Archers Books

This is by no means an exhaustive list, merely a sample. The covers/titles of the books are links to

Bankruptcy attorney
. I've given the RRP but in most of the cases Amazon's price is lower than this by at least 10%.

Book Cover
The Archers: The History of Radio's Most Famous Programme 50th Anniversary Edition

by William Smethurst.

List Price: £12.99

Newly updated version of The Archers: The True Story ... apparently this site gets a mention. I'll have to investigate ...

Who's Who in "The Archers"

by Keri Davies.

List Price: £2.99

The little book of The Archers.

Small in size, small in detail. It's cheap, which is something, but it's really not very good.

Sorry, Keri - it really wasn't worth the effort.

Book CoverThe Archers Anarchists' Survival Guide

Ian Sanderson

List Price: £6.99

The Anarchists were nice enough to send me a free copy, although it has been suggested that my site is a little too castist for the true Anarchist. It doesn't, though, make me feel honourbound to be nice about the book. I will be, but that's 'cos I enjoyed it not because I'm a sucker for freebies. Although I am.

At first glance through, it's a weird book, perhaps displaying a little too much of something a little parallel to the real world to considered totally normal. But then ask yourself, how do you think of Ambridge? Are the scriptwriters making it up or are they giving voice to an institution owned by the country and cherished by all? If you were to have the power of giving voice to the residents of Borsetshire, wouldn't satire be the highest honour?

By highlighting issues of continuity, of the silent majority in the village, of why Tommy speaks with a Lancastrian accent, of all manner of quibbles, the Anarachists display a love of the programme. It's a love played out in curious forms, but fondness for things you feel you shouldn't enjoy will come out in odd ways, won't they? And don't all Archers fans feel it a little strange that they should care so much about what is, ultimately, a work of fiction?

If there's a choice between this one and the annual, well, read my opinions and then decide.

Book CoverThe Archers Annual 2000

Kate Willmott, Hedli Niklaus

List Price: £10.99

When you were a kid, did you rip open the Christmas wrapping paper seeking out the latest Eagle/Bunty/Beano/Blue Peter annual? (Delete as appropriate depending on age.) Did you enjoy them?

Spin forward a few years. If you still have those annuals, do you still enjoy them?

Yes, you might well do - I enjoy my father's Eagle Annuals - but the Blue Peter annuals leave me cold, and it's not just the late seventies fashions of Peter Purvis and Simon Groom or the outrageous eighties hair-dos of Sarah Greene (although the memories of Janet Ellis are quite comforting on cold winter nights). The contents are just dated.

And so, I have to say, is it with the Archers Annual. Mindless pap for the "Hello" generation. Lots of pictures of strangers, because, let's face it, as sure as eggs is eggs those pictures aren't of the good (and bad) denizens of Ambridge that we listen to every day.

Sorry, Ms W and Ms N, "authors". I'd recomend people buying it purely to up my commission from Amazon, not because I think it's worthwhile.

The Book of the Archers

by Patricia Greene, Hedli Niklaus and Charles Collingwood.

List Price: £17.95

Known to the denizens of UMRA as merely "The Book" this is the first point of call for any questions about characters or places.

Written by three cast members (Jill, Kathy and Brian) it is starting to show its age now but so long as you don't need to find out anything that's happened in the last 4-5 years, you'll probably find mention of it in here!

(The first edition is now out of print, but a new edition is due "real soon now")

Book CoverThe Archers - The True Story

By William Smethurst

List Price: £8.99

One of a number of books written by insiders. An ex-editor (who famously doesn't get on particularly with the current editor) he takes us through a detailed path of the early years of the programme, from the germ of an idea of a farming "Dick Barton" mentioned by a Lincolnshire farmer at a meeting attended by a young BBC reporter, through its trial week in 1950, when it went nationwide on New Years Day, 1951 and, describing how that reporter, Godfrey Baseley , had created a national institution.

Smethurst's tenure was not without incident, but his feeling and warmth for the programme are evident as he describes the pitfalls and successes, the highs and lows and the behind the scenes surprises.

If you're an Anarchist, you'll hate it. But if you've been listening to the programme your whole life (or its whole life, whichever is shorter) you'll realise how much you've forgotten - and how much you never knew.

Book CoverThe Archers - The Official Companion

By Vanessa Whitburn

List Price: £9.99

From a book by an ex-editor to a book by the current one. Rather than re-treading the historical path, as Smethurst had done, this book attempts to look at how the programme is put together, both now and as it was when it first started. How the big stories are handled, how the characters are developed, the processes, the research, the cast.

Book Cover"The Archers": Family Ties 1951-1967 - the Early Years

by Joanna Toye

List Price: £14.99

This review was originally posted to by Richard Whitbread. Reproduced with permission.

The book opens with an updated version of the family tree - Melanie Hardiment b 12.2.72 wife of Kenton is recorded as is the demise of John. Tom and Pru's departure will feature in Volume 2 due for publication in September 1999 (already on my Xmas present list).

18 chapters cover the years mentioned and unlike the original transmissions from Ambridge Ms Toye has largely only recorded the events key to the Archers themselves. Very much this is the story of Phil, Grace and Jill and indeed is perhaps much sketchier than one might have anticipated but inevitably much reduction was needed to limit the book to 317 pages.

Broadcasts from Ambridge were subject to my observation from the late 1950's although I must admit I cannot recall much of the content at all from those distant days and this book helps fill in those earlier years and the period from 1951 - 1960 is better covered. The last few years are covered in great chunks - with the early sixties being (I suspect) trimmed from earlier drafts to bring the book down to an acceptable size.

What has been lost is more of the village background - unless part of the story - are village events and many of the secondary characters - Laura whom I recall as a strong and ever present fixture is hardly mentioned - have effectively vanished completely or receive a brief mention. Even Jack and Peggy are very secondary in the book. The excision of detailed farming matters from early years is also notable.

What has been gained? Well, instead of trying to interpret the intonation and delivery of each villager's voice we get their feelings relayed immediately rather than in subsequent discussions with others. As an example (chosen at random), Phil arranged a welcome home party for Grace and they almost fall out so a para of this nature appears: "Phil knew Grace was trying to tease him out of his ill-temper, but he couldn't rise above his intense disappointment with the way their long-anticipated reunion had gone."

Did I enjoy it? Yes I did. Even though it may not have the original immediacy of the original recordings of life in the village the story at points remains effective and involving.

Accuracy - I am unable to do more than quote the author:
"Although I had access to the scripts and did in some cases draw on them, I also had licence to invent, and my hope is that the reader will not be able to see the joins - or want to look for them."
The implication is therefore that the book is not perhaps 100% accurate when compared with the original broadcasts. I "feel" but cannot prove that key dates and events have been maintained in general terms and I assume that significant dialogue is drawn from the scripts. Perhaps one or two of those older than me can comment?

The book ends with the birth of Adam and Doris's birthday. I think it provides a neat break point between the older and the newer generation and I hope that many more of you will read it.

Book CoverThe Archers Anarchists' A-Z

By Ian Sanderson

List Price: £6.99

Do you crave to not take the Archers at all seriously? Do you wish that particular characters could be taken down a peg or two? As the alternative AAs cry "the Archers are real - there is no cast"!

From the iconoclastic nicknames for the villagers to the stubborn refusal to recognise that there is a behind the scenes, this book is a breath of fresh air. Regulars to UMRA will recognise that healthy air of skepticism and a slightly warped view on the surreal world of Borsetshire.

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Where next

Go to the books index, my Archers pages or the main index.