Obituary: Edmund Ward
Tuesday 20 July 1993
EDMUND WARD wrote seven novels and seven screenplays and created some of the most critically acclaimed and popular television drama of the Sixties and Seventies.
Ward was born in Nottingham in 1928. His mother died when he was six, and he did not have a happy childhood. Domestic friction was only relieved when he left home at 16. He was introspective, and even those closest to him found out about his early life only through snippets of information that he let out.
From his earliest years Ward's only ambition was to write. At school, his essays won prizes, and one much-coveted national award. He was not allowed to try journalism because beginners at the Nottingham Post were only paid 15 shillings a week; but for book-keepers at Boots the chemists, where his father worked as an electrical engineer, it was 30 shillings. Edmund hated the work, but loved the company, which treated him like a son. They even tolerated his habit of taking long periods of time off - returning only when he needed to earn more money - in order to read every book in the local library; an essential experience for proper writers, in his opinion. He had achieved this before he was 20. Determined to master all aspects of the written word, he took diplomas in print production and typography at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts.
In 1950, because he felt that no one in England took young writers seriously, he boarded a boat for Sweden, with only pounds 3 to his name. He knocked over trees for pocket money while taking the Hogskola diploma in Scandinavian language and literature. In Stockholm he met Felicity, whom he married in 1952. His first novel, Summer in Retreat, published in 1957, won the Author's Club Award. This was followed by The Gravy Train (1958) and The Private Tightrope in 1960. His first television success came with The Casualties, a one-off play for Rediffusion, produced by Michael Currer Briggs. Briggs and the director Quentin Lawrence taught Ward how to write for television. The Casualties led to scriptwriting for The Planemakers for ATV. When Lew Grade wanted to expand the series, Ward came up with the title The Power Game. Ward, Wilf Greatorex and Rex Firkin created the format, which took the programne to the top of the television ratings, and two Writers' Guild Awards. Ward's first two plays for the big screen, Amsterdam Affair and The Violent Enemy, were produced in 1968.
Peter Willes, Head of Drama at the newly formed Yorkshire Television, became a considerable influence on Ward's work, commissioning The Main Chance, a legal series of the 1970s, starring John Stride as David Main, which Ward and I created together. The Main Chance earned Ward a Hollywood Festival of World Television Award. With James Mitchell and myself, Ward co-created Justice, another long-running legal series, with Margaret Lockwood as the barrister Harriet Petersen. In 1970, also for YTV, he wrote Grady, a trade union-based trilogy, and four years later the six-episode thriller The Hanged Man. The Challengers, written by Ward, was the first television series to tell the story of MPs in their constituencies. Turtle's Progress, a 13-part comedy thriller, was broadcast in 1978. His last novel, The Baltic Emerald, appeared in 1980. Ward also wrote the screenplay for A Prayer for the Dying (1987), based on the IRA novel by Jack Higgins and was the main writer and Executive Story Editor in the second series of Gentlemen and Players for Television South.
Edmund Ward had an incisive, Chandleresque way with dialogue, much loved by actors. He will be best remembered for The Main Chance, which introduced the legal profession - particularly solicitors - to the 20th century, if with rather more glamour than some practitioners recognised. His great skill was to make stories of considerable legal complexity, understandable, compelling and exciting.
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