Saturday, 27 April 2013
I'm delighted to be able to announce a major new project from Big Finish Productions! The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes is a box-set of four, full-cast audio dramas - a quartet of stories, set at different points in the career of Sherlock Holmes, which build up into a much bigger narrative. I've written the scripts which have been brought to life by a wonderful cast, including the brilliant Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as Holmes and Watson (both pictured above), Tracey Childs (returning, as Mrs Curbishley, from The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner), Ken Bones, Michael Cochrane and Blake Ritson. It's released in December and is pre-orderable now. It's been a real labour this, and I'm very excited about it - at four hours, it's essentially a novel in audio form!
There's more at the Big Finish site, here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-ordeals-of-sherlock-holmes-box-set-918 and there'll be much more about the project on this blog in the coming months!
Thursday, 18 April 2013
Passionate about writing?
"Whether you are an aspiring writer embarking on your first writing project, an accomplished writer, poet or scriptwriter; or a writer somewhere in between; the Athens Creative Writing Summer School will help you develop and enhance your writing skills and maximise the impact of your work."
I'm delighted to be a part of the Athens International Creative Writing Summer School 2013! Based in Athens and organised by Kingston University and the British Council, it runs from 17th June - 13th July. This is a rare chance to work with - and learn from - such acclaimed writers as Rachel Cusk, Fiona Sampson, James Miller, Adam Baron, Paul Perry and Jane Yeh. I will also be out there, teaching for the last weeks, from 1st - 13th July.
Places - for both two week and four week courses - are limited but still available! Read about the Summer School here: http://nodeadwhitemen.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/athens-writing-school/ and here: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite6_1_10/04/2013_492975 or contact me directly to find out more.
Apologies for the shameless advertising; but I just thought it might be of some potential interest!
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
As you can see above, the extremely striking cover for my forthcoming Doctor Who audio drama Persuasion has just been released. Terrifically dark and moody work by visual wizard Simon Holub.(Thanks, Simon!) I love the image of the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) lurking dolefully in the background, behind his two companions!
There's a little more about the story here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/persuasion-713
Thursday, 7 March 2013
Big Finish Productions have released a little more information about the forthcoming Doctor Who audio drama, Persuasion (for which I have written the script).
"The Umbrella Man is back. But when the Doctor recruits UNIT's Scientific Adviser Elizabeth Klein for an off-the-books mission to the apocalyptic final days of Hitler's Germany, he isn't expecting Klein's hapless young assistant, Will Arrowsmith, to be joining them, too.
The Doctor isn't the only alien creature seeking to loot a very particular secret from a Nazi base in Dusseldorf, however. Strange and sinister beings are converging on the same time/space location in search of the scientist Schalk, whose experiments are the key to a devastating power... The power of Persuasion."
There's a little more in the news article, here: http://www.bigfinish.com/news/v/doctor-who-s-daleks-are-back-and-so-is-the-master which also includes a host of information about other future releases from the company.
The story itself is out in July on CD and download and may be ordered here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/persuasion-713
The following piece is a reprint of a review of J F Roberts' book, The True History of the Blackadder, which first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement of March 1st 2013.
Unlike the majority of television sitcoms which, set contemporaneously with the years of their production, can soon appear dated and quaint, the BBC’s Blackadder, which ran from 1983 to 1989 and took place in a variety of historical settings (Tudor, Elizabethan and Georgian England; the trenches of the First World War), has largely sidestepped the ageing process. Only the show’s once-conventional house style – filmed live on obvious sets in front of a studio audience – seems unusual when viewed today. In its jokes, performances and, perhaps most of all, in the extraordinary conclusion of its final regular episode, which saw the protagonists gunned down on the Western front, it remains as potent as ever.
J F Roberts’ lively, warm-hearted The True History of the Black Adder is a celebration of this “incredible feat of comedy production”. As an enthusiast of long-standing (Blackadder, he admits, is “by far the most important, influential and beloved comedy in my own life”), Roberts is uninterested in dispraise and describes everyone involved in the warmest terms: “there are very few people featured within this book who are not very, very talented”. Even the variable first series, which actors and writers have often described more as a learning curve than as success in own its right, is characterised here as “a lost classic”. Roberts holds back his few reservations until the final chapter when he turns to Blackadder Back and Forth, a starry, ill-advised, one-off special which, produced for the Millennium, was shown several times a day for a year at the Dome.
