Shiny Shelf

Jim Smith

By Jim Smith on 09 November 2005

James Edward Smith was born in Solihull, attended Alcester Grammar School and University College London and lives in London, where he writes about trivial, cultural and media things for money. Sometimes people ask him how many books he’s written – and when he lists them he’s always shocked by how many there are.

Jim has also written pieces for ‘Film Review’, ‘TV Zone’, ‘Starburst’, ‘SFX’, ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ and as well as episodes of Kaldor City,


This is a combination of crit, discussion, opinion and ‘making of’ description about a (ahem) “mainstream movie maverick”. I’m primarily interested in Tarantino as a dramatist, and I hope this comes through. The book will shortly be re-published in Czech. How cool is that? UK Orders US Orders

Who’s Next: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who (with Mark Clapham and Eddie Robson)

With the series back on TV, I thought it was a good time to do an ‘easy guide’ to the show and thought it would be fun to rope Robson and Clapham into co-write it. The idea is that anybody can pick this book up and get into ‘Doctor Who’, even if they know nothing whatsoever about it – and even if you know everything about it already, we still aim to surprise you with our revisionist opinions and a new slant or much discussed material.
UK Orders US Orders

Manhattan Dating Game: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Sex And The City

A revised, updated, longer and pinker version of the book in which a guy writes about the girliest of all TV shows. An honest critique and fact-finding trawl through four seasons of top-flight telly, I’m really pleased with the end result – and obviously other people were too otherwise that second edition wouldn’t have happened. Thanks to the research for this I could once tell Cynthia Ralle dresses on sight and identify Jimmy Choo shoes at 400 yards. Toby Young was nice about the book in a national paper too, which was a bizarre experience. This is the book I enjoyed writing the most. My favourite character is Miranda, by the way. I just love her. A version of this book, with a better cover, is available in German. US Orders UK Orders

The Lord of the Rings (with J Clive Matthews)

As much a book about the process of adaptation as it is about its ostensible subject matter, this is another collaboration with Shelf’s own J Clive Matthews (see Tim Burton). As such it addresses such weighty questions as what is needed to turn a book into a script, are the books any good or not, and why does Peter Jackson keep deferring difficult editorial decisions?
UK Orders

Gangster Films

A sort of hop, skip and jump through the gangster genre, as expressed through American and British films between 1931 and the present – as raved about in the NME, strangely. I think its mix of sarcasm, enthusiasm and fretting about moral quandries should provide an interesting read for anyone who has ever loved a movie about a guy in a hat who makes bathtub gin for a living. It’s really a series of scribbles and essays on its topic and it isn’t meant to be comprehsive. You’re bound to disagree with most of it. That was the point. UK Orders US Orders

George Lucas

The plan was to do something which appreciated Lucas’s importance to the development of American film without blinking at his faults; this is hopefully a critical guide which neither sneers with adolesent ignorance and piety nor praises with boggle-eyed, scary ‘..put Jedi on the census..’ fervour, whilst exploding a few myths along the way. On those terms I’m very pleased with it, but I don’t think either ‘Star Wars’ obsessives or people who consider themselves ’serious about film’ will agree with much of what it tries to say – although good reviews pleased me, I’ll admit. US Orders UK Orders

Tim Burton (with J Clive Matthews)

A more academically inclined book than any of my others, feautring on page endnotes and incorportating huge swathes of fresh interviews and newly sourced primary material, including contributions from many of Burton’s closest friends and collaborators including actors Martin Landau and Glenn Shadix, ‘Ed Wood’/'Mars Attacks!’ screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski and production designers Tom Duffield and Rick Heinrichs, amongst other. Martin Landau also supplied us with an introduction and Rick Heinrichs wrote us an afterword; we even cover Burton’s ‘lost’ student film ‘Luau!’ in exhausting detail too and we’re still the only book on Burton’s career that does. Being Stephen Poole’s ‘Non-Fiction Choice’ in ‘The Guardian’ was the icing on the cake. US Orders UK Orders

Bond Films (with Stephen Lavington)

Lighter, fluffier, full of irrelevant facts and fatuous remarks, this is my own favourite of my many (ahem) ‘great works’. It attempts to put the Bond Films into wider filmmaking and social contexts but is, more than anything, an excuse for two twentysomething man-children to be paid money to watch ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ repeatedly for an entire summer. US Orders UK Orders

Soul Searching: An Unofficial Guide to the Life and Trials of Ally McBeal (with Mark Clapham)

My first book; out of date and out of print, it’s still a fun wander through the first three seasons of what was once one of TV’s top shows. The French edition was both bestselling and beautifully designed, far better than the UK one. If anyone wants to produce an updated edition, please contact me or Mark at our e-mail addresses. UK/US orders

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