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Not A Number: Patrick McGoohan, A Life - Book review

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This biography of the creator of The Prisoner attempts to get behind his enigmatic mask; that it only partly succeeds is probably down to the fact that McGoohan was not only highly secretive but a man with many contradictions. He was, for instance, a Catholic but had an inquisitive mind and resisted convention – unlike many devotees of that dogmatic faith. He was a meticulous professional, but could appear on set the worse for wear from alcohol. Indeed, the author talks about McGoohan’s use of booze as an escape from stress and reckons that in the late ‘70s the actor was practically an alcoholic.

It’s not surprising that The Prisoner , one of the most remarkable television series ever made, takes up a large chunk of the book. In fact it’s a shame there isn’t even more on it. Anecdotes are piquant: we learn that one actress, Annette Andre of “It’s Your Funeral”, “loathed Patrick from the minute I started”, whereas Angela Browne from “A Change Of Mind” thought he was “smashing” and claims she loved him. McGoohan had a huge fall-out with co-creator George Markstein halfway through making the series. He was “fascinated” by actor Alexis Kanner, who appeared in three episodes, and who was himself fascinated by McGoohan.

The book’s frequent use of the first person is a little irritating, but on the whole this is a compelling read, and doesn’t disgrace the memory of one of television’s most talented stars.

Russell Lewin

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