented many TV comedy hits such as Have I Got News For You and Da Ali G Show. He was the author of several acclaimed bestsellers, including PETER COOK: A BIOGRAPHY and PENGUINS STOPPED PLAY, as well as a historical novel, THIS THING OF DARKNESS which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He worked as a producer at Talkback TV and in his spare time he ran the infamous cricket team, the Captain Scott XI. Harry Thompson died in 2005.


Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
On the presumption that it will mainly be fans of Peter Cook's comedy who pick this book up, I can assure potential readers that you will often laugh out loud at the stream of reproduced work from his long career and anecdotes from his strange life.
More than that though, you get a thoroughly convincing assessment of Cook's long, slow descent into alcoholism (and most other vices you care to name), depression, loneliness, and fear of failure. It is perhaps a testament to 'Cookie' that he could sink so low, and so slowly, and yet remain so loved and admired by anyone, star name or not, who came into contact with him.
It is quite astonishing that a book could be this funny and at the same time so sad. The best biography I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Cook was a man of contradictions: an amazing talent who eventually failed in the harsh world of show business; a kind, friendly, good-humoured man who destroyed his marriages and repelled his best friends through drunkenness and cruelty. Now that is a challenge for a biographer - and Harry Thompson has risen superbly to the occasion. This 480-page blockbuster, crammed with detailed reminiscences, gives an unparalleled insight into the personality of this most English of comedians.
What a long way it is from Peter Cook's grandfather, a railway official in Kuala Lumpur who shot himself under the stress of a big promotion, and his father - a "sea-green incorruptible" colonial administrator - to the party he threw at the Cobden Working Men's Club in 1993, where the Rolling Stones rubbed shoulders with the Monty Python crew, two England cricket captains, Julian Clary and a mass of other celebrities. So tight was the scrum that Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller never managed to greet their host at all.
Like a stock market boom/bust cycle, the ups and downs of Cook's career were hugely amplified by the dictates of fashion. He was lucky enough to catch the early 1960s satire wave, and quickly became so sought-after that President Kennedy and his wife actually had to go and meet him, after he declined an invitation to the White House. Other than becoming global dictator, there was hardly anywhere to go after that but down - and Cook's perfectionism and lack of ambition conspired to make the descent almost as fast as the rise.
Cook's attitude to alcohol may have been at the root of his downfall. He simply wasn't prepared to give it up, and - like many people to whom money is no object - found himself drinking more and more.
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Format: Hardcover
A top-notch biography of a great comedian, one whose gift for comedic improvisation was too specialised. Like Peter Sellers, Cook comes across as a melancholy, introverted man who constantly felt the need to wear a mask, to act the part of 'Peter Cook'. His life story comes across as a greek tragedy - his rise is meteoric, and his decline and fall are inevitable, and entirely self-inflicted. The imagine of Peter Cook's talent languishing at home, telephoning late-night radio phone-in shows, is extremely depressing. That said, there's an unexpected upturn near the end (his classic appearance on 'Clive Anderson Talks Back'), and the book thankfully doesn't gloss over the brilliant, brutal 'Derek and Clive' LPs.
It would make an excellent film, too.
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Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderfully fascinating biography by Harry Thompson. He has certainly managed to get to grips with his remarkably gifted and complicated subject. The anecdotes and quotes peppered throughout are truly memorable - as are the sad episodes of Peter Cook's life. I particularly enjoyed the account of Cook and Hislop's raid on the Mirror building while its proprietor, Robert Maxwell, was away with his mistress. I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions. The book is beatifully written, too. A must for anyone who has an ounce of interest in British comedy, or for that matter, impeccably constructed biographies.
It was some years after reading this book that I learnt with great sadness of Harry Thompson's untimely death from cancer in his forties. He was clearly an exceptionally gifted writer.
Alex Pearl, author of 'Sleeping with the Blackbirds'
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Format: Paperback
...This was of particular interest to me because I wrote a book calledSOMETHING WONDERFUL RIGHT AWAY about Second City, the Americancounterpart to BEYOND THE FRINGE...and I couldn't help but compare and contrast the British "satire boom" with the one in America and think about what was happening in both cultures that a similar response arose simultaneously on two sides of the ocean. I was particularly interested because, though I grew up in Chicago, Cook was an important influence on me, and because I interviewed him and Dudley Moore when they were playing their two-man show on Broadway. According to this book, when I met them their relationship was about to go into a steep decline because of Cook's drinking. I must say that he hid it from me very well, and the interview was a good one (though Moore apparently had been playing too hard the night before and kept nodding off). Anyway, Thompson's biography made me laugh outloud a lot and it pained me as much. Shortly after Cook died, I was introduced to Stanley Donen, who directed BEDAZZLED. I remarked on Cook's death and Donen instantly remarked, "Angriest man I've ever met." Thompson's book doesn't so much convey the anger Donen saw as the profound and soul-destroying cynicism that (to paraphrase a line from Cook) moved him to inertia. Excellent job.
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