TEDDY BEAR TAGGART; He's the Genius Behind Britain's Grittiest Police Series but He Can't Stand the Sight of Blood and Keeps a Huge Collection of Cuddly Toys

Daily Mail (London), May 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

TEDDY BEAR TAGGART; He's the Genius Behind Britain's Grittiest Police Series but He Can't Stand the Sight of Blood and Keeps a Huge Collection of Cuddly Toys


Byline: KATE GINN

GLENN CHANDLER does not look like someone fascinated with murder. His unassuming, almost shy demeanour and Englishsounding accent suggest an academic who might spend his time in some dusty basement office.

Another red herring is the black, mockcrocodile shoes teamed with green socks.

Indeed, looking at the clues, it would be hard to deduce what he does for a living.

The 55-year-old, who collects teddy bears for a hobby and had 70 at the last count, confesses to being squeamish and coming all over faint at the sight of blood. Yet Chandler is the creator of Taggart, the Scottish police drama renowned for its gruesome content and high body count.

He may capture Glasgow's tough image in the series, but in fact he was born and brought up in Edinburgh and went to public school. Quite what his most famous creation, the gruff and craggy-faced detective Jim Taggart, would have made of it all is anyone's guess.

'I hate the sight of blood and, if I'm having an injection, I have too look away,' confesses Chandler. 'If I see bloody scenes on television, I can't watch.

'I was brought up in a very musical household - my dad was a musician and my mum sang opera. As a boy, I was given piano lessons and was expected to follow in their footsteps, but writing, not music, was in my blood.

'It might seem a bit strange that I came up with the idea of Taggart, but I find crime and the darker aspects of life fascinating. Murder is the ultimate crime because it affects so many people.

'I'm always surprised when people talk about Taggart as a gritty, realistic, hardhitting drama because it never was when I wrote it. I always meant it to have this campness, a bit tongue-in- cheek with black humour.' Meeting Glenn Chandler in person, with his youthful looks and dress, it's still hard to image him penning the grisly tales that prompted Taggart to mutter those fatal words: 'There's been a murrrrder.' In fact, nobody actually uttered that line, Chandler claims - at least not in his scripts.

Yet beneath Chandler's mild-mannered front lurks a man responsible for at least half of the 200-plus deaths in the show over the years, gleefully dispatching people in ever more nasty, and improbable, ways.

Crossbows, strangulation, crushing, drowning, axes, guns, knives are just a few of the methods by which his victims have met their end.

AS time went on, my ideas became more bizarre and Taggart got this reputation for being farfetched,' he says. ' One of my favourites was the poisonous frogs used to kill people. I had great fun with that one.

'We also had venomous snakes and deadly spiders sent in the mail. It was far more interesting to write about than car chases, drugs and hard-nosed villains, though we had those, too.' It all seems very strange subject matter for a man who lives far away from the violent world of murder and mayhem that he portrayed so vividly. Home is now in rural Hertfordshire with his partner of 34 years, Alan, the village postman, and their dog Bonnie.

Mind you, along with the teddy bears, Chandler has a passion for real-life crime books and has amassed a huge, ghoulish collection detailing some of the most horrific cases ever committed.

Taggart was originally penned as a three-hour pilot in 1983. More than 20 years and many dead bodies later, it is British television's longest- running police series, still regularly pulling in almost seven million viewers an episode and sold to more than 50 countries around the world.

Virtually every successful Scottish actor has featured in it at one time or another, including Ken Stott - who is taking over the role of Inspector Rebus from John Hannah - Robert Carlyle, Dougray Scott and Billy Boyd.

Taggart has survived despite the death of three of its leading stars, including the inimitable Mark McManus, who made the leading part of Jim Taggart so memorably his own. …

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