N. J. Crisp

TV dramatist, playwright and novelist

Bringing alive the sometimes unexciting world of business, by focusing on the trials and tribulations of the people who make the cogs turn, was a hallmark of N.J. Crisp's long career as a successful writer for television.

Typical of his work was the boardroom-to- bedroom drama The Brothers (1972-76), which he co-created with the producer Gerard Glaister. It followed the squabbles resulting after three brothers inherited part of their father's haulage firm - the eldest had expected to have it to himself - and the old man's secret mistress was also bequeathed a share in it.

The family-business saga proved compulsive Sunday-evening viewing, attracting audiences of up to 11 million, with many divided over their sympathies for the domineering women - Jennifer Wilson as the school-marmish mistress, Jennifer Kingsley, and Jean Anderson as the matriarch, Mary Hammond.

Born in Southampton in 1923, Norman James Crisp served in the RAF from 1943 to 1947, then went through a string of jobs - taxi-company manager, Marks and Spencer management trainee and typewriter salesman - while trying his hand at writing. He had short stories accepted by Reveille, John Bull and the Saturday Evening Post, and a television play, People of the Night (about a radio cab company, 1957) broadcast by the BBC.

This encouraged him to go full-time as a writer in 1959 and he subsequently wrote a dozen plays for the BBC, including The Dark Man (about a black taxi driver facing problems at work, 1960), and several for the ITV company Anglia, before being told that television's future was in series and serials.

As a result, he wrote scripts for the BBC soap opera Compact (1963-64), set in the offices of a women's magazine, then became story editor for the first series of R3 (1964), a drama about the professional and private lives of research scientists.

Then, he was one of several writers recruited by Ronald Marsh, the producer of Dixon of Dock Green (1965-75), to rid the popular series of its "cosy" image by writing "tougher" scripts, with rougher criminals and less emphasis on the policeman's home life. Crisp contributed Dixon of Dock Green scripts for 10 years, in between other work, which included writing for Dr Finlay's Casebook, in one episode tackling the taboo subject of euthanasia.

With Gerard Glaister, Crisp co-created The Expert (1968-69, 1971, 1976), which combined George Dixon and Dr Finlay by following the day-to-day activities of a forensic scientist, Dr John Hardy (Marius Goring). It was the first BBC2 drama series to be made in colour.

Even during the five-year run of The Brothers, the prolific Crisp wrote scripts for Colditz (1972-74), the wartime prison-camp drama produced by Glaister. The pair then devised Oil Strike North (1975), about the crew and their families on a North Sea oil rig, for which the creators spent two years researching in Scottish coastal towns and on rigs and supply vessels. Glaister also produced Buccaneer (1980), a series created by Crisp and Eric Paice, about a small air freight company.

In a different vein, Crisp scripted the feature-length television drama The Masks of Death (1984), starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and John Mills as Dr Watson, and the horror film Murder Elite (1985), featuring Ali MacGraw.

A prolific writer in all mediums, Crisp published several novels including The Brink (1982), Yesterday's Gone (1983), In the Long Run (1988) and The Ninth Circle (1988). He also wrote the stage play Fighting Chance (Apollo Theatre, 1985), set in a residential rehabilitation centre for neurological patients and based on his own illness, a malformation of the spinal cord diagnosed in 1975, which left him partially disabled. (Failing eyesight also led him to be registered blind eight years later.)

Another of his plays, the thriller Dangerous Obsession (Apollo Theatre, 1987-8, and Fortune Theatre, 1988), was turned by the writer John Howlett into the 1999 feature film Darkness Falls, starring Sherilyn Fenn and Ray Winstone.

A founding member of the Writers' Guild in 1959, who later served as its chairman from 1968 to 1971, Crisp negotiated the first £1,000 fee to be paid to a writer for a television drama and persuaded the ITV companies to make a pension contribution with each script commissioned.

Anthony Hayward

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?