Alan Ford’s (Brick Top – Snatch) Novel -Thin Ice – Reviewed.

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Thin Ice is a novel by British character actor Alan Ford (23rd February 1938, London). Known to many as Brick Top from Guy Ritchie’s iconic crime caper film Snatch (2000),

which featured a sterling cast, Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Farina, Benicio Del Toro, Mike Reid and a few more. Snatch, like Ritchie’s debut feature film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) in which Ford was the narrator, was a phenomenal success across both sides of the Atlantic. Heightening Ritchie’s status as a director, as well as kick-starting the career of Jason Statham, who has gone on to become a huge box office star. On a personal note, Snatch was the film debut for my good friend, Andy Beckwith.

Nonetheless, Snatch was far from Ford’s debut, as his actual film debut was in 1977’s The Squeeze starring Stacy Keach and Edward Fox. Furthermore, Ford has been a working actor since 1973, whose first TV appearance was in the legendary TV police drama Softly, Softly: Task Force. Since that decade Ford has frequently graced the silver or TV screen, from GF Newman’s Law & Order to Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge. Portraying a villain in the guise of a successful entrepreneur, Terry Norton, which produced a classic comedy sketch, with Norton asking if Partridge (Steve Coogan) would like to ‘get involved’ in the underworld. Still to this day that sketch still has me in fits as when I first saw it on the BBC. Therefore, when I went to the cinema and I saw Ford in Snatch, like many others, I recognised the face as I had seen him on TV on numerous occasions but still didn’t know his name.

Snatch was certainly Ford’s turning point, and at the start of a new millennium, Ford has consistent employment, higher pay cheques and celebrity status. Yet prior to 2000, like so many other actors, Ford was living hand to mouth, yes Ford may have appeared in one episode of Bergerac or ITV’s Bust with Paul Nicholas in the late eighties, but it wasn’t regular, and with Ford turning 50 in February 1988 he used his experience and those of other actors to pen Thin Ice, published in February 2006, by Weidenfeld & Nicolson part of the Orion Publishing Group.

Thin Ice is a story about jobbing actor Shadwell resident, Charles Harwood, which opens with Harwood dreaming of Hollywood success, only to be woken by the child of the woman he had slept with the night before, a teacher from Hampstead. Both knowing it was a one night stand, Harwood departs in his battered Moron Ford car from north to east London, for an audition he has in the afternoon with a casting agent for an advert, not the role Harwood craves or has trained for, but the job will give him enough money to cover a month or so’s worth of bills. In between acting work, Harwood signs on, as he refuses to do bar work, drive a taxi, telesales or such like favouring the bi-weekly giro over a low pay packet.

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Thin Ice is set over 24 hours on the eve of Harwood’s 50th Birthday. A day that is full of mishaps and success, from crashing his car in Kings Cross, squaring up to local Yardie wannabe’s, avoiding an ex-lover who is stalking him, an eventful audition, drinking and taking drugs, and ending the day at the premiere of a new comedy play in London’s West End, where Harwood’s only interest is the leading lady, not the production.

As Harwood reflects upon his half-century on this earth, he encounters fellow thespians, some are doing well, whilst some are homeless or suffering from poor health. He pities those that are less fortunate than himself, admires the successful ones, apart from Mark Stainton, a middle-class actor from the suburbs who is now a household name due to the success of a TV drama Home Town. A series about a wheeler-dealer Londoner moving to the country, a part that Harwood was shortlisted for, and a part he believed should have been his, not a bourgeois actor who lacks life experience, and as the day goes on the jealousy increases as they meet by accident at the premiere.

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Even though there is resentment, Ford adds humour to the situation, which doesn’t turn into a comedy but amusing nonetheless. Furthermore, Thin Ice is a book about life, from failed dreams to seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. Even though Harwood is poor, he is rich in life, and his know- how keeps him from going under.

Ford writes at a fast pulp fiction pace that is brutal and authentic. He captures the emotion and the moment in a skilful manner that will remind you of bad and good experiences, regardless of whether you have been an actor or not, as the key character, Harwood, is an everyman. He is not a fool but he is no hero either, he is clever but at times he doesn’t apply himself, which again we can all relate to Harwood, as when success seems to slip, you try your best not to be cynical.

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An Actor on The Up - Alan Ford as Clifford Harding in G.F. Newman's Law & Order -1978

Other factors I enjoyed in Thin Ice is that even though Harwood at times hasn’t got ‘two pennies to rub together’, he is always impeccably dressed, be it a hand-me-down or a second-hand suit, Harwood always makes sure he looks good. Harwood is a fictional example of the quote by The Who’s first manager, Pete Meaden, ‘Clean living under difficult circumstances.’ There again Alan Ford is always immaculately dressed, which makes me think this book is certainly semi-autobiographical. Furthermore, Ford’s description of London is detailed to the degree that you can visualise the congested roads of Kings Cross or the quaintness of Soho, which demonstrates that Ford is a talented writer.

I am surprised to see that Thin Ice is 13 years old, has not received great critical acclaim, and Ford has not written another novel. Thin Ice, as well as being an intelligent, witty and thought-provoking novel, would make a great radio play, stage play, TV series or even a film. In addition, that still might happen so in the meantime, grab yourself a copy…..Here 


Read 1019 times Last modified on Friday, 01 November 2019 17:38
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