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About the book
Tom’s autobiography was first published in 1997 and ranges from his childhood, through his 7 years as Doctor Who to the engraving of his gravestone! Born in 1934, Tom grew up in an Irish Catholic neighbourhood in wartime Liverpool and his stories about his large family, his difficulties at school, his love of collecting war salvage, and his fascination with the church are entertaining, hilarious and poignant in equal measure.
The book describes Tom’s teenage years in a silent French religious order attempting to live up to the ideals of poverty, chastity and obedience. Eventually realising the religious life was not for him, Tom went straight from the monastery into National Service where he baffled and amused officers and fellow soldiers alike by his wit and individuality, leading to many comic situations.
While taking part in amateur dramatics in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Tom’s acting talent emerged, so after demob, he applied to Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance. After years of joblessness or small parts in repertory theatres around Britain, Tom was in a revue at the York Festival in 1968 when a National Theatre talent scout spotted him and he went on to work with Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright, Anthony Hopkins and Derek Jacobi amongst many others.
Tom’s first major film role was as Rasputin in ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’ which made him think he was on the road to Hollywood stardom, only to find himself broke and jobless again in London afterwards. He was actually working on a building site when Bill Slater, Head of Series and Serials at the BBC, proposed him as the new Doctor Who to take over from Jon Pertwee. Tom shares the exhilaration of his regeneration from hod carrier to Time Lord, from out-of-work actor to one hugely in demand.
Tom describes the end of his seven-year stint as Doctor Who when he returned to the stage in plays such as ‘Hedda Gabler’, ‘Educating Rita’ and ‘She Stoops to Conquer’. Tom’s autobiography closes with his move to a converted school house in Kent in 1986 where he mowed the lawns of the graveyard next door and one day decided to buy a gravestone and have his name and birthday engraved on it: an example of Tom’s anarchic humour, which throughout the book hovers between thoughtful reality and comedy of the absurd.