Nigel Balchin - Small Back Room Boy 20080424 BBC R4.mp3
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Nigel Balchin: the Small Back-Room Boy 24-04-2008
Nigel Balchin was a popular novelist, psychologist, scientist, Hollywood screenwriter and the inventor of the brand name for KitKat, and of the concept of bubbles in a chocolate bar. DBC Pierre looks back at his remarkable life.
Producer Bob Dickinson
From the Radio Times
Sweet taste, sour words
A re-evaluation of the career of the writer and scientist we should all know, but don't Nigel Balchin: the Small Back-Room Boy
He might not be a household name but without the inventive talents of Nigel Balchin we'd never have had the bubble-filled chocolate experience that is an Aero bar. Balchin got a first from Cambridge in natural sciences, trained as an industrial scientist and, in the 1930s, was posted to Rowntree's chocolate factory in York to help them compete on a more successful basis with their rivals, Cadbury.
He junked their twee packaging -all fluffy animals and ladies in summer gardens -and replaced it with modernist, Bauhaus-type designs, the most famous of which was his picture-free, stark monochrome box for Black Magic. Oh, and he invented the brand name for KitKat while he was up there as well.
But this sweet start to a career was to turn sour over the years, as is revealed in this compelling biography by the author and Balchin fan, DBC Pierre. The scientist became a civil servant, which he hated, and ended up as a novelist, most famous for writing titles during the Second World War about the conflict, in which his "heroes" were angry, drunken, psychologically damaged and even disabled - most unusual for fiction at this time. Was the bitterness in his books from his imagination or from his personal experience? Pierre, and the experts he interviews, believe it to be a combination of both.
Novels such as The Small Back Room (which coined the terms "boffin" and "back-room boy") and Mine Own Executioner were turned into successful films, and Balchin's talents were soon noticed by Hollywood. He moved over there in 1955 and worked on an early draft of the screenplay for Cleopatra, but never felt that he'd written the work that he wanted to. It is with some irony, as well as respect, that DBC Pierre points out that Balchin is now remembered as much for his chocolate as his literary treats.
Type : mpeg 1 layer III
Bitrate : 192
Mode : stereo
Frequency : 48000 Hz
Length : 00:27:42
Encoder : Lame 3.97
Source : Freeview