Review published on November 9, 2017.
In January 1966, a Miss Norma Farnes walked into 9 Orme Court, Bayswater; she was to be interviewed for a job with Spike Milligan, the writer of the ‘Goons’ and many other escapades. She got the job, which she didn’t really want at the time, more of a stop gap until something more to her liking came along, only to become his manager until he died in 2002.
Norma Farnes, the author of this book, was the best person to write this account of Spike Milligan, warts and all, together with her many, many anecdotes about the complicated man who called her his ‘damager’. How she ever put up with the chap I will never fully understand after reading this book, his deeply depressive, almost psychotic episodes, his own free and easy attitude that always clashed with organisation and business acumen; she is one tough woman indeed.
This is one of those books that are hard to put down, especially when I enjoyed so many of Spike’s books, film appearances, and interviews, tv series, and so on. Norma Farnes was more like a personal assistant than a manager for much of their time together. She became incredibly friendly with his wives, his mother, his family, in fact everybody he knew, she knew ultimately. Eric Sykes, who wrote one of the forewords, admitted that Norma was the best person, by far, to write the intimate story of Spike Milligan, and her love/hate of the man comes over really well in the narrative.
His taste for the better things in life included eating out at the better establishments, enhanced when his love for music could be indulged in, music features much throughout the book. His mood swings could be altered with music sometimes, but woe betides anybody interfering when he was trapped in this black despondency. He would lock himself away for days, lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, sometimes without eating.
A truly excellent comedian, zany and full of mischief, but a heart-warming glimpse of the man, and what made him tick is deftly explained in what I consider to be the best book on Spike Milligan anyone could read.
Reg Seward 5/3
Spike: An Intimate Memoir by Norma Farnes
Fourth Estate 9781841157863 hbk Oct 2003
Reading Group Guide: A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré
Gill Chedgey’s Ten Books and Why I Acquired Them
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