Author: Craig Stevens
Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc
Formats available: Paperback
Release date: 26th March 2018
Among the top grossing Hollywood blockbusters of all time, Star Wars launched one of the most successful movie and licensing franchises in history. Yet much of the film’s backstory was set in Britain, where the original trilogy was made and where early efforts at tie-in merchandising were spearheaded. The author provides a detailed account of the saga’s British connection, including personal recollection of fans in the UK, exclusive interviews with staff members of Palitoy who took the challenge of producing millions of toys, and the story of how a group of writers from the underground press in London combined with Marvel comics to produce the first Star Wars expanded Universe.
The chance to review this book came out of the blue. The author is a friend of a friend and I was approached and asked if I’d like to review his new book. In all honesty, I didn’t know anything about his project and that means I’ve come into reading the book with a very open mind as I was not sure what to expect.
The cover is not laden with pictures of toys or items from the early days, but it is a play on hyperspace and the Union Jack running through the Star Wars title logo, which is simple but effective and works well with the theme of the book.
I’m more accustomed to reading and reviewing story books rather than reference books, but this book is a hybrid of both. It is a wealth of material to refer to when asked about the early days of the original trilogy but builds on that and tells the story of the path Star Wars in Britain took from the day of its release, it’s influences on our culture.
I have had the pleasure of speaking to many authors and a word that comes up regular while discussing writing any book is research. With the early days of Star Wars in the UK I know from my own experience that there was a huge amount of promotional material that was around, but alas has not survived. It’s obvious from the outset that research was a key mantra throughout its creation. I am unsure how Stevens has managed to source some of the items he has used, but the depth of his own knowledge and what he has gleaned from others within the Star Wars industry and fellow collectors in the UK is phenomenal. To trace former workers of Palitoy and get their insider knowledge is a wonderful way to give an extra dimension into the times before social media and the internet.
It would have been nice to have seen a few more pictures and a bit more colour within the pages. In saying that, I know that Stevens has self-funded much of this costly project and this may have made the book unproducible and this book would never have existed.
In summary, if you want to know the history of how Britain influenced a galaxy far, far away look no further. The first words that came to mind when I was reading through the book were “This is a labour of love” and I sit here now, and those words still resonate through my mind. I was lucky enough to have lived through this period and was bitten by the Star Wars bug like so many others. It took me on a trip down memory lane, reinforced memories, corrected some memories, helped me remember things I thought I’d forgotten, but also taught me so much that I didn’t know at all.
Well done to Craig on persevering with this project and producing such an in depth and informative book that is worthy of any Star Wars fans bookshelf.
The Star Wars Phenomenon in Britain by Craig Stevens is published by McFarland & Co In. It retails at £34.99 and is available online from Amazon and other online retailers.