Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.
By John Burke
First Published in 1970
Published by Lancer Books
I read this entire novel not realizing it was based on the first two episodes of Strange Report. Nowhere is the fact that this is a novelization mentioned–not on the front cover, the back cover, or anywhere inside. To be fair, nowhere is referred to as an “original novel” or “original story” either.
Strange Report was a co-production between Incorporated Television Company (ITC) in England and Arena Productions in the United States. Norman Felton served as executive producer. It originally aired on ITV in the United Kingdom from 1969 to 1970 and later aired on NBC in the United States from January to September 1971.
The series starred Anthony Quayle as Adam Strange, a retired criminologist who solved unusual cases with the help of his two assistants: Evelyn McClean (played by Anneke Wills) and Hamlyn “Ham” Gynt (played by Kaz Garas). Strange was somewhat eccentric. He drove an old, out-of-service taxi and built a state-of-the-art laboratory in his house.
A total of 16 episodes were produced. John Burke’s novelization is based on the first two episodes broadcast: “Report 5055: Cult,” about an electrocuted pop star and a cult masquerading as a charity, and “Report 0649: Skelton,” in which a World War II-era skeleton is dug up.
Front Cover to Strange Report – Copyright 1970 Incorporated Television Company Ltd.
Unfortunately, the two stories aren’t mixed together well. The author tried to smoothly introduce both in the first two chapters, but for the most part the first half of the novel is all about the electrocuted pop star, his terrified singing partner Maggie, and the Cypress Grove charity. Strange agrees to look into Cypress Grove for Maggie.
Once Strange wraps up his investigation of the charity, the focus of the novel shifts entirely to the second story as Strange tries to identify the mysterious skeleton. A key was found on the body, so Strange and Hamlyn must find the door it goes to. Their search leads them to a wealthy industrialist and, ultimately, the truth.
As is so often the case with TV tie-in novels, I haven’t seen any episodes of Strange Report, so I can’t speak to how well the characters are represented in print. Nor can I say how closely the novel sticks to the episodes it’s based on. At the very least, a few scenes were added to connect the two stories, and there’s quite a bit of Strange’s personal life and history laid out for the benefit of readers.
Back Cover to Strange Report – Copyright 1970 Incorporated Television Company Ltd.
Despite not knowing the novel was actually a novelization when I read it, I actually did enjoy it quite a bit. I did find it strange (pun intended) that it featured two completely unrelated stories. While reading it, I incorrectly assumed that each episode of the TV series covered two stories.
For the record, this novel was also published in the United Kingdom by Hodder Paperbacks. The UK version had a different cover.