The original Randall & Hopkirk had even less merchandise associated with it than the updated version, so it's nice to see that one of the few books specially written about isn't just a cheap cash-in like so many books tied in to a series.
It perhaps doesn't go into as much depth as you'd like, but is still a step above what you may expect. A case in point is the behind the scenes and origins information relating to the series. With records scarce, and the series being placed into differing orders both on regional transmissions and its first video release, no one's really quite sure what order the shows should have gone out in. The book, like this site, and most of the other episode guides in print, uses the London broadcast order for its listings, but an indication of what order the episodes were actually filmed in would have been nice. There are small tit-bits of information, like Dennis Spooner's original idea for Marty to be unseen by everybody, and his outfit to be pale green. Jeff's original character name was "Steve", though Tibballs's character summary oversees Jeff as "it was not be improbable to be seen with a girl on each arm." He then goes on to elaborate with "Sadly, it often looks as though one has also recently sat on his face." Come on, Geoff, it was a family show!
Beyond acknowledgements, an introduction by the author, an introduction by Ken Cope and the origins and behind the scenes we have the obligatory biographies of the three principles and Dennis Spooner, punctuated by snatches of interview material. They're an okay read, though you do question how much artistic license went into the "true life" anecdotes of Ken and Annette. Some interesting points of trivia come up, like Ken suggesting that we should see Marty in Limbo (an idea realised in the updated 2000 version), and I was gutted to see that what I thought was an "exclusive" observation - "The Saint Is Bent" in A Sentimental Journey - was picked up upon and mentioned in this book. Completing the work is a fairly detailed episode guide and a plug for the appreciation society.
Tibballs's writing is nearly always pleasant reading outside of his wordy intro, but his photo captions range from the banal ("Filming the fight scene from 'The Smile Behind the Veil'"), the groan-inducing ("Marty discovers that exorcise isn't always good for you") and the slightly rude ("Marty makes sure that the only thing Jeannie takes down is shorthand"/"Fancy waking up next to thatů") Of course, anyone who's ever let their mouse hover over one of the screen captures on this site will know that such an observation is hypocrisy of the highest order. The photos are pleasantly laid out, if not exceptional, and I do like the way characters bodies often step outside the frame. Eight of them are also behind the scenes shots, including one of Ken making Annette laugh, which is a nice bonus.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in this PC world we now live in is finding a book published (just a decade ago at date of writing) to contain some disconcertingly questionable remarks. Although Ken describing Mike's love of India might account for the joke featured in That's How Murder Snowballs, we still get Ken, recalling when in drag: "one day this big coloured guy was in there. Then I came in and hitched up my skirt - he must have thought he'd got lucky!" Okay, Ken's a man of a bygone age, but this still doesn't quite explain while the author has it that with Mike Pratt playing "half-Negro" in a play "The make-up department must have been working overtime that night" or why The Saint being a homosexual should be "blasphemous".
But away from such sticky points and some questionable attempts at humour in his prose, this is generally a decent book, and worth getting. Part of me hopes that some day someone will release a really detailed look at the show, and with input from more than the creator and the people who starred in it. While directors and writers are questioned and briefly quoted in this work, it would be nice, at least, to know the exact order the things were filmed. But for now, this is more than worthwhile.