Friday, September 28, 2012

Paperback writer: The Beiderbecke Affair is published today

I think it was about November 10, 2010 when I looked at my watch, saw I was late leaving my office and yet as I stood up to go, still thinking, what the hell, make one more phone call. I rang the British Film Institute, as you do, and proposed a book.

It's September 28, 2012 now and that book is on sale: BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair.

This is true: I am shouting about the book's release everywhere I can and I'm doing it obviously because I want the book to be a success but also this is about The Beiderbecke Affair and, stuff me and my involvement, if I hadn't written it I would today be buying it to read. So I take every opportunity to tell everyone who might be as interested as I would be.

But not this time. Not this particular time. Listen, it's just you and me here, I will add all the links to the book and the videos and the podcasts that I've produced but I'd like to just talk to you about what all this means to me. One book is very much like another and if I find revelatory insider details to tell you, well, they are probably revelatory insider details you already knew. In which case, the question is less why I'm telling you and more why you didn't tell me.

I guarantee that you don't know that I am writing to you from the tearoom at Winterbourne. Bugger. You know now.

It's just a rather strange day. Yesterday I hadn't written a book, today I have. That's obviously not how it works but it's how it feels and I am surprised to say that it's only on publication that I'm realising the difference between this and most things I've done. Up until this book and my Doctor Who work, everything I've done has been ephemeral.

Follow. My favourite gig at Radio Times was On This Day, a piece in the daily listings about the history of television as reported in RT and it was very much as if I would bound up to you with a new morsel of information. I vividly remember going to look up The Glittering Prizes, an especially famous drama from 1976 and discovering that it began on the same day as Kizzy. Turning that page, seeing that listing, I was right back in 1976.

I hoped then and I still hope now that maybe you got the same or a similar rush from seeing something that I brought to your attention. But I didn't do it today. I can't remember when that gig finished but if you wanted to read any of it now you'd have to go to some trouble looking up eBay listings for old Radio Times. Many, many people buy and sell old Radio Times copies and not one of them does it to get their hands on one of my On These Days.

Similarly, all my Ceefax work was gone the day it was done. You can still look up BBC News Online pieces but why would you?

Whereas, for good or bad, my book is here. It will go out of print but even when that happens, it has queered the pitch for anyone else wanting to write about The Beiderbecke Affair. It's me or it's nothing. I was aware of that when I originally phoned the BFI, I was aware of it as I wrote – of course you want to get things right but you have to, you have to, you have to since nobody else is going to cover the same topic – but I think I only really felt it now.

Shirley Rubinstein, Beiderbecke writer Alan Plater's widow, told me that I am now forever bound up with Beiderbecke. I am not bound up with One Direction or whoever I last wrote about on I'm okay with that. I gulped a bit when she told me because it's true. Whether my book is good or bad, it is the only book on this topic. If you Google the words "Beiderbecke Affair" you do get me.

Wait. Let me try it. I'm writing on my iPad, newly, freshly tethered over my iPhone in a way that lets me think I'm online but actually takes just long enough to connect to anywhere that every page becomes an exciting, tantalising, cliffhanging mystery as it sloooooowly appears.

Google: "The Beiderbecke Affair"

I am there. But I'm ninth in the search results and that's way below the fold, you would never scroll down past eight other fully Beiderbecke references feeling somehow dissatisfied until you reached me.

So that's alright then.

What am I worrying about?

Alan Plater was a friend. Shirley Rubinstein is. The Beiderbecke Affair made a big difference to my career: my very first big magazine article was about it. Actually, my book is about The Beiderbecke Affair, it's about Alan Plater and it's published by the British Film Institute and that very first article was too. It was about Alan and Beiderbecke, it was published by the BFI.

I actually think that Beiderbecke becomes personal to anyone who watches it. Or at least anyone who watches and enjoys it. That first one, especially. Without anything really seeming to happen, huge things go on and the Beiderbecke world is warmly enveloping. I have a habit of picking up lines from dramas and finding that they are in my everyday speech, my own ideolect, and there are plenty of Beiderbeckeisms that have come tripping out of me over the years.

This is all unconscious and I never know why it's happening, I routinely say something I know is a quote but I can't place it. But I am conscious of one line in particular. It's not from Beiderbecke but it is an Alan Plater line and I used it in the book most deliberately.

I used it in the dedication: "This is dedicated to Angela, Alan, Shirley and all passing by – as am I."


Buy BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair
Watch the Author Video about the book
Subscribe free to the Beiderbecke podcast on iTunes


Ken Armstrong said...

Lovely post. Warmest congratulations on your book. Warmest. k

Kellyann Zuzulo said...

Excellent! You've convinced me that I have to read this book.