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I really should be promoting my own book here – listen, it's BFI TV Classics: The Beiderbecke Affair and it's out on 28 September in the UK – but I've also got to urge you to buy the Network DVD release of The Beiderbecke Affair. I couldn't recommend that more if they were paying me. Though actually, Network was a great help to me with the book: they couldn't have been more help if I'd been paying them.
Network DVD is a UK firm so I presume you can't usefully buy that in the States or Canada but fortunately you can get my book everywhere. It's out 30 October in America and in Canada too.
Before all of that, I'm going to be speaking at the PowWow LitFest in Birmingham on 23 September swapping live on stage between a Beiderbecke hat and a Doctor Who script writing one.
Other events and much more Beiderbecke to follow but, seriously, that's enough linking for one day.
Funny. By the time the book comes out in the US, it will have been near enough two years since I phoned the British Film Institute with the idea to write it. I can see me standing up by my desk, needing to get out to a meeting but thinking I'd just try them while it was on my mind.
And I do very clearly remember weighing up whether to pitch the idea at all. If you're going to do a book about something, you have to love it enough to be willing to hate it. To accept that by the end of the process, you will scream if you ever hear the title again. It's inevitable: so much goes into your head during the researching and the writing; plus no project is ever straightforward so there will be many times when you wonder if it's bleedin' worth the trouble.
Or so I thought.
I suspect now that The Beiderbecke Affair may be the very best introduction to book writing that I could've had. The BFI is great to work with, everybody I spoke to about Beiderbecke was enthusiastic and informative and charming. I cannot draw to mind a moment that didn't work as planned – that didn't work exactly as hoped.
Certainly, there were problems getting everything in and getting everything done to deadline. There was the moment when I got to read every script of the show bar the last ten pages of episode four which have somehow vanished from the archives. There was the moment when I was conflicted: I'd either already written or had extremely thoroughly allotted every chapter, every section, practically every word but I'd also now just found a previously unpublished Beiderbecke short story by Alan Plater.
It was murder cramming that in. Also rather a new experience for me: I've commissioned hundreds of thousands of words of journalism from all sorts of writers but not once before had I ever had to negotiate rights to publish someone's fiction. I'm writing this to you in my living room and I remember making the first phone calls about that story while hovering around the window and looking out at the rain.
Actually, if you want to build a picture here, I'm sitting in the seat I bounded out of when Diana Dunn phoned me. Did I tell you this already? Complicated story. She ended up phoning me because of someone else I'd been tracking down for the book and she honestly did not expect me to even know who she was. "DIANA DUNN!" I said calmly.
I've probably seen The Beiderbecke Affair thirty times now, and only twenty of them over the last two years. The other ten were spread out since it first aired in the 1980s and long before I even imagined writing a book. And each time I'd catch an episode, I'd see Diana's name on the credits for having designed that terrific title sequence.
I'm sure I've told you that. I'm sure I should be telling you all this kind of thing in about two weeks when the book actually comes out. But you've just got that kind of face, I feel I can tell you anything.