Pirie, David 1953- (David Alan Tarbat Pirie)

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Pirie, David 1953- (David Alan Tarbat Pirie)


Born 1953, in Liverpool, England; son of Halyburton Berkeley (deceased) and Joyce Elaine Pirie; married Judith Leslie Harris, June 21, 1983; children: Alice, Jack. Education: Trinity College Glenalmond, University of York, B.A., 1968; graduate study at University of London, 1971-75, and University of Trieste, 1975-76. Hobbies and other interests: Jogging.


Agent—Stephen Durbridge, The Agency, Ltd., 24 Pottery Lane, London W11 4LZ, England.


Writer, editor, journalist, film and music critic, broadcaster, film and television screenwriter, and television producer. Freelance writer, 1970—. Capital Radio, film critic, 1974-77; Capital Radio and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), rock music critic, 1977-79; World Service Radio, BBC, film critic and presenter, 1979-81; film and television screenwriter, 1981—; British Film and TV Producers Association, senior tutor, 1990—; "Murder Rooms" television film series, associate producer, beginning c. 2000.


Drama Prize, New York Film and TV Festival, 1984, for Rainy Day Women; Best TV Feature prize, Chicago Film Festival, c. 1994, for Black Easter; British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award nomination for best drama serial, and Drama Prize, Houston International TV and Film Festival, both 1998, both for The Woman in White; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for best TV feature/miniseries, Mystery Writers of America, 2001, for Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes; Crimescene/Sherlock Holmes Magazine/NFT Award, 2002, Best TV Detective Series, for Murder Rooms.



Mystery Story Muller, 1980.

The Patient's Eyes ("Murder Rooms" series), St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.

The Night Calls ("Murder Rooms" series), Century (London, England), 2002, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.

The Dark Water, Century (London, England), 2004.


Mystery Story (based on his novel), Virgin Films, 1982.

Rainy Day Women, British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-TV), 1983.

Total Eclipse of the Heart (screenplay), Enigma, 1984.

Love-Act (screenplay adaptation), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1985.

Wild Things, BBC-TV, 1986.

Never Come Back (based on the novel by John Mair), BBC-TV, 1988.

Natural Lies (miniseries), BBC-TV, 1992.

(With Lars von Trier and Peter Asmussen) Breaking the Waves (screenplay), October Films, 1996.

The Woman in White (based on the novel by Wilkie Collins), BBC-TV, 1997.

The Wyvern Mystery (based on the novel by Sheridan Le Fanu), BBC-TV, 2000.

Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (teleplay; also known as Murder Rooms: The Dark Origins of Sherlock Holmes) BBC-TV, 2000.

Murder Rooms: The Patient's Eyes (based on his novel), BBC-TV, 2001.

The Safe House (based on the novel by Sean French), Independent Television (ITV), 2002.

Also screenwriter of television programs, including Ashenden, c. 1992, No Man's Land (also known as Black Easter), 1994, Element of Doubt, 1996, Night Gallery (U.S. TV program), Sad Cypress (TV film), and The Strange Case of Arthur Conan Doyle (TV film), 2004. Also author of unproduced film script, Killer Trip, 1971.


A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema, 1946-1972, Gordon Fraser Gallery (London, England), 1973, Avon (New York, NY), 1974, 2nd edition, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1981.

The Vampire Cinema, Hamlyn (New York, NY), 1976, published as The Complete Vampire Cinema, Crescent (New York, NY), 1977.

(With H.R.F. Keating, Martin Seymour Smith, Brian Aldiss, and others) Novels and Novelists, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1980.

(Editor) Anatomy of the Movies, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1981.

Time Out magazine, TV critic, 1970-74, film critic, 1974-80, film editor, 1981-84, film critic, 1976—; Event magazine, literary editor, 1980-81; Options magazine, film columnist, 1981-92.

Contributor to periodicals, including Times (London), Sunday Times (London), and Movie Magazine.

Contributor to media programs such as The Media Show, Did You See?, The South Bank Show, and Sight and Sound.


The Patient's Eyes was recorded unabridged by Books on Tape, 2002.


After serving as a film critic in his native Great Britain, David Pirie embarked on a career of writing his own film and television scripts. Among the most notable of his efforts is his collaboration on the screenplay for the 1996 film Breaking the Waves. Lars von Trier's film is the story of a newlywed couple in a conservative Scottish community. When a freak accident threatens to paralyze the husband, his religiously devout wife resorts to unusual means to help his recovery. Breaking the Waves earned the Jury Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes is a two-part television movie coproduced by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Boston's WGBH, a Public Broadcasting Service affiliate. Broadcast as part of the television series Mystery!, Murder Rooms explores the adventures of Dr. Joseph Bell, the nineteenth-century forensics genius thought to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to develop the Holmes character. The film depicts the meeting between Bell and Doyle, the latter of whom is a nineteen-year-old medical student. Doyle plays a sort of Watson to Bell's Holmes as the pair investigates the appearance of corpses that arrived under suspicious circumstances. Murder Rooms, Pirie explained on the Public Broadcasting Service Web site, is "based on a true story. It has been known for a long time that Joseph Bell … was a model for Sherlock Holmes. What is not so well known is that—alongside his medical work—Bell was carrying out secret investigations for the Crown." London Guardian critic Nancy Banks-Smith wrote that, with Murder Rooms, "Pirie has concocted a rich mix" and added that "a scorpion would take off its hat to the sting in the tail" of Pirie's story.

