George Orwell is said to have kicked off the arena of pop culture analysis when he published his essay “The Art of Donald McGill” in 1941. Donald McGill was a graphic artist who excelled at a certain type of vulgar postcard with a saucy punchline that could be purchased at seaside resorts in England in the first decades of the twentieth century. Orwell, who had been a middle-class scholarship case at upper-crusty Eton, was fascinated by the peculiar and repressed relationship to sex that the postcards tended to reveal among the English masses who adored the cards.
Kate Fox, author of the 2004 book Watching the English, noted that in her hundreds of interviews of British citizens for the book, there was only one subject that made them truly uneasy, across the board. “Trying to interview people about sex” was difficult, she said. “The English simply cannot talk about it without making a joke of it. It seems to be a knee-jerk reaction.”
All of which brings us to the impressive novelistic oeuvre of Christopher Wood, a name that will likely not ring any bells. Wood as a British advertising executive who became a one-person publishing sensation in the 1970s when he pitched the idea of writing erotic comic novels to Sphere, a publisher of paperbacks. The first one was called Confessions of a Window Cleaner, and it set the template for many more, such as Confessions of a Milkman, Confessions of an Ice Cream Man, and Confessions of a Long-Distance Lorry Driver. He used the pen name “Timothy Lea.”
In 1973 Wood/Lea told Penthouse that each book took him about five weeks to complete. Using the Lea pseudonym, Wood wrote 19 books in the Confessions series. He also invented a female alter ago named “Rosie Dixon,” whose best-known book was Confessions of a Night Nurse.
1974 saw the start of the movie versions of some of the Confessions books, starring Robin Askwith. Confessions of a Window Cleaner was the first one, and it was followed by Confessions of a Pop Performer, Confessions of a Driving Instructor, and Confessions of a Summer Camp Councillor. In 1978 Rosie Dixon: Night Nurse came out, starring Debbie Ash in the title role. To say these movies were popular is putting it mildly: according to the Independent, Confessions of a Window Cleaner had the most profitable box office of any movie in the U.K. for 1974.
The prolific Wood also published novelizations of James Bond movies (many of which, obviously, started out as Ian Fleming novels). He co-wrote the script for The Spy Who Loved Me and wrote the screenplay for Moonraker.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
When nature attacks! Pulp horror covers from the 1970s & ‘80s