El Tel hails pen pal be­hind telly de­tec­tive

Foot­ball boss pays tribute to Scot­tish writer

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - EXCLUSIVE - By Rus­sell Black­stock rblack­stock@sun­day­post.com

TERRY VEN­ABLES has hailed the Scots writer who helped him pen an un­likely TV hit.

The former Eng­land foot­ball man­ager paid tribute af­ter Gor­don Wil­liams – who was on the short­list for the first Booker Prize – died last week aged 83.

A ta­lented nov­el­ist, Wil­liams also wrote bi­ogra­phies of stars in­clud­ing clar­inet­tist Acker Bilk and foot­baller Bobby Moore.

He also penned The Siege of Trencher’s farm which leg­endary film di­rec­tor Sam Peck­in­pah turned into the box of­fice smash Straw Dogs.

How­ever, one of Wil­liams’ big­gest suc­cesses came when he teamed up with Ven­ables, nick­named El Tel dur­ing a stint man­ag­ing Barcelona, to co-write the Haze ll nov­els in the 1970s.

“I first got friendly with Gor­don when I was play­ing for Queens Park Rangers and he used to come along as a sup­porter,” Ven­ables, who now runs La Es­con­dida ho­tel near Ali­cante, Spain, told the Sun­day Post.

“One day we got talk­ing about do­ing some writ­ing to­gether and the next thing we were work­ing on some books.

“Af­ter I fin­ished train­ing at lunchtime I used to go over to his of­fice in Lon­don and we would spend the af­ter­noon dream­ing up sto­ries and that is how Hazell came about.

“We were de­lighted when it got picked up by TV and it be­came re­ally pop­u­lar when it was shown on a Mon­day night.”

Their three nov­els, pub­lished un­der the penn ameP.BYu ill, were later made into a pop­u­lar ITV show star­ring Ni­cholas Ball as wise-crack­ing cock­ney pri­vate eye James Hazell.

Two pop­u­lar se­ries were screened in 1978 and 1979 with the 22 episodes also star­ring Scots ac­tor Roddy McMil­lan as De­tec­tive In­spec­tor “Choc” Minty. The theme tune was sung by an­other Scot, Mag­gie Bell.

Ven­ables said: “Gor­don would play up to the im­age of a stoney- faced Scot but he also had a wicked sense of hu­mour” Ven­ables said.

“The only time he ques­tioned my foot­ball ca­reer was when I was ap­pointed as the man­ager of Eng­land.

“Be­ing a Scot, and a foot­ball fan, he gave me plenty of stick for that.”

Wil­liams worked as a ju­nior re­porter with the John­stone Advertiser and Pais­ley Pic­to­rial be­fore en­ter­ing na­tional ser­vice with the RAF in 1952.

His loathing of the Air Min­istry, and a para­noid group cap­tain, in­spired his 1966 novel The Camp.

Af­ter the RAF, he re­turned to jour­nal­ism and started ghost writ­ing for Scot­tish foot­balling hero De­nis Law and World Cup- win­ning Eng­land cap­tain Bobby Moore.

One of his bit­ter-sweet mem­o­ries was the time he turned down an ap­proach to script hit movie Gre­gory’s Girl.

Wil­liams’ once wrote: “When sil­ver-r- tongued film di­rec­tor Bill Forsyth sug­gested that I might script some wor­thy lit­tle com­edy about a Glas­gow girl foot­baller for ama­teur ac­tors, I put it as tact­fully as pos­si­ble that I had big­ger fish to fry.”

Wil­liams ii ss sur­vived by his wife Claer­wen Jeann Jones, who he mar­ried in 1964, his chil­dren Har­riet, Jessica and Sa­muel, and three grand­chil­dren.

Ni­cholasNic Ball and Bar­bara Young in the 1970s show­sho Hazell about a cocky Cock­ney de­tec­tive.

Gor­don Wil­liams.

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