The Prisoner: A Televisionary Masterpiece
Written By: Alain Carrazé and Hélène Oswald
Translated By: Christine Donougher
Published: 1990
Page Count: 248
Availability: Try Amazon

Originally published in a French edition in 1989, Carrazé and Oswald's book is probably my favourite Prisoner book. In fact, its chic minimalist design even influenced the original look of this site. While it's not exactly sparse on detail, Carrazé's introduction tells you pretty much all you need to know - "allow his work to speak for itself"; "most importantly, a great many photographic illustrations" and "an art book of a new kind." Simply put, this isn't a Prisoner book you'll particularly want to read, but a gorgeous-looking coffee table book to show to friends. Going for £16.99, which was quite a heavy price tag all those years ago (at date of writing, 13), it was more of a luxury item than a desirable paperback.

As a result it seems churlish to pass any judgement on the written content, which is openly acknowledged as of lesser importance. There's a three-page constructed text between Carrazé and Patrick McGoohan, which Carrazé later insisted was not to be regarded as an interview in the purest sense, despite the fact that it's listed as one. This is followed by six writers giving their personal views on the series. Of varying interest and quality they are: Roland Topor, Roger Langley, Jacques Sternberg, Isaac Asimov (taken from a 1968 magazine), Christian Durante and Francois Rivière. Next come 170 pages on the episodes themselves. While the write-ups are rudimentary, they do make nice use of text extracts. Summaries to each are often not really subjective reviews (though Do Not Forsake... gets the sole negative comment) but more a summing up of the general themes invoked in each particular story. Some of these are fun in their colourful descriptions, giving us Many Happy Returns as a "nightmarish Möbius strip", while (incorrectly named) A, B & C has him "safeguarding his integrity, and possibly his soul." To conclude the book are 37 pages on "Behind and Beyond The Prisoner", which includes four pages on Danger Man (written by Jacques Baudou), 20 on the series itself, 2 on Patrick McGoohan, 3 on the Village, 2 on the Number Twos, one on the press conference and a rather fatuous page on "Three Great Characters". As well as the obligatory programme and illustration credits (though no index!) there's three pages on Six of One by the French Co-Ordinator Jean-Michel Philibert. Perhaps diappointingly, other books, including the novels, are given mere lip service, though as stated before this isn't a book created for reading matter.

Carrazé spoke with regret that all of the illustrations used in the more expensive French version could not be used here, and that twenty of the images were inferior black and white shots from Six Of One. There are 201 colour photos in the book (twenty of which are full-page), which are generally superior to the black and white images. Of the black and white images, then there are 112, with pages 55, 60, 72, 76 and 160 containing the worst. Actually, none of them should effect your enjoyment (mind you, 76 and 160 are stinkers) and six of them do actually cover the legendary press conference. For completeness' sake, there's also three illustrations, and two of the black and white prints are a full-page reproduction. Yet it's not really the photographs themselves that make the book, but the way they're laid out. This isn't some hastily-assembled money-maker crammed full, but a carefully prepared collectible piece that looks great.

As an intriguing aside to this book, a handbag debate was sparked off between co-author Carrazé and reviewer Howard Foy in Six Of One's 1991 magazine Number Six. Issue 26 (Winter) had Foy's somewhat anal write-up, while the following issue had a five-page (largely justified, to be fair) teddy throw from Carrazé. Foy replied in the same issue, immodestly claiming that "it is difficult to see how a project of this magnitude could have been seriously attempted without Six Of One's participation." The next thing you know, they're brawling around like a couple o' gypsies!

Want a Prisoner book for a good read? Get something else. Want a Prisoner book to look at, and take its place on your bookshelf? Get this.