The typical biography of a writer could be compressed into a brief Samuel Beckettian phrase:
Lived a little.
Wrote about it a lot.
Next time – write less, live more…
My own extraordinary life has seen me fighting as a soldier of fortune, shooting my best friend without a qualm, and betraying my country for the sake of a beautiful spy. I’ve loved movie stars ( many times in a single night!), I’ve travelled to every country of the world, I speak a dozen languages fluently, I am brave and resourceful, I can fence, ride, shoot guns with unerring accuracy, I’ve survived several Ice Ages, I was a violin virtuoso as a child, a great physicist, I’ve been a movie producer, I was Warden of the Royal Mint, I was a copper in the Flying Squad, and a murder detective, a military interrogator, a forensic pathologist, a dour Scottish copper and, more recently, I lived for 1,000 years and was a captain of a pirate spaceship.
Outside the world of my imagination, however things are a little duller. I’ve had a number of moderately interesting jobs, I’ve met some famous people, and quite a few people who weren’t famous when I met them and then became famous, and wouldn’t know me from Adam. (Hi there, Anthony Minghella! Wotcha, Danny Boyle!) I have met Martin Sheen, and was awed at his decent blokeishness. I’ve spent time with police officers and soldiers. I’ve met a violin virtuoso, then wrote a play about it. I met a murderer, and he made me a cup of tea.
My life can be measured out in scripts and novels, and unproduced masterpieces (which those bastards never appreciated..!)
As well as my novels, my favourite bits of work, written by me, would be:
Bloodand Stone, a Welsh film noir, and Thieftaker General, a stylised London thriller, both of which may or may not ever make it to production, but I’m giving it my best shot.
A shoal of produced original radio plays, including:
- Keeping the Wolf Out – a detective drama set in 1960s Hungary, currently on its second series.
- Red and Blue, an epic state of the world drama series which ran for 3 seasons and starred the remarkable Tim Woodward (son of Edward) with guest appearances from Bill Paterson and Harriet Walter among others.
- The Hatton Garden, broadcast in April 2017, apart the ‘Diamond Wheezers’, old blokes who robbed the vaults at Hatton GardenGin and Rum, about ghosts
- Rubato, about music,
- The King’s Coiner , about the world’s greatest detective, who was also a murderer (so I allege),
- Blame, about industrial manslaughter,
- Marco Polo, about… can anyone guess?
- The Faerie Queene, a very free version of Spenser’s epic poem, and
- Breaking Point, about interrogation and torture.
A small cluster of TV dramas, including:
- 14 Bill episodes, written when it was a half hour show of, effectively, original single dramas with some serial strands, script edited by the brilliant Zanna Beswick,
- The Hanging Garden, (as co-writer) an episode of Rebus starring John Hannah,
- The Many Lives of Albert Walker, directed by Harry Hook, and starring John Gordon-Sinclair (who I also met! Hi Gordy! ) and broadcast in 2002.
And my other bits of work, which involve working as a script doctor, script editor, or a development person, include:
- A Many Splintered Thing, written by Geoff Deane, starring Alan Davies (Hi Alan!) , in which I gave the script notes, and made the coffee,
- Taggart (one series thereof, featuring episodes by Mark Greig and Danny McCahon), on which I was development executive,
- McCallum (another John Hannah show), on which I was the script editor,
- The Paradise Club written by Murray Smith (a forgotten cult classic, about a seedy London nightclub), which was my first TV script editng job,
- Wah Wah, the Richard E. Grant movie, where I gave him script notes, and
- Guantanamero, a quirky and lyrical movie set in Cuba,where I began as script editor and ended up as co-writer.
And scripts I’ve read, professionally for money -
Well, there were thousands of them. Literally thousands, from my first script reading job at the BBC Script Unit, where spec scripts were left in huge piles in the corridor, and sometimes mated and spawned dreadful sitcoms, to more recent script reading assignments for the UK Film Council. I even remember the plots of some of the scripts I’ve read (there were two about the Ice Age, hence my false memory of having lived through it.)
I also teach screenwriting. On the grounds that those who can’t bear to be sat in front of a typewriter all day every day, teach.
I see myself as a glamorous hyphenate. Writer-writer-toolazytogetaproperjob-writer.