And the rain it raineth every day…
Writing this while the wind flattens the few Spring flowers that have come out already in early March and thinking that if this blog was going to be written by Henry, the historian in A Public Murder, and The Last Terrorist, he’d be mentioning the Twelfth Night quotation and wondering whether it was to make the audience laugh since it was written at a time of extreme drought. Though a few years later there were major floods in England.
I love that about Henry, the way he delves back in history and lives his life simultaneously in the present and through his books. Of all the characters I’ve created for the novels, he is, I think, my favourite. And like Henry, being in lockdown alone for a year has sent me delving back into the past to write these first two books in the Pam Gregory series.
I’m also dreaming of all the places I’d like to be. Stephen, a new character in the series, travels widely and has therefore confused my algorithms. They now offer me offshore bank accounts and luxury Caribbean hotels, but haven’t yet picked up on my research into weapons and nerve agents, though when researching these I did wonder whether they’d get picked up by a more serious watcher.
‘Guv, we’ve got someone researching the quietest guns for assassination.’ ‘Let me see…No, look, they’re also looking up weather in Elizabethan England, recipes for spanakopitas, and Spring bulbs. It’s just a novelist.’
Researching The Last Terrorist has been particularly interesting and has not only been a matter of placing myself in the sun in Crete. It also takes me back to my own student days. I remember very well the students rioting in Paris and was in Grosvenor Square in 1968, so I can recall the politics of the era. And interestingly, (always fascinating how these things merge) these politics had also come up this last year because was reading and rereading Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man which I had been very kindly offered the opportunity to adapt into a play for the centenary of our local theatre, the Maddermarket. A production, sadly, which fell under the cosh of the Coronavirus as did two other short plays. But while Bradbury felt that his antihero Howard Kirk would have changed his beliefs and voted for Margaret Thatcher, the actual terrorist group that called themselves November 17, became even more entrenched in their ideologies.
And why did they call themselves November 17? It was because of the Polytechnic uprising which features in A Public Murder. It all ties together.