Getting to the Heart of the Case; John Thaw. the Biography. by Stafford Hildred and Tim Ewbank (Andre Deutsch, Pounds 17.99) Reviewed by Christine Barker

Article excerpt

For any actor, identifying with one particular role can lead to career starvation. The dreaded label of typecasting becomes a part of the CV. Scripts - particularly if the part is designed for the small screen - can deteriorate into boring reworkings of an ageing theme. While in the theatre, audiences tend to decline as the months slip by.

John Thaw has proved the pundits wrong in not one, but a trio of character parts during a career that has spanned more than three decades.

Thaw IS Morse. Just as he is Kavanagh, and he WAS Jack Regan, the tough detective in the early hard-hitting TV police series, The Sweeney.

But it is probably Morse, the shy, taciturn, tetchy, classical music-loving police inspector whose beat is the ancient university town of Oxford, who is dearest to his heart.

And nearest to his own temperament, we learn from this new biography by Stafford Hildred (who once wrote for both the Evening Mail and the Sunday Mercury) and Tim Ewbank.

For so shy and complex a man - Thaw can be as enigmatic as Morse - the co-authors have managed to build up a picture as warm, and immediately recognisable as a glowing fire in a cold evening.

This is a biography for the fans, rather than the theatrical historians. But the facts are well packed in there along with the anecdotes, plus a list of credits that begins in 1953 with school plays and goes on to the recent ITV production of Goodnight M ister Tom, and this November's latest Morse, Inspector Morse, the Wench is Dead.

It could be the last of a series that began way back in 1987. But there again Colin Dexter might be prevailed upon to produce yet another Oxford mystery.

Thaw certainly hopes so. The Mancunian, born in 1942 when baby clothes, even nappies, could only be bought with clothing coupons, has grown grey in the service of Thames Valley Police.

He was the first child of lorry driver John Edward Thaw, and his pretty wife Dolly. A couple of years later brother Raymond arrived. But when young John was only seven, his mother left home for another man. …