Charlie Alexander

Created by Nigel Williams

”How are you going to find out about anything when you couldn’t see me and Saul in front of your eyes?”
— the soon-to-be ex-wife is not impressed with Charlie’s detective skills

Struggling, middle-aged private detective CHARLIE ALEXANDER, the “hero” of the 1984 British mini-series Charlie, written by Nigel Williams, has a lot of exes in his CV: he’s an ex-student, an ex-leftie, an ex-journalist and an ex-soldier. He also tried writing for a while. And it looks like he’s about to become an ex-husband — his wife, Susan, has taken off with a man named Saul, with whom she’d been having an affair for quite a while. And she’s taken the kids.

While working on a messy domestic, Charlie stumbles across the corpse of a stranger, apparently beaten to death, in a housing project in a racially-mixed neighbourhood. The only identification may lie in an address book found on the body. Problem is, the address has Charlie’s name in it. From there it’s off to the races, as Charlie and the murdered man’s widow are drawn into a nasty tangle of union politics, missing pension funds and murder, as they (according to the blurb on the novelization, also written by Williams)) stumble “through a series of alternately comic and dangerous encounters to a tense and ironic climax.”

By most accounts, a gritty, well-rendered view of Thatcher-era England, with a great cast. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

This was writer, director and playwright Nigel Williams’ fourth novel. His first, My Life Closed Twice, won the Somerset Maugham Award, and he’s since had quite a long successful career, particularly in British television. He’s probably best known for the 2005 TV drama Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren, and for which he received an Emmy Award nomination for his script.

But don’t let that scare you away — among his other works worth checking out are the blackly comic (and bestselling) The Wimbledon Poisoner Trilogy, wherein a fat, schlubby lawyer begins to fancy himself a serial killer, and Unfaithfully Yours, a 2013 farce built around four elderly couples and Orlando “Roland” Gibbons, a private detective, hired to find out who’s boinking someone’s husband.

UNDER OATH

  • ”Charlie” moves at its own sometimes lumbering, sometimes confusing pace, but it keeps hitting enough notes of unsettling authenticity to keep us tagging along eagerly.”
    — The New York Times (August 5, 1987)

TELEVISION

  • CHARLIE
    (1984, ITV/Central Television)
    4 60-minute episodes
    Premiere: March 26, 1984
    Written by Nigel Williams
    Directed by Martin Campbell
    Produce by Graham Benson
    Starring David Warner as CHARLIE ALEXANDER
    Frank Windsor as Harry Ainsworth
    and Marion Bailey as Susan Alexander
    Also starring Patrick Malahide, Maggie Steed, Geoffrey Hutchings, Michael Aldridge, Clive Merrison

    • “Charlie Is My Darling” (March 26, 1984)
    • “In the Days of His Youth” (March 28, 1984)
    • “In Union Is Strength” (April 2, 1984)
    • “If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem” (April 4, 1984)

NOVELIZATION

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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