This book was one of Mr B’s Christmas presents and - much as I love Only Fools and Horses - I think it’s fair to say that Mr B was looking forward to listening to it rather more than I was looking forward to
reading it aloud to him. How wrong could I be?
I thought it would be one of those celebrity reads, mostly regurgitating anecdotes I had heard before from TV interviews
and magazine articles. Only Fools and Stories was much more than that, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I loved hearing how much input David Jason had into forming
the personalities of the characters he played - from Del Boy, to Pop Larkin, to DI Jack Frost - through important decisions on clothes, hair styles, voice, body language, even accessories. “I quickly got to the point with Del where it was as though I
had a switch and I could flick him on and off ….of course you can only do it when you’re absolutely sure you know who that person is, when they’re coming from a place inside you. With Del, I knew.”
Jason was lucky that the writers, producers and directors he worked with were happy - keen, even - to have his input into scripts and settings: “Every show I’ve been in, I’ve considered
it my duty to find things I can add or invent to get a bigger laugh”. He was also fortunate, indeed, to be working with a writer of the genius of John Sullivan, a fact he acknowledges with enormous affection and great regret at John’s too
early death: “he was a supreme improviser, an utterly brilliant solver of problems that arose along the way.” One of those problems was writing into the script the death of Grandad after the sudden death of Lennard Pearce: Jason reminds us of Del’s
heartfelt torrent of words, answering brother Rodney’s accusation that he had got over Grandad’s death too quickly. That speech, says Jason, is among the most poignant John wrote for him. Reading the speech aloud, with a lump in my throat, I couldn’t
help but agree.
When developing the character of Jack, in A Touch Of Frost, Jason recounts the wise words of script writer Richard Harris pointing out the
great truth of detective series which is that, essentially, there are no new plots, after all this time; the variable is the detective. Jason thereupon set out to construct Frost’s character, quite a departure from Del Boy.
My only (minor) quibble is the rather annoying way Jason keeps drawing attention to the fact that his previous book, an autobiography, is still available in bookshops. Though, to
be honest, after enjoying Only Fools and Stories, I may just be paying a visit to W H Smith…