Laughter from the Dark

Michael Parnell
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, July 1, 1997
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Novelist, playwright, broadcaster, raconteur: by the time of his early death in 1981, Gwyn Thomas was widely admired as all these things, in addition to being a much-Ioved columnist in Punch. Once described as ’the greatest talker in the world’ he was the veteran entertainer of The Brains Trust and Tonight, and a moving commentator on the Aberfan disaster.

A former schoolmaster turned novelist turned programme maker, Thomas’s friends included Richard Burton, Jack Hylton, Stanley Baker, Sam Wannamaker and Donald Houston. Yet beyond the world of celebrity he was a writer passionately committed to a humane socialism, most of whose work, novels, stories, plays, are set in or informed by his native Rhondda valley. Writing of the appalling poverty he and his fellow south Walians suffered during his early years, Thomas was inspired by his community and chose not bitter despair, but humour in the face of adversity. As Michael Parnell’s absorbing and highly readable biography chronicles, Thomas’s infectious gaiety was also underlain by his own anxieties and imperfections.

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