Obituary: Ian Stuart Black

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Ian Stuart Black, writer: born London 21 March 1915; married 1942 Anne Brooke (died 1986; two sons, two daughters); died Sidmouth, Devon 13 October 1997

Ian Stuart Black leaves a rich legacy, not only in a wealth of stage plays, novels, and screenplays but also in the benefits that a host of television and film writers, producers and directors around the world, gained from his writing talent and wise counsel. His most popular creation was the television series Danger Man, which starred Patrick McGoohan and ran on British television from the late Fifties onwards, and which was the first really successful British export to America, where the series was known as Secret Agent.

Although born in London, Black was a Scot through and through. He was educated at Daniel Stewart's College in Edinburgh, and read for a degree in Philosophy at Manchester. Sport played an important part in his younger days and he remained fascinated by rugby, cricket and golf all his life. He played rugby for Manchester University and had a successful cricket trial for Lancashire, which he did not pursue because writing and theatre had taken precedence.

Having submitted his first one-act play to the Donald Wolfit Theatre Company, he was invited to join them as an actor. Here he met, and was immediately attracted to, one of the leading actresses, Anne Brooke. They married just as Black was called up for service in the Second World War, which took him to the Middle East working in RAF Intelligence. Anne went home to Edinburgh to give birth to the first of their four children, Isobel, who was to go on to become an actress herself.

Demobilised in 1946, Black joined the Rank Scenario Department at Pinewood Studios, working alongside such as Bill Rose, David Lean, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Black in 1954 became involved in the creation of the first filmed detective series, Fabian of the Yard, for the BBC. In 1953 In the Wake of a Stranger, the first of his nine novels, was published and the West End production of his black comedy We Must Kill Toni was presented at the Westminster Theatre. This play was later adapted to be made into a film and is still popular in repertory. It heralded the start of a prolific period - several novels were published, including Passionate City (1958), The Yellow Flag (1959) and The High Bright Sun (1962) which Rank made into a feature film starring Dirk Bogarde.

During the same period, Black was also involved in many of the successful television series of the time - Francis Drake, Man of the World and Man in Room 17. This activity ran on through the Sixties with his work as story editor, associate producer and/or writer of such television productions as the plays The Dummy Run, The Woman at the Door, Show Me a Hero and the series The Invisible Man, Danger Man, Ransom for a Pretty Girl, Champion House, Adam Adamant, Revenue Men and Dr Who. He was also commissioned by STV in the late Fifties to write Mary, Queen of Scots and the children's adventure serial Redgauntlet, which starred his daughter Isobel.

In 1971, I invited Black to join me, as associate producer/writer, on the first of several film series and films I was to produce throughout the Seventies in Ceylon and Australia. Our collaboration over eight very busy and enjoyable years was a successful one. Such series as Elephant Boy, Castaway, The Outsiders and films such as Tully (1974) were the result.

As he had done during the late Fifties and throughout the Sixties with new writers such as Brian Clemens and Richard Harris, Black continued to encourage and nurture new writing talent during the time we worked together. He was particularly good with young writers, understanding their sensitivities and insecurities.

All who have worked with him will know the wry twist of humour which was characteristic of him. There are a number of now established writers in Australia, such as Ted Roberts and Tony Morpeth, who will fondly remember the hours of guidance, laced with Black's favourite malt whisky, that formed the basis of their careers.

Aged 82, Ian Stuart Black felt that he had had a full and rich life, his only regret being that he had started writing yet another novel earlier this year, and he had not the strength to complete it. He had travelled extensively and he loved talking with friends, never more so than over a good meal and good wine.

Black's view of life was Darwinian, and he encouraged all to make the most of their talents and not to waste opportunities. Occasionally, he was content to simply stand and stare at what he called "a beautiful world".

- James Gatward

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