Minder on his Mind|
University of Hong Kong Bulletin, May 5, 2003. Reprinted with permission.
Londoner Brian Hawkins is banking on some serious bread after publishing a Captain Hook about cult British TV crime caper Minder.
The book The Phenomenon that was Minder represents 13 years research from the medical scientist who is fascinated with Cockney rhyming slang - a London dialect.
For Dr Hawkins, a Senior Hospital Immunologist from the Department of Pathology, the programme also defines an era in British history.
Minder, which managed to combine cult status and mass appeal, revolves around a shady businessman, Arthur Daley, and his sidekick and bodyguard Terry McCann.
The series went out to more than 80 countries, including Hong Kong, but early efforts to subtitle in Cantonese were abandoned because the slang could not be translated.
Hawkins said: "I am a Londoner, from a Cockney background, and although I left (the UK) in my early 20s I have been interested in London slang ever since.
"Minder relied heavily on rhyming slang and I thought that it would be good to put together a serious dictionary showing its origins."
However, Hawkins discovered that there were already several such dictionaries in preparation but by then he was hooked on the programme, set in London's seedy side.
He said: "It is an extension of the research frame of mind. I am a scientist and want to accumulate all the facts and assemble them into a meaningful story."
Although he began the project in 1990 it was not until 1999 that he had assembled all his material and began knocking it into book format.
Much of this time was spent tracking down video copies of the programme - that ran from 1979 until 1994, and spanned 108 episodes.
Hawkins also approached several of the key stars and was even granted an interview with actor George Cole, who played Daley, at his English home just outside Oxford.
Hawkins recalled: "He was a lovely man: a real gentleman and very helpful. The actors helped fill in a lot of the gaps and it was very interesting communicating with them."
But the difficulties were still around the corner.
It was only when Hawkins approached the production company who held the copyright that the scale of the problem began to sink in.
"Initially they were very reluctant to cooperate, but eventually I went to see them with a galley proof last summer and they were OK," recalled Hawkins.
Then there were the UK publishers.
Hawkins said: "I took the project initially to all the likely publishers -- 20 to 30 in all - and the general response was under-whelming.
"They thought the idea would not be commercially viable because the programme was no longer on TV."
Eventually Hawkins found a willing publisher -- Chameleon Press -- back in Hong Kong and finally saw the project come to fruition in January when the book hit the shelves.
The Phenomenon that was Minder published by Chameleon Press is available from the University Bookstore and other good booksellers.
All materials © 2002 Brian Hawkins. All rights reserved.
Minder photograph © DC Thomson & Co. Ltd.