R D Wingfield, author of the popular series of novels featuring the shambolic Inspector Frost has died aged seventy nine following a long battle with cancer.
I read the first of his splendid Frost novels, A Touch of Frost (1984) in the mid 1990’s when the television series of the same name was already a massive hit in the UK and worldwide.
As is so often the case the book was far better than the version that made it to the small screen, Wingfield’s Frost was a far more complex character than the rather ‘twinkly’ portrayal given by David Jason, about which it is claimed the author was none too pleased.
He could have comforted himself with the knowledge that he was responsible for giving the genre a character who will endure alongside other fictional sleuths such as Phillip Marlow and Sherlock Holmes who have not always been well served by their screen representations.
Wingfield’s novels are firmly rooted in a Britain far removed from the thatched roofs and winding lanes favoured by tourist brochures and the producers of television programmes designed to fit neatly into the cosy post nine o’clock slot on a Sunday evening. They had more in common with the gritty British B movies of the fifties and sixties in which authority figures were more often than not officious buffoons and the hero was a rebel working just inside the system.
In most cases it is a trite line to say they don’t make actors, writers or any other kind of performer like a particular legend who has passed on anymore, but in the case of R D Wingfield such a line is transformed into a shining truth. They never did make many writers like R D Wingfield, and that is why his handful of superior Police procedurals will continue to be read for many years to come.