A year or two before Peter Cook died, I arranged a meeting between him and my editor at Century, Mark Booth. Mark wanted him to write an autobiography. They met at Rules. Peter arrived announcing that he had just finished his autobiography, and that he had it with him. 'I'd love to see it,' said Mark. Peter brought out a couple of pages of notepaper with a few rough sentences scribbled over them. 'Is that it?' asked Mark. 'I thought we might flesh it out with a few photographs,’ replied Peter, his peerless lack of drive spurred on to even greater heights by his Olympian sense of humour.
In the absence of an autobiography, a string of books about Peter Cook will appear over the next few years, some authorised by his widow, Lin, others not. The first of these is Lin Cook's own collection of reminiscences from his friends. Something Like Fire has a wealth of rich material in it, although one senses that quite a few contributors have, quite understandably, held back from too searching an analysis, wearing Sunday Best in deference to Lin's deep love. So for my taste there are rather too many showbizzy reminiscences of a type Peter might have enjoyed parodying, beginning 'Peter WAS the funniest man in the world', and floating ever onwards on a bubbly stream of hot air. A greater sprinkling of his Private Eye friends might have lent a little oomph. As it is, there is no Willie Rushton, no Richard Ingrams, no Ian Hislop, no Christopher Booker, no Paul Foot.
But there is still much to enjoy, and many essays - notably those by John Wells, Stephen Fry, John Lloyd, Alan Bennett and Barry Humphries - bring back his memory with happy precision. Everyone agrees on what a lovable man he was: Auberon Waugh recalls him in the company of