Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Curious Tale of Percy F. Westerman's Ripping Yarns

I have always been a follower of the Monty Python's Flying Circus series, and as with many other people of my generation, I can rattle off, verbatim, most of the classic sketch scripts when required... any excuse really.

Casting my mind back to Christmas 1971, among my presents, I received a copy of The Monty Python's Big Red Book (Methuen Press). It featured a spoof story titled 'Journey into Earl's Court' - A Raw Tale Of Bed-sitter Land by the Author of "Percy F. Westerman". What followed can only be described as pure Python. If you really want to read it, then follow this link.

The link between Percy Westerman and the Python team appeared again, when the brilliant series 'Ripping Yarns' written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones came to the small screen. Was the inspiration for these wonderfully funny stories in anyway linked to the writer Percy F.Westerman? The booklet placed inside the DVD of Ripping Yarns explains that the idea for the first episode was prompted by a book called ‘Ripping Tales’. However, try as a might, I have been unable to trace a copy of this title, but would fascinated to know if anyone has a copy of this title that might be 'the book'.

Over the last few years there have been a number of debates with some very wise and knowledgeable people about this somewhat flimsy link, and we have discussed the connection at length, but there has not been a definite answer to the question...... until now.

The only way to settle this question was to ask the writer of Ripping Yarns, Mr Michael Palin, and here is the reply.
Thanks for your letter.

I'm afraid that as so often in Python the choice of name is completely arbitary! Percy F. Westerman was a name we were all brought up with, but his inclusion in the book was not meant to signify anything in particular. Nor was he in our minds when we started to write Ripping Yarns.

All best wishes

Michael Palin

So, there you have it. There was never a conscious decision to base any of the Ripping Yarns stories on anything by Percy F. Westerman. Still, some of the Westerman text does sound screen ready for the next series of Ripping Yarns, doesn't it?

The letter from Michael Palin appears with his kind permission.