An Interview with Author, Ian Fryer

ian fryer author interview carry on

By Sarah Morgan

Imagine being a lifelong film fan and then getting an opportunity to write books about the genres you love the most.

Well, Ian Fryer doesn’t have to imagine it – that’s exactly what he’s doing. What’s more, he hasn’t had to move to the big smoke to do it – he’s well and truly settled in Farsley, Leeds, where he grew up.

“Rather strangely for us locals, it’s become the artistic centre of West Yorkshire,” says Ian when we meet to chat about his work. “There’s a big old mill that’s been turned into an arts complex, and that’s where they film The Great British Sewing Bee.

“And there’s a fantastic arts space and events space there called The Old Woollen. We’ve got Farsley Literature Festival every year in November.”

From all that it may sound as if Ian works for the local tourist board, but no – by day he’s a librarian for Leeds City Council. By night (and, presumably, weekends too), he spends his time researching the books he’s going to write.

“Genuinely interesting films”

ian fryer author interview carry on films coverThe latest is entitled Carrying On: The Carry Ons and Films of Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas and will be published on July 20th. It’s his third book, the first being The Worlds of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson: The Story Behind International Rescue, which stemmed from him being the long-time editor of the Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society magazine.

“I got headhunted by a publisher who’d read the work I’d done and said, ‘you wouldn’t happen to know anyone who would want to write a book about Gerry Anderson, would you?’ And I said, ‘Me! Me!’,” laughs Ian.

“It did pretty well, it got quite a bit of attention. The publishers obviously liked what they read because they hired me for other projects and so my next one was The British Horror Film from the Silents to the Multiplex, a subject very close to my heart.

“As a film fan, British and American horror movies from the 1950s and 1960s are very much my home territory. I’m a massive fan of Ed Wood, for instance, from long before the Johnny Depp film. The Carry On one is my third book.”

There is, of course, a nice Yorkshire link with the Carry Ons – Gerald Thomas, who directed them, was from Hull; there’s even a plaque on the house where he and his elder brother Ralph (who was also a director, most famously working on the Doctor… series starring Dirk Bogarde and, later, Leslie Phillips) lived in The Avenues.

But it wasn’t particularly that that attracted Ian to the subject.

“I’m on a mission to explain how these films are much cleverer and more thoughtful than their reputation suggests,” he says.

“You mention Carry Ons to a lot of people and they’ll say, ‘Ooh, you can’t do that these days, they’re beyond the pale!’ But they’re not – they’re on ITV3 every bank holiday! They’re not being cancelled or anything. But they are genuinely interesting films.

“I also concentrate on the cast a lot because they’re a fascinating group. And the writers are interesting, the overall careers of the producing-directing team, Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas, is also fascinating. Even if they hadn’t made the Carry Ons, they would have written a really interesting chapter in the history of British film-making.”

“Complex plots”

ian fryer author interview

Author, Ian Fryer

He adds of the films themselves: “The early ones by Norman Hudis, who wrote the first six, are a reflection of British post-war society. So you’ve got National Service with Carry On Sergeant. You’ve got the NHS with Carry On Nurse, and comprehensive education with Carry On Teacher.

“He was replaced by Talbot Rothwell, a gag machine who was a terribly underrated writer; he had to write for a huge regular cast and that meant constructing these really elaborate, complex plots that were like a clockwork – everything fits together so well.”

Ian discusses all these topics in the book, but he claims the most important aspect for him was taking “the reader on a journey through post-war British comedy. People like Hattie Jacques started on radio, so I have to explain how big a star she was, what a national institution her shows were.

“But somebody reading this, who is a Carry On fan, isn’t necessarily going to know about this stuff, so it just makes for a more interesting and richer story if you just take the time to explain the background to where people came from. So what I hope readers will get from my book is a much clearer idea of the landscape from which the Carry Ons came.”

With Ian’s latest baby hitting shops soon, it’s time to start nurturing another. So, what would his dream project be, if he hasn’t already written it?

“Oh hecky thump! I don’t know, I’ve got so many being thrown at me… I suppose it’s like the one that got away. There was a chance I could do a book about American horror movies, but I simply don’t have the time to do it.

“But I am looking forward to really getting stuck into the research for my next project, which at the moment, the working title is ‘Spy Boom: How Secret Agents Ruled the Sixties’. There are hundreds of books on James Bond, so I have to think of an angle to make it stand out, make it different.”

After that, Ian’s all set to write more – books on Spaghetti Westerns and British gangster movies are in the pipeline. It seems he’s going to be keeping himself busy and the rest of us informed for years to come.

Ian’s books are available from here, as well as Amazon and other retailers


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