Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates by Donald Spoto - review by Hugh Massingberd

Hugh Massingberd

Bounty Bar Bates

Otherwise Engaged: The Life of Alan Bates

By

Hutchinson 308pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Serialisation, which tends to be equally crass and sensational whether in broadsheet or tabloid form, often seems something of a mixed blessing. Certainly the treatment given to this book – which appeared to aim at provoking the crude reaction, ‘Blimey! Batesy was a bender’, and to be stuffed with ‘exploded quotes’ along the lines of (I paraphrase) ‘The trouble with Alan, darling, is that he didn’t know whether he was Arthur or Martha!’ – made me mutter, ‘Surely Sir Alan, one of our most deservedly popular performers, deserved better than this?’

To be fair to this ‘exclusively authorised biography’ by the prolific American writer Donald Spoto, it turns out to be an infinitely more serious and sympathetic study than the serialisation would have led us to believe. Indeed, the tone sometimes veers towards the prissy (‘Protracted virginity has perhaps never been

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