Characteristically, his editorship lasted precisely one week, around Christmas 1984. He took the chair, sifted through the mountain of paper on his desk, brooded over it for a few days, then decided it wasn’t for him.
The exception to the chaos that perpetually surrounded him was his
Between the crash-bang-wallop of its news pages and the job ads,
Campaign has been fortunate through the years in publishing wonderfully fine writing from the likes of Jeremy Bullmore, Chris Wilkins, Peter Mayle, Gerry Moira and Michael Manton. I don’t think any of them would dispute that Brian was the finest of them all.
Brian’s authorship of an item was instantly detectable, whether it was a
diary paragraph or a 2,000-word feature. A sublime choice of words and
imagery, and his quizzical and often unexpected way of putting them
together, were his trademark. Only Brian could devote the first half of
an article on California advertising to star-spotting in a Hollywood
hotel lobby and make it relevant to an understanding of the local ad
scene. He could be deadly serious or screamingly funny, offering pure
enjoyment in either mode.
Because of its flowing elegance, you could read a Davis piece in about
half the time it took to read somebody else’s. And then, usually, you
went back and read it again. Infuriatingly for the rest of us plodders,
he never did much rewriting or polishing; as with Mozart (not too
fanciful a comparison), the composition sprang fully formed on to the
The enigma of Brian’s life is how someone who brought perfect discipline
to his writing managed to foul up everything else. Possibly the gift was
so all-consuming there was nothing left over, but he was also
continually dogged by catastrophe.
His editorship of Creative Review (1982-84) was outstanding principally
because another highly talented writer, Jenny Manton, devoted herself to
organising the magazine so that Brian’s flair could have free rein.
Her tragic early death was a blow from which he never truly
Compounding that, his family circumstances were also difficult and
While his last years were marked by poverty and distress, I prefer to
remember the glorious times when he never missed a deadline and you
savoured the moment he handed in his copy.
After he became a Campaign reporter in 1970, he spent his career writing
mostly about advertising and film-making - movies as well as commercials
- for a variety of magazines and newspapers. He was never cynical,
always fair, and often profound. I count it a great honour to have
worked with him.