XYY MAN, SERIES 2: THE CONCRETE BOOT. Granada TV, UK, (1997). Four episodes. Stephen Yardley as William “Spider” Scott, Don Henderson as DI Bulman, Vivienne McKee as Maggie Parsons, Dennis Blanch as DC Derek Willis, Mark Digman as Fairfax. Guest: William Squire as Laidlaw. Based on the novel (Hodder, 1971) by Kenneth Royce.

   Tall, slender, and bent by nature, that’s what the extra Y chromosome has done for cat burglar extraordinary “Spider” Scott (Stephen Yardley), a professional criminal whose unique DNA makes him prone to risks, to womanizing, and to trouble legal and otherwise.

   Scott lives with Maggie Parsons (Vivienne Parsons) who loves him despite his wandering ways and lack of traditional moral fiber (Maggie isn’t much better at times) as Spider, in this second four part serial in the series that began in 1976, has gotten his flying license and opened a small service with a friend. Things seem pretty good until “Spider” gets a job involving a charitable group rehabilitating ex cons run by a man named Laidlaw (William Squire) and discovers an old friend of his who worked for them has ended up in the Thames with a concrete boot.

   Soon DI Bulman (Don Henderson), a tough policeman who likes to read Karl Marx, is pretty sure Spider is up to his old ways while Spider finds himself being seduced by Laidlaw’s posh secretary Penny (sexy Fiona Curzon) and running into some dodgy old mates who are working for the almost evangelical Laidlaw.

   Meanwhile Fairfax (Mark Digman, head of a shady Intelligence group that used Spider in the first series based on the debut novel The XYY Man) is keeping an eye on his new agent.

   It’s not long before Spider becomes sure the sinister and charming religious fanatic Laidlaw is twisted and had something to do with the murder of his old friend, but when he thinks he is getting close, a flying job up north for Laidlaw turns out to be a setup, and Spider finds himself framed for a heist at an airport, and his plane blown up, supposedly with him in it.

   Bulman is upset he never nailed Spider, and shocked when Spider shows up alive and surrenders, but hatred aside he believes Spider’s story and gives him a chance to clear himself and nail Laidlaw, which involves recovering the stolen loot and uncovering Laidlaw’s riverside graveyard where he’s been dumping his victims with “concrete boots,” weighing them down Chicago style (Laidlaw used to be an idea man for the Syndicate). Bulman sweeps in, and as usual even when things seem to be looking up for Spider, they aren’t.

   The series is very faithful to the Kenneth Royce books, maintaining the wry humor and slick action, but only managed two seasons and some twelve episodes, the last four not based on a book, but an original story. There was a spin off series with Henderson, Bulman, in which Bulman resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Spider had moved on.

   Yardley, tall with thinning hair and a fluid body makes a believable Spider, and along the way, as in the books, bits and pieces of his biography are revealed though never getting in the way of narrative or suspense. McKee is attractive, exasperated, and human as Maggie, and Squires is a fine scene-chewing villain, but the series is largely stolen by the sarcastic, hard nosed, fair, and left-leaning Bulman, a set of curious contradictory traits that make you want to know more about him. Obviously the audience felt the same, since he graduated to his own series.

   The Royce series ran to seven novels between 1970 to 1985, with a ten year gap between 1974’s Trap Spider and 1984’s The Crypto Man.

   The complete series is available on YouTube beginning with the episode below. (The same person who who uploaded this one has also provided the others.) I found it an attractive series, with an offbeat hero and faithful to Royce’s complex plots. Comfort food.