There have been so many new books to come out that I'm woefully behind. Our good chap Alan Hayes is responsible for some of them, so I'd suggest popping over to his bookstore for a gander. Meanwhile, from the archives:
THE AVENGERS: A CELEBRATION
If I were to have written a book on The Avengers, this is the book that would have resulted (truthfully, it's considerably better than anything I might have mustered). Marcus kept the tone, like that of the show, light and breezy, but with more than enough substance to leave one quite sated. It proudly displays, on large, sumptuous pages, a dazzling array of wonderful, never before published images. More than that, it reveals many "factoids" about the show for the first time, thanks in large part to fifty years of hindsight.
I bestow this book a full four-bowler rating not because Marcus kindly referenced Yours Truly in his acknowledgements, but because he did things (IMHO) exactly right. You'll find no episode guide, no tedious show-by-show analyses; instead, the author explores what made the show so magical and enduring. This book well and truly lives up to its title: a celebration. Thank you, Marcus.
THE AVENGERS AND ME
A.K.A. THE AVENGERS: THE INSIDE STORY
It is almost but not quite the "tell-all" people may have been expecting. In an interview with Steve Hockensmith of Cinescape Magazine, Mr. Macnee remarked, "I've written it from the point of view of a worm, basically. Well, a creative worm at the mercy of the executive—what should I call them? Snakes, I suppose. Or eels. Or ravening wolves. I had five leading ladies and except for one—Joanna Lumley, who's my best friend and I adore her—they all said, 'Patrick, your recollection does not seem to match mine.' What that means is, 'If you bloody well publish what you're intending to, you're sued!' So the whole book has—I suppose the euphemism for it is 'balance.' It didn't quite say what it should, but it says enough to make it interesting."
Overall it is a pleasant and enlightening read, with a delightful and generous assortment of b&w and color photos and illustrations, many previously unpublished. Comments contributed by the show's writers and directors add depth and insight. Perhaps one of the few weakness of the book is Mr. Macnee's frequent tendency to make long-winded apologies to his co-stars for either saying/doing something to offend them and/or not saying/doing something to support them. It's also a shame that he had to tread so carefully—there certainly are hints at larger issues that could do with some additional detail. At any rate, it is a heartily recommended addition to any fan's bookshelf.
THE COMPLETE AVENGERS
This is something of the "industry standard" Avengers book, covering the series from Ian Hendry to The New Avengers. Comprehensive and well-illustrated, if rather unevenly written, its greatest weakness is its inescapable feel of a "fan" book—the work of an amateur as opposed to a professional. Regrettably, this is evident both in the text and in the production style of the book itself (typesetting, layout, etc).
Of note, watch out for Rogers' episode synopses: huge, single paragraphs of bland text detailing the plots as they were in the original scripts and also as described in studio press releases, so there are numerous discrepancies with the actual filmed versions. This point is still confusing fans to this day, as one visitor after the next quizzes me about some detail of an episode that appears in this book and not on screen, or vice-versa. Also, Rogers' Ultimate Avengers was not released in North America, so those of us "over here" do not have the benefit of revised synopses (which, apparently, were not written by Rogers, nor was Chris Perry, the author who contributed them, properly credited).
Despite its flaws, The Complete Avengers is still recommended as a solid resource, and, as David Fakrikian points out, "At least we can thank Dave for putting these [books] out when nothing else was around!" Indeed, my copy is getting quite tattered.
THE AVENGERS DOSSIER
A.K.A. THE AVENGERS PROGRAMME GUIDE
Dossier is an interesting, paradoxical appraisal of the series. While it tantalizingly fills in some of the many gaps left by Dave Rogers about the show's convoluted history—even contradicting Mr. Rogers on several points—it only whets our appetite, as the bulk of the book is consumed by a needlessly embellished episode guide. (Indeed, do we even need another printed episode guide at all?)
Another dichotomy of the work is a clash of styles. Witty and original at times ("fashion victims" provide the occasional chuckle), it is also uncomfortably sexist at other times (detailed "kinkiness ratings" for instance), perhaps reminding those of us on the American side of the big pond of the oceanic sexism gap that yet separates our respective cultures. However, what really hurts this book are the hundreds of errors it contains, from misspelled names and incorrect airdates to misquotes and outright inaccuracies.
THE AVENGERS COMPANION
Companion was apparently imported from France as a tie-in with the theatrical debacle. While the book is considerably better than the film, this is not necessarily saying much, as (ahem) most anything is better than the film.
At any rate, Companion's text is shaky at best, probably a result of having been translated from French into English. The bulk of it consists of brief editorials along the lines of "what The Avengers means to me," interviews with the usual suspects, and yet another episode guide—this one peppered with errors inherited from Dave Rogers' script-based synopses. However, a truly outstanding collection of monochrome and color photos provides enough compensation to make the book worth putting on your shelf.
The oft-quoted maxim "never judge a book by its cover" can be dismissed on this occasion, for the cover of this one accurately imparts the nature of its contents: uninspiring (as if the unremarkable title wasn't enough of an indicator). It is strictly for the hardcore fan looking for intellectual analysis taken to an absurd extreme. Bearing the air of "no book, no tenure," the university professor's weighty, witless prose is padded out with a gaggle of fine monochrome photos, so while you're enjoying the images, you can impress your friends with your apparent taste in high-brow literature.
While it is true that the quality of writing is generally superior to that of the rest of the Avengers offerings, it is so dry and laden with turgid philosophy-speak as to make for rather tedious reading, and Dr. Miller, clearly quite impressed with his mighty polysyllabic vocabulary, too often gets carried away in yawn-inducing dead-end tangents. It's all well and good to be an intellectual, but it's another thing to be entertaining. It's a shame, too, since he teases us with some interesting nuggets of information here and there, and to his credit he does something no one else has bothered to do: place the show in the context of its cultural time-setting. In someone else's hands it might have been a four-bowler hit.
But to make matters more dire, Dr. Miller's tome is also rife with (sometimes laughable but often grave) factual errors, some of which give rise to serious misinterpretations about the show and its characters. Sorry, but if this is the best the intelligentsia has to offer, I'll take Dave Rogers, warts and all.
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.