A small Showcase of actors/authors Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws
The scene was set for an afternoon of more crime chat and the topic of conversation was “If I Were Not Upon the Stage”. This was the turn of Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws, both known for acting, but for awhile now, they have been making in-roads into the world of books. They are showing page after page, book after book, that they are successful at gauging what is interesting the public right now and that they too can write and do it well.
For those who aren’t too sure who Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws are, or are thinking they seem familiar, but haven’t yet fathomed why, without further ado, I will tell you what their previous work is.
Hugh Fraser is probably best known for playing Captain Hastings in the ITV Poirot series, the Sharpe series and for the theme tune of children’s tv series Rainbow. He has also narrated many Agatha Christie’s audio books.
Robert Daws is probably best known for cricketing sitcom – Outside Edge and hospital drama – The Royal.
I saw Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws in conversation in person for the first time ever at the Morecambe and Vice Festival 2018. They were naturals at this and seemed at ease, whether they really were, who knows, but that is the impression they gave to their audience as the atmosphere suggested, they also relaxed into it. They had a good turnout and no wonder when they gave one of the most entertaining and interesting talks. Then afterwards, it was such a pleasure to meet these two gentlemen.
So, I will continue and write about both authors separately and then together.
*Hugh Fraser now is so synonymous with Agatha Christie, especially playing the role of Captain Hastings when ITV had the rights, but the reality is that this was a role he played, albeit incredibly well and convincingly. He has not transferred Agatha Christie’s writing or styles into his books. Agatha Christie’s books are more of a genteel mystery, trying to find out who done what to whom (although there are some pretty brutal murders in some, such as in the Mystery of the Spanish Chest, but on the whole and in-comparison, the tone is definitely different). Hugh’s series of books are more action packed with the main protagonist, feminist assassin Rina Walker, who is written in the first person and set in the 50s and 70’s between Nottinghill, London and Mexico and features plenty in the underworld such as gangsters and a drug cartel. Readers do get the chance to learn why she became a contract killer. So, as you can see, this series is much further away from any Agatha Christie in style. I would go further into the books, but I would like to take time in reviewing Stealth in a different blog and I will write more about the series there.
As I was writing and as I thought about the event more, it struck me that it is very true about what was touched upon during the conversation on the festival’s “stage” and how people do seem to like to look for similarities in such instances as this. In my opinion, the only similarities would be that both Agatha Christie’s and Hugh Fraser’s books they would both sit in the crime section and both are cleverly written for their genre. They also both absolutely have their unique place in book selections up and down the country and indeed across the world, for people to read.
It’s always interesting to hear how people get into writing books, or at least I think so. Hugh Fraser said on the panel that he had started to write plays, but really got into writing after applying for a short course he had seen advertised and soon he was enrolled in creative writing courses with the University of East Anglia, the Guardian: Masterclass Program. It turned out he was rather good at it and his first book, Harm, was published. He has since gone on to publish 4 books in this series. The fourth being Stealth, which I am, at time of writing, over half way through reading and is available now to buy. As soon as I sat on one of many trains home, I opened the book and started reading a lot of it. It is a very good read so far. I don’t want to go too much into it at this moment in time as I shall write a review of it as soon as I can, it is definitely worth that.
Hugh Fraser will also be appearing at the Thames Art Literature Festival on 21st October. If I could go, I would. Hugh Fraser may be able to “grow 4 arms” and I may be able to seem like I can “be everywhere”, to some people with all that I do and places I visit, unfortunately I haven’t mastered the capabilities of being in many places at once. I won’t spoil Hugh’s mystique. Find a profile pic of him and you will see.
*Robert Daws, wrote plays and co-ran a theatre. Funnily enough, he said these plays would be showing in his theatre. He still does some acting work in theatre to this day. He has also done tv and radio, as mentioned before. For Outside Edge he was nominated for Best Actor at the British Comedy Awards, which is no mean feat. He was also in Roger, Roger, Jeeves and Wooster and more recently, Doc Martin to name but a few.
Robert Daws, interestingly said writing crime novels presented itself to him, he didn’t particularly go looking to write in this genre. He went on to talk a little about his novels, which I have to say, immediately sound very intriguing. He went on to tell the audience that they were novels that had some history to them, but moved forwards to the present day. He said of this that his books, although set in the past, have consequences to the present day. It’s actually a thought provoking fact, when you think about it because everything that is said and everything that is done in life has a consequence, that’s not to say consequences are all necessarily going to be bad or good. Going back to the books however, Robert Daws said that his books are primarily set in present day Gibraltar. His latest however is set in L.A. but has repercussions in Gibraltar. His main characters are Chief Inspector Gus Broderick and colleague Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan. In the first novel their relationship is tested to the limit on the case they have to solve. Tamara Sullivan is on secondment from the Metropolitan Police and there are reasons why she is in Gibraltar…
In 2012, his first novel, “The Rock” made it to the list of Top Amazon Bestseller 5 times. These, when I get chance, also deserve reviewed in greater detail, especially the latest one of course.
There was a “Hidden Talent” section at the festival, which is very different and rather fun. Robert Daws’ hidden talent is singing. I think everyone was taken aback a bit about just how talented as singer he actually is. There’s a real richness to his voice when he sings and is completely in tune. Why we don’t hear more of this, I just don’t know!
Both of these actors have now turned their hands to writing as you can see. That is not to say that they have turned their backs on acting. It was really interesting to hear that neither Hugh Fraser or Robert Daws have actually made a conscious decision to write over their acting careers. If there was an acting job they wanted to do or asked to do, they would do it or they’d work on their books. They didn’t seem to favour one art form over the other.
Whilst in conversation, both of these actors/authors both compared writing to working on tv or the stage. They agreed that writing is more of a solitary process from the beginning to acting. They said in acting you are all in it together going for the same aim as a team with rehearsals, travelling and filming together. With writing it can be just you (at least to begin with), we all know that there is a collaborative process later with editors, publishers etc, but in the beginning, it is, as they both made the point of saying, essentially solitary.
When reading both these great author’s books, you may notice that there isn’t a great deal of character description, they’re not overloaded with (as they discussed) a certain type of nose etc. This is because both want the reader to use their imagination.
We of course get a sense of what Rina Walker looks like on the front covers of Hugh’s books, but in the writing, the rest is very much up to the reader’s imagination. Personally I like that neither have gone into the absolute finer details of the description of character appearance, as somehow, in the way they pace their books, it would have made them a bit more laboured perhaps and the tone would have changed to something very different to what we readers are now accustomed to in these particular series.
So, after an excellently interesting and entertaining talk by them and meeting them, would I see them again? If the opportunity arose, absolutely and they were most definitely worth every moment of time, which went far too quickly. It is so easy to become absorbed by what they are saying (even after seeing many events over a weekend). They brought a great sense of fun to their stage piece as well as being informative in an engaging manner. My hope would be that they will continue to pursue their writing career and hopefully they will also do some acting here and there again too.
* I give thanks to Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws for giving me verbal permission to take photos of them and for kindly allowing me to use them in my blog.