Roberts is most interesting when hinting at the creative tensions out of which Blackadder was born. Each episode had a full week of rehearsal in which the script was torn apart and rewritten by the cast, a process which became increasingly competitive and intense as the series progressed. By 1989, each half hour of comedy, originated by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, had been honed and embellished by Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and the show’s star Rowan Atkinson, whom Roberts calls, in a phrase which may suggest the core reason for the show’s endurance, “a pedantic technician”.
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Well, I'm delighted to be able to announce that I've fulfilled an ambition which, if not quite lifelong, dates back at least as far as my tenth birthday, and written a four-part Doctor Who story for the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy!
It's called Persuasion and it's a full-cast audio drama from Big Finish Productions. It's too soon to say too much about the plot (or, indeed, the wonderful guest cast) but suffice to say it involves the arrival in our universe of an impossible ancient power, the race to obtain scientific secrets at the end of World War II and a dark secret of the Doctor's. The story is released in July (if you're of a mind to, you can pre-order it here: http://bigfinish.com/releases/v/persuasion-713).
The photograph above is from the studio recording and shows Sylvester back again as the Doctor, together with his two companions, Elizabeth Klein (Tracy Childs) and Will Arrowsmith (Christian Edwards).
Friday, 9 November 2012
An unusual rival for Sherlock Holmes...
This review first appeared in the Times Literary Supplement of October 12th 2012.
At a masquerade ball in an unnamed American metropolis at the start of the twentieth century a daring robbery is committed. “Eleven plates of the gold service, valued roughly at $15,000” are stolen by a man who, attired audaciously as the popular image of a robber (“a black mask was drawn down to his lips, a slouch hat shaded his eyes, and a kit of the tools of his profession swung from one shoulder”), is last seen speeding away in an automobile with a beautiful female accomplice in the passenger seat. Naturally, the raid attracts attention – first from the victim, the millionaire Stuyvesant Randolph, whose reaction, despite having witnessed that impudent getaway, is not quite what might be expected, then from the journalist Hutchinson Hatch, “a long, lean, hungry-looking man with an insatiable appetite for facts”, and, finally, from that celebrated detective, Professor Augustus S F X Van Dusen, better known to allies and opponents alike as “The Thinking Machine”.
Created by Jacques Futrelle, Professor Van Dusen first appeared in a short story in 1905. The Chase of the Golden Plate – the opening chapters of which are summarised above – was published the following year and marks the character’s debut in an adventure of novel length. “The Thinking Machine” was among a wave of imitators – which included Sexton Blake, R Austin Freeman’s Dr Thorndyke and E W Hornung’s A J Raffles – who followed in the wake of the success of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. It is unsurprising, then, that Van Dusen should often strike a distinctly Holmesian pose: “The Thinking Machine receded still further into his chair and stared dreamily upward with his long, slender fingers pressed tip to tip.” His chief physical characteristics, however, perhaps to differentiate him from the Baker Street man, are more difficult to visualise: “bushy, yellow hair straggled down about his ears and partially framed a clean-shaven, wizened face in which were combined the paradoxical qualities of extreme aggressiveness and childish petulance. The mouth drooped a little at the corners, being otherwise a straight line; the eyes were mere slits of blue, squinting eternally through thick spectacles. His brow rose straight up, domelike, majestic even, and added a whimsical grotesqueness to his appearance.”
While it lacks altogether that strange, subcutaneous darkness which underpins Doyle’s best work, The Chase of the Golden Plate is mostly charming and inventive. The novel’s most enjoyable feature is the arresting modernity of its humour. A policeman speaks in “a walk-right-up-ladies-and-gentlemen sort of voice”, a butler calls Van Dusen “a shrivelled little man with a big yellow head” and the love interest of the piece is described as possessing a “deliciously rounded chin, slightly parted rose-red lips, and sparkling, eager eyes as blue as – as blue as – well, they were blue eyes.”
There seems to be no especially pressing reason for Hesperus Press to have shepherded this curiosity back into print save that its reappearance in an attractive new edition coincides with a sombre centenary. Jacques Futrelle died at the age of thirty-seven upon the RMS Titanic where he was last seen smoking with John Jacob Astor, the richest man on board. Lily, the novelist’s wife, made it to a lifeboat and went on to complete several of her husband’s manuscripts and to dedicate one of them to “the heroes of the Titanic”. The last photograph of Futrelle may be discovered online and an oddly haunting thing it is. Taken on deck, Futrelle beams pudgily towards the camera, hands stuffed into pockets, his head filled with new adventures for his improbable sleuth, wholly oblivious of the tragedy which, in only a few hours time, will overtake and consume him.