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La Plante, Lynda 1943(?)-

La PLANTE, Lynda 1943(?)-

(Lynda Marchal, Lynda Titchmarsh)

PERSONAL: Born Lynda Titchmarsh, March 15, 1943 (some sources say 1946), in Liverpool, England; daughter of a sales manager; married Richard La Plante (a writer, martial artist, and rock musician), 1978 (divorced, 1996); children: one adopted son. Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Diploma in Dramatic Arts, 1962.

ADDRESSES: Home—London, England; and East Hampton, NY. Office—La Plante Productions Head Office, Paramount House, 162-170 Wardour Street, London W1F 8ZK, England; fax: 4420 7734 7878. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Television screenwriter, producer, and novelist. Actor, as Lynda Marchal, in movies and television series, including Simply Sheila, 1968; The Doctors, 1969-1971; Rentaghost, 1976-1984; Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, 1980; The Draughtsman's Contract, 1982; Fox; Minder; The Gentle Touch; and The Sweeney. Actor with National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. Owner and producer, La Plante Productions and Cougar Films.

MEMBER: British Film Institute (honorary member).

AWARDS, HONORS: British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award, 1982, for Widows; Emmy Award for outstanding mini-series, 1993, for Prime Suspect Two, 1994, for Prime Suspect Three; Liverpool Echo Arts Award for best television writer, 1997, for Trial and Retribution; Dennis Potter writer's award, BAFTA, 2001; six other BAFTA awards, Prix Italia, British Broadcasting Award, Royal Television Society Writer's Award, and Edgar Allan Poe Award, all for Prime Suspect series.

WRITINGS:

television series

Widows (also see below), Thames Television, 1983, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC), 2000.

Widows Two, Thames Television, 1985.

Unnatural Causes, 1986.

Prime Suspect, Granada Television, 1991–2003.

The Lifeboat (also see below), British Broadcasting (BBC), 1994.

She's Out (also see below), Carlton Television, 1995.

The Governor (also see below), ITV Network, 1995.

The Governor II, ITV Network, 1996.

Supply and Demand, ITV Network, 1996.

Supply and Demand II (also see below), ITV Network, 1997.

Trial and Retribution (also see below), ITV Network, 1997–2004.

Killer Net, Channel Four, 1998.

Cold Shoulder (also see below), Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), 2000.

The Commander, ITV Network, 2003–04

Also writer for Coming Home, 1981.

television films

Framed (also see below), Anglia Television, 1992, TNT Network, 2001.

Seekers (also see below), Central Television, 1992.

Civvies (also see below), British Broadcasting Company (BBC), 1992.

Seconds Out, British Broadcasting Company (BBC)/Granada Television, 1992.

Comics, Channel Four, 1994.

The Prosecutors, National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC), 1996.

Bella Mafia (also see below), 1997, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS), 1997.

Mind Games, ITV Network, 2000.

(Author of story) The Warden, TNT Network, 2001.

novels

Widows (novelization of her television series), Severn House (London, England), 1983.

Widows Two novelization of her television series), Thames Methuen (London, England), 1985.

The Talisman (novelization of her television series), Pan (London, England), 1988.

Bella Mafia (novelization of her television film), William Morrow (New York, NY), 1991.

Civvies (novelization of her television film), Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1992.

Framed (novelization of her television film), Mandarin (London, England), 1992.

Seekers (novelization of her television film), Pan (London, England), 1993.

Entwined, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.

The Lifeboat (novelization of her television series), Mandarin (London, England), 1994.

She's Out (novelization of her television series), Pan (London, England), 1995.

The Governor II (novelization of her television series), Macmillan (London, England), 1996.

Sleeping Cruelty, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.

Royal Flush, Macmillan (London, England), 2002, published as Royal Heist, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.

prime suspect series; novelization of television series

Prime Suspect, Severn House (London, England), 1991.

Prime Suspect Two, Mandarin (London, England), 1992.

Prime Suspect Three, Heineman (London, England), 1994, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1995.

cold shoulder series; novelization of television film

Cold Shoulder, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.

Cold Blood, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.

Cold Heart, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

trial and retribution series; novelization of television series

Trial and Retribution, Macmillan (London, England), 1997, G. K. Hall (Thorndike, ME), 1998.

Trial and Retribution Two, Pan (London, England), 1998.