Continuing his fictional series regarding the two men, The Patient's Eyes and The Night Calls focus on cases on which Doyle and Bell partnered. In The Patient's Eyes medical student Doyle becomes involved in a family's mass murder when the only survivor, a beautiful young woman, comes to him for help. Jon Barnes, reviewing The Patient's Eyes for the Times Literary Supplement, called it "a witty, elegant conceit," but wondered if "its effect is to diminish the role of Doyle's imaginative powers in the creation of his most iconic characters." Still, Barnes noted, the novel "creates a convincing Victorian world of eerie moors and fearless detectives, impenetrable ciphers and strange hooded assassins." To a Kirkus Reviews contributor, Pirie's "rich, intelligent writing captures a 19th-century flavor without sacrificing pace," while Booklist contributor Emily Melton similarly praised the series' atmosphere. Melton added of The Patient's Eyes that "it's hard to say which is more mesmerizing, Pirie's cleverly constructed plot or the oddly moving—albeit fictional—portrayal of Doyle's complex personality." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Pirie "masterfully manufactures suspense" and praised his prose for containing passages that "are truly spine-chilling."

In The Night Calls the year is 1878 and the prostitutes of Edinburgh are under attack from a violent stranger, and Bell brings Doyle in on the case. Meanwhile, the young woman to whom Doyle is attracted is the victim of other aggressions due to her agitation for educational opportunities for women. A Kirkus Reviews critic described The Night Calls as "wonderfully written psychological suspense, all the more tantalizing for its real-life roots," while in Publishers Weekly a critic found the novel less challenging than its predecessor. Noting that the mystery is resolved too early in the plot, the reviewer maintained that The Night Calls "climaxes in a cliffhanger that will annoy some readers and leave others breathlessly anticipating the sequel."

Doyle and Bell team up again in The Dark Water, this time after Doyle experiences a harrowing captivity as the prisoner of criminal mastermind and nemesis Thomas Neill Cream. In the novel's beginning sequence, Doyle is captured by Cream, then drugged and tortured. With extraordinary effort, Doyle finally escapes the madman's lair, and painfully makes his way back to Bell. With Bell's aid, Doyle recovers, and the two set out on the trail of the villainous Cream. They track him to a remote and eerie seaside town called Dunwich, where they encounter a local legend centered around an evil witch, centuries old, said to haunt the local countryside. The recent disappearance of Dunwich newcomer Oliver Jeffords, a wealthy but peculiar man, coincides with Bell and Doyle's search for Cream, strange happenings in the atmospheric cliffside village and tale of the legend of the Witch of Dunwich Heath. "While there is no deerstalker cap or calabash pipe, there is plenty of mystery, forensic investigation, and bravura displays of deduction," remarked critic Jed Moore, writing in the Badger Herald.

A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked that the book "boasts deft period yarn-spinning and terrific writing." Pirie's novel, which showcases the author's "subtle storytelling gifts," also "evokes the spirit" of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories "with a gripping plot and psychologically sophisticated characters," observed a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Moore, of the Badger Herald, called the book "a chilling Victorian tale of mystery and villainy," and "a brilliant example" of the literary category of Holmes offshoots, "not quite Holmes novels but definitely Holmes-like." An Internet Bookwatch reviewer called The Dark Water "an enthralling literary work from cover to cover."

Pirie once told CA: "My interest lies in developing popular genre narrative in new and potentially interesting ways. The writers who have influenced me most are those who were primarily interested in narrative. In the nineteenth century I would count Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson, in the twentieth century, John Buchan and Jorge Luis Borges."



American Film, July 1, 1982, Andrew Sarris, review of Anatomy of the Movies, p. 77.

Badger Herald, February 13, 2007, Jed Moore, "Holmes Offshoot Does Doyle Proud," review of The Dark Water.

Booklist, April 1, 2002, Emily Melton, review of The Patient's Eyes, p. 1310.

Economist, January 16, 1982, review of Anatomy of the Movies, p. 85.

Film Comment, January 1, 1982, Stuart Byron, review of Anatomy of the Movies, p. 68.

Film Quarterly, summer, 1982, review of Anatomy of the Movies.

Guardian (London, England), September 13, 2001, Nancy Banks-Smith, "Rich, Free and Waving Goodbye to These Ghoulish Things."

Internet Bookwatch, February, 2007, review of The Dark Water.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2002, review of The Patient's Eyes, p. 294; July 1, 2003, review of The Night Calls, p. 888; August 15, 2006, review of The Dark Water, p. 814.

Library Journal, January 1, 1982, review of Anatomy of the Movies, p. 106.

New York, May 22, 2000, John Leonard, review of Murder Rooms: The Dark Origins of Sherlock Holmes.

New York Times, May 18, 2000, Julie Salamon, "A Blueprint for Imagining Sherlock," p. B5; October 12, 2000, Ron Wertheimer, "Drafty Manor Is No Place for Newlyweds," p. B7.

New York Times Book Review, September 24, 2006, Marilyn Stasio, "Glumshoe," review of The Dark Water.

Publishers Weekly, October 30, 1981, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Anatomy of the Movies, p. 59; May 6, 2002, review of The Patient's Eyes, p. 39; June 2, 2003, review of The Night Calls, p. 37; July 10, 2006, review of The Dark Water, p. 55.

Times Literary Supplement, August 17, 2001, Jon Barnes, review of The Patient's Eyes, p. 21.

Wall Street Journal, June 4, 1992, Dorothy Rabinowitz, review of Ashenden, p. A9.

Washington Post, November 22, 1996, Desson Howe, "‘Waves’ Crashes in Shallow Water."


Public Broadcasting Service Web site,http://www.pbs.org/ (May 8, 2002), "Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes."