Book review: Ian McShane In Profile

Gary Wharton‘s latest book marks a slight departure from his focus on British actresses, as he places Ian McShane (born in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 1942) in focus. From his professional debut sixty years ago, McShane has been a regular and recognised presence on stage, film, and television.

Whether you remember him as a dashing young blade in 60s cinema, as lovable rogue Lovejoy from the long-running TV series, or from one of his varied stage roles, McShane has rarely made a mis-step; often confunding expectations or possible typecasting.

Wharton’s book takes a chronological approach from McShane’s enrolment at RADA through to streaming original American Gods. He covers all areas of the actor’s work, with personal commentary on those he has seen or knows well. Now and again a clear fan voice slips in, and with information collated from the public domain there are no intimate interviews with contemporaries of McShane or the man himself.

This book fulfils just what it promises: a profile of McShane’s film, theatre, and television work, with a smattering of personal life information thrown in. This is not a book which looks to dig into the dirt, but rather to celebrate one of Britain’s most enduring talents.

With illustrations from across his career, this also sets the scene on roles which cannot be pictured, and certainly whets the appetite for material not that easy to find. Your favourite may be skimmed over (I felt the 1967 Wuthering Heights for television was a little short-changed), but everything appears to be present and correct if you want a career overview.

Looking back, it seems curious that this Northern English actor did not really follow the kitchen sink drama route, but he certainly explored some interesting roles over the years – Sky West and Crooked, Tam-Lin to name but two. An interesting and perceptive actor done justice in this book.

Now and again a film synopsis could benefit from a trim or two, but if you are planning to view a title, you can always skip the description and return later. As McShane approaches his 80th birthday, this is a fine tribute which will look good on your book shelves.

Ian McShane In Profile is available from the usual booksellers now, but can also be ordered directly from the author via email.

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