❉ In December, Miwk will be publishing ‘Totally Tasteless’, Richard Marson’s controversial biography of Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner.
“Extraordinary – a great piece of work. A major piece of Doctor Who history and the history of an entire industry – an entire age, really. I read it in two days flat, I couldn’t stop. I’ve never seen a biographer enter the story like that, it was brilliant and invigorating.” – Russell T. Davies
In December 2016, Miwk will be releasing ‘Totally Tasteless: The of Life John Nathan-Turner’, Richard Marson’s biography of Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner. Originally released in 2013, the book suffered some unwanted, and largely unjustified attention in the national press, although The Times described it as: “‘The definitive behind-the-scenes portrait of the show in the eighties; densely researched, eminently readable.”
For more than a decade, John Nathan-Turner, or ‘JN-T’ as he was often known, was in charge of every major artistic and practical decision affecting the world’s longest-running science fiction programme. Richard Marson brings John Nathan-Turner’s colourful story to life with the benefit of his own inside knowledge and the fruits of over 100 revealing interviews with key friends and colleagues, from those John loved to those from whom he became estranged. The author has also had access to all of Nathan-Turner’s surviving archive of paperwork and photos, many of which appear here for the very first time.
Richard elaborates: “I think that anyone who has read the book will have gained a much deeper understanding of the pressures John was under and the singularly unfair hand he was dealt in the last 15 years of his life. It’s powerfully tragic but also reveals John’s many qualities.”
This new edition includes an additional chapter chronicling the run up to publication and the subsequent media storm using Richard’s diaries, emails and social media interactions to establish a timeline of media interest. Richard explains, “Rather than just reprint the original, we felt that there was an opportunity to add some context and detail about the extraordinary reaction which greeted the initial publication. It was fascinating to revisit.”
For Miwk, this was an opportunity to do things differently. Matt West recalls the circumstances of publication: “It was such a tight deadline. We took the book on from another publisher and were determined to hit their advertised release date. In retrospect that was a mistake because we hurried a few decisions. The title was one of those decisions and we’d gone with the same title as the previous publisher simply because it had already been promoted as such. That said, it’s taken us over three years to come up with a better one.”
Richard agrees, “The original title was unhelpful and only came about because the original publishers didn’t like any of my alternatives. Totally Tasteless was one of my first and preferred suggestions; it is camp, tongue in cheek and I think John would have approved!”
The new chapter covers this period and the whole creative process from inception in 2010 to publication in 2013 and beyond. “I think it will provide comprehensive answers to anyone curious about the thinking behind the book, the challenges of putting it together and the controversy around its first appearance. Hopefully it’s entertaining too – I’d forgotten much of it!”
“As far back as March, just a couple of weeks after we took the book on, we were getting phone calls and emails which suggested there would be media interest’ explains Matt West, ‘So we decided to record an interview with Richard and get it out there before the tabloids were released. Unfortunately we had some issues with the footage and it came out quite late.’ The interview is available here in full:
Not only has the book has been re-titled ‘Totally Tasteless: The Life of John Nathan-Turner’, it is also in a new, larger format with some additional images from John’s archive. Miwk will also be producing it as a hardback for the first print run, to fully suit the new look and make it as close as possible to the feel of the good old Target/WH Allen hardbacks.
“Wickedly funny… deliciously showbiz – it ultimately had us both crying and laughing. Utterly, utterly wonderful – one of those books where you make excuses to run off and keep reading it.” – Gay Times
This new edition boasts a cover which is bold and colourful, reflecting John Nathan-Turner and his outlook on life.
Of the cover, Matt West says: “We also wanted a cover that depicted John in his prime, in the early 80s when he first took over Doctor Who. There’s really only one man you go to for a job like this, and we were delighted to work with Andrew Skilleter.”
For Andrew, a return to Doctor Who wasn’t too daunting: “There have been years away from the series but it’s more full-on now then ever for me having just relaunched Who Dares Publishing and a 2017 calendar of my Doctor Who Target covers.”
Andrew had previously collaborated with John on a number of projects. “He must have liked me but I was in awe of him in the sense that he was the producer of Doctor Who and I but a humble illustrator! But he loved the visual image and liked my art. From my first meeting with him at his Shepherds Bush office he enabled me to go on to produce all the work published by Who Dares. He allowed me to come on set and locations and guided the Radio Times to commission me for the The Five Doctors cover and of course he was part of the BBC USA traveling Doctor Who exhibition for which I designed the exterior. In 1995 I sent him a copy of my Doctor Who art book, Blacklight, and received a very generous letter which you can see on my website. He ended the letter by writing: ‘I’m delighted you’ve done so well, and that I was able to encourage you. Congratulations.’ That’s some endorsement!’”
The new cover went through many permutations, with Miwk trying a number of ‘totally tasteless’ colour schemes: “Pink I liked, but feared we’d get a negative reaction having a pink cover for a book about a gay man. Lime and orange was going too far!”, Matt told We Are Cult. “The final colour scheme is the colour of JN-T’s office walls and Miwk orange. Happily that’s the same colour scheme as the Target omnibus, quite by chance.”
Both these cover designs show an earlier version of the painting, not quite finished.
When the book was originally published, Miwk recorded a podcast chat with Richard Marson. Says West, “Richard’s one of the easiest people to interview, you just sort of switch him on and listen. I wanted to cover his early career at TV centre and on DWM because that’s when Richard himself encountered John.” Both parts of the podcast are available here:
❉ ‘Totally Tasteless: The Life of John Nathan-Turner’ by Richard Marson is due to be published December 2016. To order, click here.
❉ Miwk now has a physical shop based in Reigate, Surrey. As well as their own titles they also sell toys, comics, graphic novels, and a range of classic science fiction.