Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker is the lead character in a series of novels set in Maine, by the wonderful and inventive author John Connolly. Parker is a private detective touched by darkness following the murders of his wife and young daughter. Their spirits call him as he hunts down their killer and he plunges deeper into a terrifying world. Is he insane or was his family really killed by demons? (I will not spoiler for any of the later novels)
The book series does not have a tying title, simply a running theme of hunting down and destroying very bad things, whom or what they are. Through the novels, I will admit I am two books behind at the moment (too many things and not enough time) the reader watches Charlie begin to accept the darkness in his world, and begin to welcome in his own darkness in the shape of Louis and Angel (who will be spoken about later), the mafia and all manner of ‘people’ along the way, often at the cost of his own happiness. If you want books that make you care about characters who should in no way be sympathetic, make you laugh and cry, make you think and make your skin crawl, take the journey with Charlie Parker.
I’m sticking with TV and the 90s for today’s post and opting for Campbell Bain.
Campbell – played by a 22 year old David Tennant – is from ‘Takin’ Over the Asylum’, a BBC Scotland drama series set about a hospital radio in a Glasgow psychiatric hospital.
When aspiring DJ, Eddie McKenna (Ken Stott) first arrives at St Jude’s Hospital to resurrect their radio station, he meets Campbell who he initially takes to be one of the staff. He soon learns that the nineteen year old is actually a patient but thought he was ‘normal’. Campbell suffers from bipolar disorder (known as manic depression then) and mostly we see the manic enthusiasm to begin with, especially when he eagerly volunteers to help Eddie with the radio station. He is shown to actually have skill as a broadcaster and he and Eddie develop a close friendship. Experiencing a role-reversal at one point where Campbell is the one whose future prospects are rising.
As the series goes on, we do see the other side of Campbell and he falls into depression after the suicide of a fellow patient and friend and then after a visit from his father, who just wants a ‘normal son’, which seems to cause a ‘relapse’. This leads to a memorable manic scene where Campbell locks himself in the station and says all manner of things (including what would end up being the series’ catchphrase ‘We are Loonies and we are proud”) until the staff break in and sedate him. Eddie finds later that Campbell is genuinely happy that his release has been cancelled and he realises that the young man did it on purpose so he could stay.
In his portrayal of Campbell you can already see the flashes and mannerisms that would later resurface as part of Tennant’s Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’.
‘Takin’ Over the Asylum’ is a wonderful series and treats those with mental health problems with respect and sympathy, and above all else, as normal people. The series was filmed in a genuine mental institution and employed some ex-patients as extras. It also featured a cameo from the late comedian Spike Milligan, himself a sufferer from severe depression.
Not to mention, it has some great music.