Selected scripts and radio programmes by me
Recordings of the Capital Radio programmes listed are lodged in the National Sound Archive (British Library).
1980 London Can Take It, - 60-minute radio documentary on the London Blitz 1940-41. Writer/producer/presenter.
1981 You Can’t Say That – five-part series about literary censorship worldwide, presented by Melvin Bragg for Capital Radio. Writer/producer.
1982 Tales of a City (‘The Nun of Kilburn’; ‘The Astrologer’s Apprentice’; ‘Mrs Pepys’s Diary’; ‘Midnight Streets’; ‘A Precipice in Time’; ‘Suffragettes’.) Six 60-minute historical radio plays for Independent Radio. Writer/director.
1983 Enigma – 60-minute radio biography of Edward Elgar, written for one actor and shellac recordings for Independent Radio. Writer/director.
1991 Robert Herrick: A Celebration. Feature for BBC Radio 3. Writer.
1992 Excesses of Youth. Feature for BBC Radio 3 on Hector Berlioz in Italy. Writer/presenter.
1995 Anna’s Way – feature film script for the British Film Institute and Hamburg Film Büro. (Unproduced)
I wrote, produced and presented numerous additional feature programmes for radio during my 8 years as features producer with the Capital Radio Talks Dept., many of which were broadcast throughout the independent radio network.
Books by me
1987 Mind Over Medicine: Can the Mind Kill or Cure? (Aurum/Pan)
Compulsion: A Psychological Study (with Eleanor Stephens, Boxtree)
1990 Fat Man’s Shadow (novel, Viking/Penguin)
1992 The Gwailo (novel, Viking/Penguin)
1999 Anthony Van Dyck: A Life 1599-1642 (Constable/Ivan R. Dee)
2000 Essential Modern Art (Parragon)
2001 Cold Burial: A True Story of Endurance and Disaster (with Clive Powell-Williams, Viking Penguin/ St Martin's Press)
2001 Saints (Collins Gem)
2004 Stubbs and the Horse (with Malcolm Warner, Yale U.P.)
2005 George Stubbs & the Wide Creation, (Chatto & Windus/Pimlico)
2011 A Dark Anatomy (Cragg & Fidelis novel) (Pan-Macmillan, Minoaur Books)
2012 Dark Waters (Cragg & Fidelis novel) (Pan-Macmillan)
I served a sort of apprenticeship as a crime writer in the 1990s with Lynda La Plante, writing novels out of episodes from her TV crime series Trial and Retribution. Lynda is an amazing story-teller and meticulous researcher and I learned a lorry-loads of useful stuff from her, for which I will be ever grateful.
Another foray into the world of crime writing was under a nom de plume Christopher Bird. It was The World of Inspector Morse and I was lucky enough during this project to get to know the kindly, and fiendishly clever, Colin Dexter. His books have probably influenced me more than I realize.
I have written widely on the arts and general subjects for the national, daily and weekly press and the internet. I did a 5-year stint as weekly book reviewer at The Independent on Sunday and I have since contributed regularly on books and the visual arts to The Financial Times. I am also a contributor on Stubbs and Van Dyck to the online Literary Encyclopaedia and I have written about what I read as a child for the quarterly journal Slightly Foxed.
Most of my books and a few of my programmes have been reviewed, sometimes (not always) positively. Here is a selection of positive critical quotes – spot the exception.
Tales of a City: “Blake is always inventive … fresh, colourful, bawdy and convincing” (Paul Ferris, Observer); “this entertainingly eccentric series”(Jill Neville, S. Times); “the actual writing and studio direction, both Blake’s responsibility, were very good indeed” (David Wade, Times); “the most important element for its success is the language. People speak as if they mean it, in a form which is modern enough to avoid seeming archaic and yet historic enough not to suggest that language has not changed” (James Bromwich, T.E.S.)
Anthony Van Dyck: A Life 1599-1641: “An excellent read … genuinely interesting and well-researched… Robin Blake writes with enormous enthusiasm for his subject.” (Antonia Fraser, S. Times); “A remarkably silly book” (Brian Sewell, The Evening Standard); “Blake is truly illuminating when he describes a given place at a given time and looks there for the source of decisions.” (Peter Campbell, LRB); Refreshingly different… it brings the period convincingly to life. (Andrew Wilton, Observer).
George Stubbs & the Wide Creation: “Robin Blake illuminates the works with brilliant detail about the era” (Christopher Hirst, The Independent); “Stubbs emerges as a real person rather than as simply an opaque reflection of the order and calm projected by his pictures.” (Michael Prodger, S. Telegraph); “Much careful scholarship and sensible speculation” (Matthew Reynolds, TLS); “…this painstaking, scholarly and admirable study…” (Edward Pearce, Glasgow Herald).
Some reviews of Cragg and Fidelis are on the website pages about those books.