Trial and Retribution Three, Pan (London, England), 1999.

Trial and Retribution Five, Pan (London, England), 2001.

ADAPTATIONS: La Plante's books have been recorded and released on audio cassette.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Above Suspicion a novel for Simon & Schuster.

SIDELIGHTS: Screenwriter, novelist, actor, and producer Lynda La Plante is considered one of the most important and influential modern British screenwriters. She has acted in numerous television and film productions and applies her actor's sensibilities to her own screenwriting projects. A prolific dramatist, she has written dozens of television miniseries and films, almost all of which are centered in the crime, detective, and mystery genres. Her acclaimed television series Prime Suspect has been well received by both critics and viewers in the United Kingdom and the United States, and exemplifies La Plante's interest in creating strong female characters. She has written numerous successful novels as well as novelizations of her own television works. She operates her own production company, La Plante Productions, which oversees the uses and adaptations of her own works and develops new projects for print and screen. Her works have won numerous awards, including British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards in England and Emmy Awards in the United States.

La Plante was born Lynda Titchmarsh in Liverpool, England, in 1943. As a child, she would make up stories to scare her younger sister with tales of headless men in the closet, reported Sally Weale in a profile of La Plante in the Manchester Guardian. "She was bossy and exhibitionist," Weale remarked. "She would scalp her sister's dolls and dunk them down the toilet. She was the star of the household—the little girl who had to take the place of her five-year-old sister who was killed in an accident; a Scouse Shirley Temple, forever putting on shows, singing, dancing, and telling stories."

La Plante developed an interest in acting through elocution lessons she took as a child, where she wanted to talk and be like her teacher. She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts on a scholarship from 1960 to 1962, where she received a diploma in dramatic arts. Afterward, under the name Lynda Marchal, she began acting regularly on the stage for the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and in a variety of series on British television. A consistently working professional, she "made a regular but unspectacular living as an actress on stage and later television, given a scene or two as victim, witness, wife or hooker in peak-time drama series," wrote Mark Lawson in the Manchester Guardian.

La Plante's professional writing career blossomed while she was acting in the series The Gentle Touch. Dissatisfied with her character's dialogue and other aspects of the series, she wrote four plot treatments, under her married name of Lynda La Plante, for other episodes of the series. They were rejected as unsuitable, "partly because they omitted the series' central character," Lawson noted. But on one of the plot outlines, someone in the producer's office had jotted a short encouraging note. Taking this as a cue, La Plante began reworking that outline into a standalone program that eventually became her first television drama, the crime story Widows.

Widows, based in part on real people and real incidents, concerns Dolly Rawlins, recently widowed when her art-thief husband and his partners in crime were killed in a mysterious auto accident that smashed and burned the lot. Inspired to finish what her husband had started, Dolly recruits the widows and girlfriends of the other men killed in the accident. Together, the women plot to complete the art heist that ended so disastrously for their men. The story "begins as a crackling good mystery," commented Howard Rosenberg in Los Angeles Times, but then loses much of its energy when it devolves into a caper story.

La Plante's insistence on getting all the details right through first-hand research and through the stories of real people became a hallmark of her work. For example, Dolly Rawlins, the family matriarch in Widows, is based on a woman La Plante met whose husband was then serving an eighteen-year prison sentence. The two women struck up a friendship, and La Plante was eventually invited to the woman's house for tea. "It was this house of elegant antiques, with Kathleen Ferrier playing on the stereo, which I really think you wouldn't have imagined," La Plante noted in Lawson's Guardian profile. "It set the format for the rest of my writing: go to source. Why make something up? If you go to the real person it's much more interesting." La Plante's insistence on such verisimilitude might make her "the first dramatist to take umbrage at any suggestion that she made it up," Lawson observed.

While many other television films and series have followed, La Plante's most successful television project has been the Prime Suspect series, starring Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, and seen in the United States on PBS's Mystery! and Masterpiece Theatre programs. Determined, brilliant, and altogether human, Tennison works to capture a serial killer while also battle sexism in the London police department, "where the idea of a woman running an investigation is new and unpopular," remarked Tom Shales in Washington Post. Taking over for a recently deceased detective, Tennison has trouble following in the man's footsteps. Worse, she uncovers evidence that her well-liked predecessor may have been frequenting one of the prostitutes murdered by the killer under investigation. As resistance to her on the force builds to outright sabotage, Tennison focuses on an unlikely suspect, a seemingly innocuous middle aged man who she feels certain is the killer.

Although Tennison is a woman in conflict with the men in her professional life, Prime Suspect is not a "feminist tract," Shales noted. "It isn't the tireless saintly female against the nasty beastly men, partly because Tennison herself is anything but perfect. She smokes, she swears, she is sometimes strident and tactless." For Shales, "What makes Prime Suspect so gripping is that it's not really about crime or cops, it's about the best and worst in human beings and the way each reveals itself," Shales commented. "The film defies the stereotype of public TV programming. It isn't stiff. It isn't stuffy. It's sensational, and it's mostly Mirren's triumph."

Mirren is regularly lauded for her brilliant performance in bringing La Plante's Tennison character to life. "The character of Tennison has no life apart from Mirren," commented Robert Lloyd in Los Angeles Times. "They're inextricable, for all time, like Colombo and Peter Falk. She is both flawed and superheroic—indeed, each quality is bound up with the other. She never lets herself—or anyone else—off easy, which makes her a difficult colleague-boss-employeegirlfriend. And though she is sometimes critically wrong, she is right more often than anyone else around her, which doesn't make her any more popular, and does not stop until justice is done—always at some peril to her safety, domestic tranquility and career."

La Plante has also cultivated a successful career as a best-selling novelist. Her "Cold Shoulder" series, a novelization of her television series, is based, as are many of her other works, on a real person. "This woman came to my hotel," La Plante told Weinrich in the New York Times profile. "Awful dyed black hair. Terrible scar on her face. She knew I paid for stories. She said, 'I'm an ex-lieutenant, an ex-alcoholic, ex-drug addict, ex-prostitute.' When I said it sounded interesting, she got her lawyer who was waiting outside the door." La Plante insisted that, as part of the deal, the woman would take her around to genuine locations such as strip clubs, AA meetings, crack houses, and unsavory spots—where, sometimes, she was abandoned and left to fend for herself. La Plante's informant also related stories of a variety of crimes that had been committed, and insisted that her real identity be disguised.

From this dangerous research came the character of Lorraine Page, introduced in the first book of the series, Cold Shoulder. Page is a ruined LAPD police officer fighting to regain everything she lost when, drunk while on duty, she shoots a fourteen-year-old boy, mistaking his portable stereo for a gun. Page's life enters a rapid downward spiral until she finds herself working as a prostitute. After one particularly terrible encounter, she barely escapes with her life—her client had been intent on bashing in the back of her head with a claw hammer. As she struggles against her addictions, she also works to find her attacker before the seedy worlds he inhabits destroys her for good. Booklist reviewer Emily Melton commented that Page's "personal battle is as fascinating as the intense and suspenseful murder plot." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the novel's "finely tuned characters, a well-wrought plot, and plenty of suspense."

Page returns in Cold Blood, in which a down-and-out movie star hires her detective agency to locate her missing daughter, gone for a year and given up on by the police. Page goes to New Orleans to investigate, and encounters voodoo practitioners, drug dealers, murderers, and billionaires with hidden motivations. A dalliance with the missing girl's father and a return to the bottle threaten to destroy all the progress Page has made in elevating herself from a life of prostitution and booze. The novel's "drama is so compelling that La Plante risks having her TV credentials eclipsed by her distinction as a crime novelist," remarked Jill Smolowe in People. La Plante wraps up the series with Cold Heart, in which Page investigates the death of a pornographic filmmaker with a collection of exwives and cheated ex-business partners who want him dead.

"La Plante's dramas, on the whole, do not champion either sex, but try to discuss both inequalities and power relations as they exist within society," observed Ros Jennings on the Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site. "For the most part, her protagonists (both male and female) stand for reason, the ability to think intelligently, and for expertise. In her dramas, La Plante is not interested in small-scale petty crime; she is preoccupied by both exceptional crimes and feats of exceptional detection."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Booklist, March 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Cold Shoulder, p. 1243; May 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Royal Heist, p. 1512.

Chicago Sun-Times, April 17, 1994, Lon Grahnke, "Mirren Back to 'Prime' Sleuthing, Toughest Cop on Mystery!," p. 45; November 14, 1997, Lon Grahnke, "Big 'Bella' Flop: Mafia Women Fail to Rescue a Dumb Drama," review of Bella Mafia, p. 49.

Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2004, Victoria A. Brown-worth, "Royal Heist a Jewel," review of Royal Heist, p. 6.

Entertainment Weekly, June 18, 1993, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Entwined, p. 53; April 29, 1994, television review of Mystery! Prime Suspect Three, p. 61; April 19, 1996, Tom De Haven, review of Cold Shoulder, p. 69; November 28, 1997, Daneet Steffens, review of Cold Blood, p. 79; April 16, 1999, Daneet Steffens, review of Cold Heart, p. 54.

Financial Times, August 7, 2002, Boyd Farrow, "Partners in Crime: Lynda La Plante's Production Company Has Just Signed a Film Deal That Puts Writers in Control," p. 18.

Guardian (Manchester, England), April 22, 1994, Rosanna Greenstreet, "The Questionnaire: Lynda La Plante"; September 13, 1994, Andrew Culf, "Second Emmy for Prime Suspect"; October 17, 1998, "Lynda La Plante: Queen of the Inside Track," p. 6; October 4, 2000, Sally Weale, "Portrait: Tale with a Twist," p. 16; November 3, 2003, review of Prime Suspect Six, p. 10.

Hollywood Reporter, October 22, 2001, Stuart Kemp, "TV Prod'n Duo Launch Cougar for U.K. Films," profile of Lynda La Plante, p. 4.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004, review of Royal Heist, p. 599.

Library Journal, July, 1997, Lori Dunn, review of Cold Blood, p. 125; January, 1999, Michelle Foyt, review of Cold Heart, p. 152; July, 2004, Jane Jorgenson, review of Royal Heist, p. 72.

Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1993, Jeff Kaye, "Crime Pays for 'Framed' Author," p. 89; November 15, 1997, Howard Rosenberg, review of Bella Mafia, p. 18; August 6, 2002, Howard Rosenberg, "These Black-clad 'Widows' Spin a Tangled Web," review of Widows, p. F1; April 16, 2004, Robert Lloyd, "Blimey! Crime Pays Off!," p. E1.

New Statesman, December 11, 1992, John Dugdale, review of Prime Suspect Two, p. 36; November 25, 1994, Frances Gray, review of Cold Shoulder, p. 48.

New York Times, May 26, 1996, Regina Weinrich, "Prime Suspect's Author Creates Another Tough Woman in Novel," section 13LI, p. 8; November 16, 1997, Anita Gates, review of Bella Mafia, p. 41.

New York Times Book Review, April 18, 1999, Charles Flowers, review of Cold Heart, p. 21.

People, April 22, 1996, Paula Chin, review of Cold Shoulder, p. 33; December 2, 1996, review of The Prosecutors, p. 16; November 1, 1997, Terry Kelleher, television review of Bella Mafia, p. 17; December 1, 1997, Jill Smolowe, review of Cold Blood, p. 49.

Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Bella Mafia, p. 58; January 8, 1996, review of Cold Shoulder, p. 56; October 20, 1997, review of Cold Blood, p. 57; January 4, 1999, review of Cold Heart, p. 76; May 17, 2004, review of Royal Heist, p. 31.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 4, 1996, Joanne Weintraub, "Meeting the Writer behind Prime Suspect," p. D8.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 21, 1999, Christ Petrakos, review of Cold Heart, p. 8.

Variety, November 17, 1997, Tony Scott, television review of Bella Mafia, p. 37.

Washington Post, January 23, 1992, Tom Shales, "Prime Suspect: Prime Viewing," review of Prime Suspect, p. D1; April 26, 1994, Tom Shales, "Prime Suspect: Grim Reaper; Miniseries Slices Into the Underbelly of London," review of Prime Suspect Three, p. C1; November 15, 1997, Tom Shales, "'Bella Mafia'; Mob Scenes; CBS Mini-series Is a Widow Too Much," review of Bella Mafia, p. C1.

online

Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (November 11, 2004), "Lynda La Plante." La Plante Productions Web site, http://www.laplanteproductions.com/ (November 11, 2004). Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site, http://www.museum.tv/ (November 11, 2004), "Lynda La Plante."

other

All Things Considered (radio program), National Public Radio, April 21, 1996, Liane Hansen, transcript of interview with La Plante.*

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