Anthony Read

Anthony "Tony" Read (21 April 1935 – 21 November 2015) was a British script editor, television writer and author. He was principally active in British television from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, although he occasionally contributed to televised productions until 1999. Beginning in the 1980s, he launched a second career as a print author, concentrating largely on World War II histories. Since 2004 he regularly wrote prose fiction, mainly in the form of a revival of his television series The Baker Street Boys (1983).[1]

Anthony Read
Born(1935-04-21)21 April 1935
Cheslyn Hay, England
Died21 November 2015(2015-11-21) (aged 80)
OccupationAuthor, screenwriter, script editor, and television producer.
GenreComedy, drama, adventure, science fiction

Early life

Read was born in the small mining community of Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire.[2] He originally set out to become an actor, due to his education at Queen Mary’s grammar school in Walsall, known for its strong theatrical tradition, and then at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.[2] General mobilization interrupted his studies and he founded a theatre company called Theatre Unlimited.[3] However, with his acting career lasting only for a short time, he first became an advertising copywriter, then joined the National Service as a gunner with the Royal Artillery, and later worked as editor at Jonathan Cape. He finally joined the BBC in 1963.[3]


Television professional


His earliest work was as a freelance writer for Z-Cars in 1962. He started working at the BBC on 2 November 1963.[4] He soon graduated to writer/script editor of several other adventure-mystery series, like the anthological Detective, The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling and the version of Sherlock Holmes (1965) with Douglas Wilmer in the lead. The balance of the decade was spent on the drama, The Troubleshooters. A series about the petroleum industry, Troubleshooters provided Read with the steadiest work of his career. He was the series' original script editor in 1965, and ended his run as producer of the 1969 season.


When he departed The Troubleshooters, Read kept his producer's hat on for a few years, before returning to his more traditional roles of script editing and writing. The Lotus Eaters and The Dragon's Opponent extended his run as a producer of contemporary dramas. It also continued a few key professional relationships he had enjoyed since the mid-1960s. On The Lotus Eaters, Read was reunited with director Douglas Camfield and writer David Fisher.

By 1978, Read had been brought into Doctor Who as script editor by the new producer Graham Williams. Read replaced Robert Holmes in mid-season; Holmes had stayed on after the end of the 14th season at Williams' request. In the 16th season Read oversaw the "Key to Time" story arc (taking over part of the producer's duties when Williams fell ill), and shaped the character of the first Romana played by Mary Tamm. A key ally in his days on Doctor Who was again David Fisher. Fisher wrote two of the "Key to Time" stories, and then wrote (or co-wrote) three more stories in the next year.

Read was also instrumental in commissioning Douglas Adams as a Doctor Who writer, and for advocating the Hitchhiker's Guide author should be appointed as his replacement as script editor. His final contribution to Doctor Who was as scriptwriter for The Horns of Nimon. Given the cancellation of Shada, he was thus the final writer of the Graham Williams era on the programme.

Immediately following his stint on Doctor Who in 1979, he contributed the scripts for the episodes Powers of Darkness and Out of Body, Out of Mind to the paranormal thriller series The Omega Factor.

He also contributed to The Horns of Nimon that same year, a story based on the myth of the Minotaur.[2]


Together with Don Houghton, he co-wrote the fifth Sapphire & Steel television story, known informally as Dr McDee Must Die.[5] In 1984 Read adapted the John Wyndham novel, Chocky, for Children's ITV. Its success led to two original sequels: Chocky's Children and Chocky's Challenge. In an interview for the DVD release of Chocky, Read revealed that the Wyndham estate considered his adaptation of Chocky to be the best adaptation ever produced from Wyndham's novels.[6]

Read's biggest critical success of the 1980s, however, was The Baker Street Boys (1983). The series' unique approach to the world of Sherlock Holmes gained Read an award from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.


During the 1980s, Read gradually began to replace his television work with a burgeoning career in print.

