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Corgi, London, 1978
(price: 85p; 208 pages)

The blurb on the back:

Eight years is a long time to hate someone - especially when you don't even know their identity. But for Frank Ross those eight years in prison had left his marriage, his home and his life in ruins. So that when he eventually got out he had just one thing on his mind ... to find the bastard who'd grassed and get even.
But never, in his wildest imaginings, had Ross once guessed where the trail of hate and corruption was going to end ...

This is what ITV used to look like, in the era when it commissioned writers and producers to have ideas, before it settled on its current policy of buying a 'personality' (say, Ross Kemp, for the sake of argument), and then trying to invent something for them to appear in as a 'star vehicle', working on the principle that you can always attract a few million idiot viewers on the strength of the name alone.

In those slightly-less-rubbish old days, Euston Films - the production arm of the old London franchise-holder, Thames TV - had a reputation for tough, no-nonsense drama that pulled no punches: it was them who reinvented the cop show with The Sweeney, for example. Even so, Out (to be pronounced with a strong Sarf Lunnun accent) was a remarkably uncompromising bit of TV. Tom Bell portrayed a bank-robber who was hard to the point of parody, who walked down the mean streets of his manor like he owned them - which he probably did, but only 'cos he'd nicked them. It was bleak, unglamorous stuff. You wouldn't want to mess with Bell's character, but nor would you want to be him.

Created and written by Trevor Preston, the six-part series was aired in 1978, just a year before Euston gave us Minder. Unlike that show, there was no humour to leaven the mix in Out despite the presence of John Junkin in the cast. (Oscar James was also in there, incidentally.)

The novelization by Max Austin - surely a pseudonym? - is suitably unfussy: I'm no great aficionado of novels about the criminal underworld, but it strikes me that this one works perfectly well, even if it suffers from the absence of Bell's malevolent presence.

l to r: Tom Bell, Bryan Marshall, John Junkin


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Bill Meilen, The Division
TV tie-ins