Monday, 15 October 2012

How The Harrison Ford Story by Alan McKenzie came to be

I first tackled writing a book about the life and films of Harrison Ford back in the 1980s. I was still working as Editor on Starburst magazine, and we'd just run the serialised feature, "The Steven Spielberg Story" in the mag, a three parter by Starburst stalwart Tony Crawley.

For some reason, I happened to be speaking to Zomba Books  publisher Maxim Jakubowski a month or two later and he was asking me whether I had any good ideas for movie books. I thought of Tony's mammoth Spielberg piece and figured that it could be turned into a book without too much sweat by Tony, so I suggested that Maxim give Mr Crawley a call. He did, and Tony soon had a book out chronicling the life and times of the super-star director to coincide with the release of ET, also titled The Steven Spielberg Story.

But that wasn't enough with Maxim. Pretty soon he was looking for another property - some other super-star to add to his growing line of movie books. It seemed pretty easy. The other meteoric star was the charismatic actor of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark - Harrison Ford, and no one had yet released a Ford biography. The catch was, Maxim wanted me to write it. So I turned again to my friend and colleague Tony Crawley. I knew that Tony had interviewed Ford at length several times, most often at the Cannes Film Festival. I asked Tony if he'd be okay with me lifting quotes from his interviews. Tony had a better idea and generously turned over all his Harrison Ford transcripts to me. And that was what formed the backbone of the first edition of The Harrison Ford Story, published in 1984.

The following year Maxim asked me to do a revision and update the books to include Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was due for release. It seemed like a good idea, so I set to work and added a chapter on the newest Indy movie. And that edition sold well, too.

I left Starburst magazine in 1985 and began to freelance, mostly magazine articles around movies, but I also co-authored Hollywood Tricks of the Trade, writing the sections on makeup and special effects (BBC stuntman Derek Ware wrote the section on stunts). And right at the end of that three-year stint as a freelance author, I was commissioned to write How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips for US publisher Northern Light.

But other interests were pulling me away from writing about movies and just as the How to Draw book was being published, I became involved with 2000AD comic, initially as a freelance writer, writing Future Shocks and the first story in the series that was to become The Journal of Luke Kirby, "Summer Magic". By mid-1987, I had joined the 2000AD team as a freelance contributing editor - an association that was to last until the end of 1994, though my freelance status had ended at the end of 1993, when I was asked to join the staff and take up the role as editor of The Galaxy's Greatest Comic.

After leaving 2000AD, I noticed the Internet seemed to be enjoying increased popularity, and set about finding out how I could get involved. By the end of the 1990s, I was earning my living as an online editor and front-end developer and had less time than ever for writing about movies.

But I never lost my interest. And in 2009, I set up Air Pirate Press with my old 2000AD colleague Brett Ewins and we published the first book though the fledgling imprint, The Art of Brett Ewins

Casting around for something else that might make a good project for Air Pirate Press, I thought of The Harrison Ford Story. Why, with a bit of elbow grease I could bring that project up to date, covering the rest of Harrison Ford's movies from Witness (1985) right up to Cowboys & Aliens (2011).

It took me the best part of a year, but I researched all the movies Ford had made since the second edition of the book. I had a look at some of the other books that had come out in the years since 1985, but I was happy that no other author had taken a similar approach to me. And then I set to, extensively re-writing all the existing chapters and adding another seven chapters and a massively detailed filmography.

The Harrison Ford Story (third edition) was published in October 2011 by Air Pirate Press, but it took me this long to think of the idea of serialising it as a blog. If I'd been smarter, I might've done it the other way around.

Most of the text will be published here. No need for the filmography/videography chapter. That information is already available online. And if this generates any interest, maybe the next blog will be a new, unpublished Air Pirate Press project. Hope you enjoy it.

Alan McKenzie welcomes feedback on this or any of the posts in this blog.

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