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  Books Monthly Jerry Dowlen feature article                                      

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Now you can organize your precious recipe collection and locate what you are looking for in a flash. "The Recipe Organizer" will assist you with filing and storing your precious collected recipes plus allow you to keep all of your food-related notes and contacts in one safe and convenient place. As well as providing ample space for writing, it also includes six handy pockets for storing tearsheets plus features an elastic pen holder. This is the perfect gift for enthusiastic amateur chefs or busy family cooks at a great price.


BOOKS MONTHLY SAYS: With so many great cook books reviewed this month, it's easy to forget that we often find recipes in newspapers and magazines, or jot them down from the many TV programmes, and then forget what we've done with them! Ryland Peters and Small have come up with the perfect, most beautiful and stylish answer, a recipe organiser that will look great in your kitchen, on the shelf where you keep your cookery books, or even tucked away in a cupboard - my preference would be for the former, and it will have pride of place, because quite often the recipes that are handed down through the generations, the ones written on a sheet of foolscap paper or the back of an envelope, or a postcard, are the ones you refer to most, the ones you need to be able to find at any time. This is the perfect book for just that - a real winner from RPS.



The ‘Bergerac’ police adventure series: The Channel Islands on television and in books.


Do you watch the re-runs of the 'Bergerac' television series on the Yesterday channel? I can well remember the great novelty impact of this police adventure series when it was first televised by the BBC in 1981. Its popular and unique selling factor was its setting on the island of Jersey.

For those who had never travelled there, "So near and yet so far" might have summarised many viewers' perception of Jersey, at that time. Most people knew of the repute of the Channel Islands as very pretty places to visit and see; the islands held too an air of quaint mystery for being apparently not quite English but not quite French either.

And now on BBC television at peak viewing time this glamorous, colourful and fast-paced police adventure series would with a big bang bring the island of Jersey openly and informatively into the public consciousness. 'Bergerac' - starring the actor John Nettles as Detective Sergeant Bergerac of the Bureau d'Étrangers - was an instant success and a big talking-point. And notwithstanding the good quality scripting of the one-hour action and the plots, and the engaging variety of the homespun characters who populated the stories, it was undoubtedly the stunning visual backdrop of Jersey's coastline and harbour and its verdant interior countryside and narrow lanes that sold 'Bergerac' to the television-viewing public.

Courageous in his pursuit of criminals, and sometimes defiantly irreverent of police official protocol, Jim Bergerac connected well with the viewing public who were allowed intermittently to see the ups and downs of his private life, too. An ex-alcoholic, separated from his first wife, Jim would have a tempestuous on-and-off relationship with the gorgeous Susan Young (played by Louise Jameson). It didn't help when the flirtatious and dangerously immoral Philippa Vale (Lisa Goddard) popped up now and then as a love-rival: male viewers probably thought that we didn't see enough of the lovely "Ice Maiden" whose wily schemes gave plenty of trouble to the helplessly lovestruck Jim Bergerac.

Charlie Hungerford (Terence Alexander) was the obligatory "Mr Fix-it" who had abundant business, property and political connections on the island. As the father of Jim's ex-wife his faintly shady dealings were something of an embarrassment to his law-enforcing son-in-law: one might imagine too that bearing in mind the sensitivity about "tax havens" etc, some of the real-life business practitioners in the Channel Islands were not amused that the 'Bergerac' series featured such an obvious stereotype of a dodgy millionaire who had stashed his cash in Jersey. Certain episodes of 'Bergerac' did indeed touch into themes of corporate financial skulduggery (for example, insider-trading) although the affable Charlie was never imputed to have perpetrated anything as serious as that. Importantly, too, the underlying concept of the series was that all the crimes were committed by non-citizens of the Channel Islands: hence the Bureau d'Étrangers ("Foreigners") – it doesn’t exist in real life, but it was invented as a series vehicle for bringing justice to all the visiting smugglers, swindlers, thieves and other undesirable characters wreaking vengeance or violence who had set foot on the island.

The great success of 'Bergerac' confronted its producers with an unexpected difficulty. Did they ever expect that it would run for nine series, spread over ten years? The big asset of Jersey's beautiful scenery as a backdrop gradually became something of an encumbrance because the smallness of the island confined the number of locations where action could be filmed. To avoid too much repetition and staleness, excuses were found in the later episodes to set at least some of the action in England or France.

Were any 'Bergerac' books ever written and published? This seems to have been a missing ingredient of the television series. Perhaps there is a gap in the market still, for an enterprising author and publisher to fill? For even though the last episode of 'Bergerac' was transmitted as long ago as 1991, the repeats are still popular and the Channel Islands surely have an enduring romance and appeal about them? Moreover, in my opinion, the 'Bergerac' stories and characters have dated well: most of the stories strike me as being gritty enough to stand up to modern-day scrutiny.


Let me pause to think of other authors who have successfully portrayed the Channel Islands in literary fiction? In the very recent past the American author Mary Ann Shaffer scored a big hit with her book ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. Alas though, she died in 2008 the same year of publication. Her book is potentially to be filmed and the subject matter of World War Two and the German occupation of the Channel Islands is one that found its way into some of  the 'Bergerac' episodes.

The most famous author to live in the Channel Islands was Victor Hugo, a native of France. His novel 'The Toilers of the Sea' (1866) is considered to be the one that contains the most local detail, with scenes set in Guernsey.

The Jersey-born author Hereward Carrington is not a household name, but I wonder if his ghost somehow found its way into the styling of some of the 'Bergerac' stories? I use the word "ghost" advisedly, for Carrington (1880 - 1979) was greatly interested in psychic phenomena. Now it so happens that the writing of the nearly one hundred individual episodes of ‘Bergerac’ was farmed out to different writers. This resulted in what television critics have noted as being a curiously uneven style and tone: one day if you switched on to watch a ‘Bergerac’ episode you might get something that was startlingly dark and in Carringtonesque mode (featuring the occult and the supernatural); alternatively you might encounter something quite searing and modern-day in its violence (drug-running or people-trafficking); suddenly you might be watching light comedy (especially when Philippa Vale was involved) or you might find something social and philosophical (such as a rich, spoilt wife going stir-crazy with boredom on the tiny nine miles by five miles island).


One thing that you certainly would always find was the catchy theme tune at the start at end of a ‘Bergerac’ episode. Composed by George Fenton, it was a catchy Anglo-French masterpiece. It is a tune that I find hard to get out of my head! – Blast! there I am, humming it again …!


Jerry Dowlen

March 2013




Jim Bergerac (John Nettles)

Susan Young (Louise Jameson)

Charlie Hungerford (Terence Alexander)

Jim Bergerac and Philippa Vale (Lisa Goddard)