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In the last four years of Clive's life, Shircore spent many afternoons at his house in Cambridge, talking with him about his lyrics, poetry and prose. These chats led first to Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin (2016) and then to So Brightly at the Last, an intimate critical account of the brilliant Australian wordsmith's long poetic career.
So Brightly covers sixty years of Clive's life as a poet, from early successes like 'The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered' to recent internet hits like 'Japanese Maple' and 'Sentenced to Life' and his last great epic, 'The River in the Sky'.
The book includes many personal revelations. In it, Clive talks for the first time about his nightmare experience of being locked up in a mental hospital for two months - with the Trouser Thief and the Woman With Only One Song - when the drugs went wrong and caused a severe psychotic reaction.
Clive also looks back on his relationship with Princess Diana and explains why he ended his lucrative television career to concentrate on his books and his poetry, which became more and more important to him during his long ten-year battle against leukaemia, emphysema and a clutch of other life-threatening conditions.
Oxford Professor John Carey has called So Brightly 'terrific' and said he 'read it with astonishment and learnt a huge amount'. For David Quantick, it's a book that 'works as commentary on its subject's work, as biography and as a really good book about poetry'.
Clive was able to read a pre-publication copy (twice) in the weeks before his final illness. He called it 'a wonderful book - energetic, informal and beautifully written' and said he was 'thrilled and delighted' with its exploration and evaluation of his work.
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For the last 50 years, Clive James has been writing remarkable songs - witty, moving, sometimes satirical, often thrillingly poetic - with his musical partner, Pete Atkin. They've written more than 200 together, releasing the first album of their work in 1970 and the last in 2015. John Peel loved them. So did Kenny Everett. Stephen Fry is a huge fan. And Clive himself believes these songs are the best things he's ever done. Loose Canon explores the sparkling lyrics and brilliantly memorable tunes that have won Clive and Pete a fanatical cult following but still managed to remain the British music industry's best-kept secret. Stephen Fry has written an incredibly generous and enthusiastic foreword.
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Nearly 33 years ago, a young (27) and still overdrawn Douglas Adams was poised on the brink of fame.
The first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had been released (‘Escaped,’ was more the word, according to Douglas) and largely ignored in a late night slot on BBC Radio 4. It had then been repeated at a less perverse time, gathering listeners and momentum as the six episodes unfolded. But the books, the second radio series, the TV show and the long-, long-delayed movie version were still to come.
Douglas Adams had done a handful of short interview pieces, most of which had just pinched his jokes and ignored his opinions. But when I got the chance to spend several hours with him under cover of an unlikely feature for the soft-porn magazine Penthouse, Adams found himself with half a day to ruminate, pontificate and smoke too many cigarettes in the cluttered office where he was earning a crust as script editor for the Tom Baker-era Dr Who.
The dusty cassette tapes of this historic interview were then lost from view for almost three decades, until they suddenly turned up during a once-in-a-lifetime burst of spring cleaning.
Apart from the few column inches Penthouse was able to accommodate, the material on these tapes, from 1979, had lain unexplored and unpublished ever since. Parts of the interview had a brief airing in the early issues of an obscure online SF magazine in 2007, but this little book is the first time these extracts have been made available to a wider public.