In his second career as an author he continued his relationship with David Fisher into the world of non-fiction writing. While the majority of Read's books were solo works, he and Fisher collaborated a number of times, almost always to explore some aspect of World War II. Together they wrote The Fall of Berlin (1992),[7] The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin and the Nazi-Soviet Pact, 1939–1941 (1988), The Proudest Day: India's Long Road to Independence, (1997)[8] Operation Lucy: The Most Secret Spy Ring of the Second World War (1980), Berlin Rising: Biography of a City (1994), Colonel Z: The Secret Life of a Master of Spies (1984), and Kristallnacht: The Nazi Night of Terror. He also wrote "Conspirator: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Tyler Kent, Spy" with Ray Bearse. On his own he wrote "The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle" (2003) and "The World On Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism (2008) ". Read's solo non-fiction works followed a similar interest in World War II, but he occasionally wrote prose fiction. He was the main writer of a series of novels about The Baker Street Boys, a television show for which he wrote in the early 1980s.

Writing credits

Production Notes Broadcaster
  • "The Man Who Murdered in Public" (1964)
The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling
  • "On the City Wall" (1964)
  • "Private Learoyd's Story" (1964)
  • "Beyond the Pale" (1964)
Sherlock Holmes
  • "The Copper Beeches" (script editor, 1965)
  • "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (script editor, 1965)
  • "The Beryl Coronet" (script editor, 1965)
  • "Charles Augustus Milverton" (script editor, 1965)
  • "The Retired Colourman" (script editor, 1965)
This Man Craig
  • "The Tinks" (1967)
The Troubleshooters
  • 6 episodes (1966–1970)
Play for Today BBC1
Marked Personal
  • 4 episodes (1974)
Sutherland's Law
  • "The Partnership" (1974)
The Black Arrow
  • 7 episodes (1974–1975)
Crown Court
  • "The Personator" (1975)
  • "The Also Ran" (1975)
BBC2 Playhouse
  • "Diane" (credited as "David Agnew", 1975)
  • "Night of the Father" (1975)
Centre Play
  • "Kipper" (1977)
  • "Say Goodbye to the Horses" (1976)
  • "Nightwatch" (1976)
  • "Rage" (1977)
  • "Error of Judgement" (1977)
  • "Skeletons" (1977)
The Professionals
  • "Private Madness, Public Danger" (1977)
  • "Long Shot" (1978)
  • "Hunter/Hunted" (1978)
  • "Fugitive" (1980)
The Standard
  • "Golden Boy" (1978)
  • "New Standards" (1978)
The Omega Factor
  • "Powers of Darkness" (1979)
  • "Out of Body, Out of Mind" (1979)
Doctor Who BBC1
Hammer House of Horror
  • writer: "Witching Time" (1980)
  • script-editor: all 13 parts[1]
Into the Labyrinth
  • "Robin" (1981)
  • "Minotaur" (1981)
Sapphire & Steel
  • Story Five (1981)
The Baker Street Boys
  • "The Adventure of the Disappearing Dispatch Case" (1983)
  • "The Case of the Captive Clairvoyant" (1983)
  • 6 episodes (1984)
One by One
  • 13 episodes (1984–1985)
Chocky's Children
  • 6 episodes (1985)
Chocky's Challenge
  • 4 episodes (1986)
The Chief
  • "Episode #5.3" (1995)
The Adventures of Swiss Family Robinson
  • "Princess from the Sea" (1998)
  • "The Treasure Hunt" (1998)
Pax TV
  • "Baby Love" (1998)
A Twist in the Tale
  • "The Magician" (1999)
The Tribe
  • Season 1 - Season 4 (1999 - 2002)
Channel 5
  • "False Witness (2002)
  • "The Good Samaritan (2003)

Writers’ Guild

Read was an active member of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, serving as chair between 1981 and 1982. He drew up an industry-wide code of practice on behalf of the young writers he was committed to nurturing, never taking pay or expenses for his work on the guild’s behalf. He was also a director of the associated Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. He co-wrote a submission from the Writers’ Guild and the Directors and Producers Association to the Annan committee on the future of broadcasting that was subsequently used as part of the charter agreement for establishing Channel 4.[1]


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