1952 – 1998
My cousin and co-conspirator on Hammer Graveyard, Phil, lost his long battle with cancer on Saturday 21st November 1998. He was 46.
After achieving his ambition of seeing his “Hammier Horror” books published, he devoted much of the last year to “The Hammer Graveyard”. His vast knowledge of, and enthusiasm for Hammer Films, together with his extraordinary writing ability is reflected in the quality of the content on the site.
The Hammer Graveyard continues in memory of Phil.
Keep Plugging Away
Keen to support local writers (and no doubt seize the opportunity to promote his books) Phil, unable to attend because of illness, wrote this piece for inclusion June 1998 newsletter of the Croydon and District Writers’ Circle.
Phillip J Alexander, comedy writer and author of A Hammier Horror Double Bill and Hammier Horror 2 – The Curse of the Zombies offers Circle members the benefits of a lifetime’s experience.
‘Remember, Phil, your story should be original and have a beginning, middle and end.’ These words were said to me in 1970 when, as an aspiring 17 year-old writer at Shepperton Studios, my first screenplay was handed back to me by producer Milton Subotsky. It was clear that he was not about to pay me a fortune for it and in retrospect I don’t blame him, it was terrible! At the time, though, I must admit to feeling disappointed, especially as Mr Subotsky (who brought Doctor Who to the big screen) was not renowned for his own originality and in one exceptional example, The Skull made a film with a beginning, middle and end which you can watch in any order and still be none the wiser
However, undaunted, I wrote another script, as bad (if not worse than the first) which I showed to John Dark, who said I should be patient, keep plugging away and eventually I would get there. (John Dark, for those not familiar with the name, ended up as co-executive producer of the doomed soap El Dorado, but was then a respected producer with titles such as Jason and the Argonauts and Casino Royale to his credit.)
Had I known I’d have to wait 25 years to be published I might have given up there and then, but I doubt it. The point is I’ve always enjoyed writing and hope to do so for a while yet, despite the little setbacks on the way. We all know deep down we can’t please all the people all the time, so we really shouldn’t let any individual’s opinion carry too much weight, no matter who they are.
I do not presume to offer advice on achieving writing success. Everyone should tailor their style and efforts according to their circumstances. For instance, it suits me to write comedy, as I am someone who doesn’t take things too seriously. I would dearly like to write a tragic ghost story the outline of which I have in my head, but having written the first few pages I am having problems stopping myself seeing the funny side of it! I suspect I will never finish it because I am trying to do something out of character.
So there you have it. Keep patiently plugging away, enjoy your work and don’t let others deter you, those are my pearls of wisdom. To all of you with work published, congratulations, and to those still trying, you could do worse than contact Tom Deegan at New Millennium, 292, Kennington Road, SE11 4LD, telephone 0171-582 1477, who I’m sure will help you if he can.
Finally, I’m sorry that illness prevents me from coming to your meetings just now, but I hope to be able to soon.
Phil was quite a celebrity in his home town, the London Suburb of Croydon. Here’s how the local newspaper, the “Croydon Advertiser”, reported his death in their issue dated 27th November 1998.
Phillip Alexander, who created the character of Professor Winkel, has lost his fight with cancer
by Ian Quinn Deputy News Editor
The man who brought the world Professor Winkel and thousands of horror fans, including Countess Dracula, flocking to his web site, has died after seeing his schoolboy dream come true. Phillip Alexander was just 46 when he lost his long-running battle against cancer of the throat on Saturday.
But the drink-loving author, who lived in St Augustine’s Avenue, South Croydon, would surely not want people to be weeping into their beer. He was once asked what he would chose as his own epitaph and he replied:”Mine’s a large brandy” – Which, by all accounts, just about sums up his attitude to life, which took him all the way from John Ruskin School to a top banking job abroad and to the dole queue, before finally finding his niche as the creator of horror books, hammier than Hammer itself.
After publishing his first book, entitled A Hammier Horror Double Bill, the author, who had spent many years unemployed and was already fighting against the cancer which would eventually claim his life, was asked what his biggest regret was. He replied: “You shouldn’t regret anything, it’s too depressing. Just look forward.” Which, despite his illness, is exactly what he did.
The book, which introduced his self-styled super sleuth of the supernatural Professor Winkel, and which he described as a “zany comedy-chiller”, was published in 1997.
It was followed by a sequel, Hammier Horror 2, The Curse of the Zombies, this time with Winkel the only hope of a family surviving what Mr Alexander called “a ghastly orgy of ungodly terror and blood-soaked carnage.”
While not exactly storming to the top of the book charts, the works did find a niche with horror fans and to have his work published, by New Millennium, found their author happier than ever.
A fluent speaker in many languages, he earlier quit the top job in banking because it was not the life he wanted. He was, according to his friends and family, happier holding court in the pub or hosting one of his legendary birthday bashes.
Having his work published was the realisation of a dream which he had since his schooldays, when he used to make Hammer-style films with his classmates using an old cine-camera. His first job after leaving John Ruskin School was as a production runner at Shepperton Film Studios and he dreamed of returning to the film industry. Sadly, he never made it but it was his love of film and particularly the cult Hammer Horror classics that saw him take part in a final, typically whacky venture, which this time brought him world-wide acclaim.
In the past year, along with his cousin, Mr Alexander had been busy building up a web site on the Internet featuring Professor Winkel and also reviews of dozens of the Hammer films. He had just two films to go before completing reviews of all Hammer’s productions and wrote his last review just days before his death. The web site proved to be a hit with Hammer’s huge following of fans around the globe and among those who paid tribute to it was none other than Ingrid Pitt, Countess Dracula herself.
Mr Alexander’s funeral will be held at Croydon Crematorium today (Friday). He leaves a mother, two sisters and many fans in mourning.