Thursday 17 April 2014

The Assassination Run by Jack Gerson (BBC Books, 1980): Signed Association First Edition, Inscribed to Mary Tamm

Linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 18/4/14.

The next signed book I'm showcasing was given to me by my friend Adam, proprietor of Withnail Books in Penrith, to sweeten the deal on the signed 1970 Dell paperback of Elmore Leonard's The Moonshine War I blogged about earlier in the week:

The Assassination Run, by Jack Gerson, published in hardback by BBC Books in 1980, with a dust jacket – which I've naturally added to British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s – which sports a photograph by Graham Ross. For those who don't know – and I numbered myself among them until I looked it up online – The Assassination Run was a three-part BBC TV spy thriller which aired in 1980, reportedly a kind of loose sequel to 1979 serial Running Blind (which was based on a Desmond Bagley novel). Starring Malcolm Stoddard as British agent Mark Fraser and the late Mary Tamm – perhaps best known for her role as Time Lord Romana, playing opposite Tom Baker in Doctor Who from 1978–1979 – as his kidnapped wife Jill, it was penned, like its predecessor (and like its 1981 three-part sequel, The Treachery Game), by Gerson, a television scriptwriter who, according to his Herald obituary, "cut his teeth writing episodes of Z Cars and went on to work on some of the most popular TV drama series of the time including Sutherland's Law and This Man Craig" – although IMDB suggests a rather different order of events.

His best-remembered telly work these days is probably The Omega Factor, which he created (and which guest-starred his daughter, Natasha, who would go on to feature as Brenda in Gregory's Girl). But Gerson also published around a dozen novels, many of them based on his various television endeavours – The Regiment (Pan, 1973), The Omega Factor (BBC Books, 1979), The Whitehall Sanction (WH Allen, 1983) and so forth – The Assassination Run being a case in point.

Gerson's inscription on the front free endpaper of this copy of The Assassination Run reads "To Mary who is Jill and Lauren who was there too!" You can see Adam's pencilled bookseller note above this, identifying the inscription as "by the author to his inspiration for one of the characters". But I did a spot of idle googling when the book arrived in the post, and having learned that the TV series of The Assassination Run starred Mary Tamm, I began to strongly suspect that the "Mary who is Jill" that the book was inscribed to wasn't merely the inspiration for one of the characters in the show, but actually played that character – i.e. that this was at one time Mary Tamm's copy of the book. Gerson included Tamm, under her first name, in the dedication opposite the prologue:

Alongside Stoddard and the cast and crew of the television series; but what sealed it for me was discovering that Tamm had a daughter, Lauren, who was born in November 1979 – which means if The Assassination Run was filmed the year before its 1980 broadcast, Tamm would have been pregnant during filming – hence the slightly oddly worded "Lauren who was there too!"

It's a fascinating provenance for the book, not just for anyone – like myself and, to an even greater extent, Adam – with an interest in Doctor Who, but anyone – me again (and probably Adam too) – with an interest in inscribed editions, especially association ones; witness, for example, these posts on books bearing inscriptions by Patricia Highsmith, Donald E. Westlake, P. M. Hubbard (with attendant letter), Andrew MacKenzie, Elmore Leonard, Colin Forbes, Gavin Lyall, Joe Gores and Anthony Price. That said, if a book counts as one of your favourites in a series, as the next book I'll be blogging about does, sometimes just a flat signature is enough – even if that signature consists of merely the author's initials.


  1. I very much enjoyed The Omega Factor when it ran on PBS, many years ago. So much so that I went out of my way to get a bootleg VHS copy to watch it from beginning to end, back before it was commercially available--some lovely location shooting in Edinburgh.

    Also read the book version, which is quite different (and in some ways, better).

    Mary Tamm died? Damn. She was a lovely woman, and a good actress. Second-noblest Romana of them all. The other Dr. Who connection to Gerson would be Louise "Leela of the Sevateem" Jameson, who played a very significant recurring role in The Omega Factor.

    And that's all the Gerson I know, so this was certainly an eye-opening article, Nick.

  2. You're welcome, Chris. Not sure why I never saw The Omega Factor when it was on telly originally; I would've been nine years old, and it sounds like the kind of thing I'd have loved. Mind you, I had to fight to watch things like Blake's 7, which invariably clashed with Coronation Street, so maybe my mum and dad were watching something on the other side.