Monday, 19 October 2015

RIP Christopher Wood

Writer Christopher Wood passed away at the weekend, aged 79. Wood's name will be instantly familiar with anyone of a certain age because he was responsible for some pure 1970s entertainment, namely the Roger Moore era of James Bond and the surprisingly successful saucy novel and film crossover series Confessions of...which made Robin Askwith a household name.

Wood wrote a staggering 19 Confessions novels under the name Timothy Lea. These cheap and cheerful paperback offerings focused on the amorous exploits  of Lea, it's first person narrator, as he tried his hand at various employment opportunities. Each book took Wood just five weeks to complete and three of them; Window Cleaner, Driving Instructor and Holiday Camp were made into films starring Askwith, Tony Booth and a host of 70s comic actors, effectively creating the sexploitation genre that the British film industry thrived upon in the 1970s. Wood also wrote Confessions novels feauring the female counterpart to Lea, known as the Rosie Dixon series of novels, one of which became the film Rosie Dixon, Night Nurse. He was also responsible for the Penny Sutton books - the stories of a flighty air stewardess and, as Oliver Grape, he wrote the first person series concerning a teenager coming to terms with his sexual appetites. As Frank Clegg, he wrote Soccer Thug, a novel featuring the thorny football hooliganism.

But it wasn't all cheap thrills, sex and violence. In the previous decade and, following his military service in Cyprus, Wood was a serious writer whose novel Terrible Hard, Says Alice has been compared favourably with Catch 22 and the work of Hemingway.  

In the late '70s, Bond came calling and Wood helped write the screenplays for two Roger Moore outings; The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. It's easy to see the tongue in cheek charms of this era as being an ideal fit for the saucy, titillating style of Wood's Confessions novels but, in writing the film novelisations (given how each film took only the name of Ian Fleming's original novels), Wood was praised by no less than the literary giant, Fleming's friend and Bond pastiche author, Kingsley Amis; "Mr Wood has bravely tackled his formidable task, that of turning a typical late Bond film, which must basically be facetious, into a novel after Ian Fleming, which must basically be serious...the descriptions are adequate and the acting writing excellent"

In the '80s and '90s, Wood wrote scripts for Roger Corman and the 1985 film Remo Williams. In 2004, he wrote the caustically funny, California Here I Am, a semi-autobiography recalling his work Stateside in the film industry. He died on 17th October in London, aged 79.

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