Friday, April 20, 2007

Would you credit it?

I've just got an acknowledgement in a book - and can't imagine what I did to deserve it. Now, this could be yet another embarrassing mixup between me and the various other William Gallaghers (there's a WG who's a Doctor Who fanzine editor and everybody asks if he's me). But in case I'm right and it's me getting acknowledged, I feel the need to earn it more. So can I tel you about the book?

It's actually books, plural: a truly exceptional five-volume set of reference books called The Kaleidoscope BBC Television Drama Research Guide 1936-2006. I can only think of one other title that's in the same league for depth of research and that's the same group's The Kaleidoscope British Independent Television Drama Research Guide 1955-2005 which covers all non-BBC drama in UK television.

Every programme, every episode, every cast, every crew, every thing. Details of those troubling problems (for me writing Radio Times's On This Day) when programmes were scheduled but pulled at the last second. Everything. The base research is from Radio Times but it's then supplemented with official information direct from the broadcasters and, increasingly, the Kaliedoscope group's own records.

You look at these ten volumes and cannot imagine what it would be like to be on day one of a research project like that. Then you look at the people who do it and they appear quite sane and normal, they appear to have social lives. I'm told that's a front, but at least they don't have the pale skin of people who never leave libraries.

And I do know the people in this group. I've bought their books for years, never knowing quite how close to my home they are, until one day I walked into Birmingham Central Library with my PowerBook, ready to do On This Day research from the Radio Times issues and found five people doing exactly the same thing. Given how much they do and how random my time in the library can be, it's surprising I hadn't seen them before.

But, grief, it was so handy. I realised who they must be just from the quiet, whispered fact-checking they were doing, and it was great. I could say to them: "Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to know when the last episode of Warship aired, would you?"

Can't tell you the number of times I've asked people questions like that when I'm at the library but this was the first time the people didn't back away quietly. And instead told me instantly "March 29, 1977".

I was going to rabbit on at you about these books anyhow but I'm a very chuffed man this afternoon. I might go read the acknowledgements again.


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