N J Crisp

Author

Born in Southampton in 1923, Norman James Crisp was one of television’s most respected and prolific TV writers. A dramatist and novelist, he was known only by his initials and surname. He served in the RAF from 1943 to 1947 before taking on a string of jobs ranging  from taxi-company manager to typewriter salesman, all the time honing his writing craft by writing short stories which he sold to newspapers.  His first television play 'People of the Night' about a radio cab company, was broadcast by the BBC in 1957.

He then moved on to writing for TV serials, turning out scripts for many classic BBC series such as 'Compact', 'Dixon of Dock Green' and 'Dr Finlay's Casebook', before co-creating in 1968 'The Expert' about a forensic scientist with producer Gerald Glaister.

They went on to replicate that success in 1972 with 'The Brothers', a now iconic Sunday night family business drama about the trials and tribulations of a haulage company. Attracting audiences of up to 11 million, it followed the story of the Hammond family and their business after the death of the father, dividing sympathies of the viewers as they watched the battles between two strong women - the mistress who'd been left a share in the company and the terrifying matriarch who ruled the family with a rod of iron.

Even during the 5 years working on 'The Brothers', he wrote prolifically; for 'Colditz', devising the series 'Old Strike North' about life on the rigs, 'Secret Army', and later going on to create 'Buccaneer' with Eric Paice, about an air freight company.

He wrote a Sherlock Holmes feature length drama for TV, 'The Masks of Death', starring Peter Cushing and John Mills, and the screenplay for the horror movie 'Murder Elite' starring Ali McGraw.

 

His most famous play for the theatre, 'Dangerous Obsession', has been produced worldwide and opened at the Churchill Theatre Bromley in 1987, going in to the Apollo Theatre and then on to the Fortune for it's West End run. 

John Howlett used the play as the basis of his 1999 film Darkness Falls, with Ray Winstone, Tim Duttin and Sherilyn Fenn.

 

Crisp also wrote novels - 'The Brink', 'Yesterday's Gone', 'In the Long Run' and 'The Ninth Circle'.

 

His stage play 'Fighting Chance' in 1985 was set in a rehab centre for neurological patients. It transferred to the Apollo and then on to New York, and was based on his own illness, a malformation of the spinal cord, which had left him partially disabled.

A founding member of the Writers' Guild in 1959, he later served as its chairman from 1968 to 1971, where he initiated higher fees for television writers.

Although virtually blind by the end, he was known for his razor-sharp mind and wry sense of humour. He died on June 14, 2005 in Southampton Hospital after a long illness at the age of 81

 

 

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