The Unpublished Spike Milligan: BOX 18 edited by Norma Farmes, Fourth Estate, London [NZ rep: HarperCollins], 2006, 254 pages, paperback, NZ$36.99.
The first surprise in this book is how well organised Spike Milligan was, an impression confirmed by his long-time manager and friend, Norma Farnes. In the office “he was the most focussed person I have ever met: disciplined, methodical and meticulous about his filing system.” Spike’s office held shelves of box files where his work, scripts, interests and enthusiasms were all recorded. Box 18 was subtitled simply “IDEAS” and it was here that first drafts of poems, scripts, sketches speeches and stories were filed for later development. Badjelly the Witch began in Box 18 and so did It Ends With Magic.
The documents printed here include radio and TV sketches, children’s stories, poems and even a Goon Show script, The Tree Maniac. Some are in Spike’s own writing with typed transcripts. The flavour is pure Milligan and the addition of diary pages, letters and photographs capture his wide range from poignant to hilarious. There is no suggestion of a scraped barrel here and this anthology makes a fine companion piece to the various biographies of Milligan.
This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch NZ, on 6th January 2007.