Friday, May 18, 2012

What A Difference a Decade Makes

       On the 17th March 2002, following six months of very enjoyable research, I started work on THE LAST DANCE. It was originally entitled THE PLAYBOYS but, as is often the case with my books, during the writing process, THE LAST DANCE suggested itself as the title and it stuck. The main reason for the title change happened when it became clear to me that although The Playboys Showband from Castlemartin was a big part of the story it wasn’t solely a story about the showband. The story was also about the ever changing Ireland during the late 1950s and the early 1960s. And even more importantly it was about Martin McCelland, the lead singer in The Playboys, trying really hard to get it together with his best mate from childhood, the stunning Hanna Hutchinson. As well as the above we also learn about their lives and Martin’s mother Kathleen McCelland; his and Hanna’s other childhood friend, Sean MacGee; Jim Mitchell the owner of Dreamland the local ballroom on the shores of Lough Neagh, and the mystery of what had happened to The Playboys and Martin. So, all told, THE LAST DANCE as a title worked perfectly for me. The first draft took about 9 months to complete.
       I was reasonably happy with it; I liked the story a lot but I wasn’t 100% convinced I’d captured it as successfully as I wanted to. I did a bit more work on it (but not really if you know what I mean) and sent it to my then current publishers. Although they specialised in crime novels, they offered to publish it. They even went as far as preparing a jacket and putting it on the schedule.
       However when I received the proof copy back from them I was disappointed with the editing. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t exactly disappointed in their work; I was more frustrated by my original work. I still loved the idea but I figured I just wasn’t telling the story properly.
       By this pointed I’d completed work on my next Christy Kennedy Mystery, The Justice Factory, and so I suggested to the publishers that they slot that title into the schedule instead of THE LAST DANCE, which was returned to gathering dust on the shelf.
       I thought no more about it for ages and a few books (years) later I signed a new publishing deal, this time with Brandon Books. I’d a few conversations with Brandon’s Steve MacDonogh, about my showband book. He was very keen on the idea and we agreed I’d give it to him when I’d done some more work on it. In the meantime he published two more DI Kennedy titles and encouraged me to start a new series featuring Inspector Starrett, set in Donegal, and he’d published the first two titles in that series.
       Then Steve very sadly passed away in the autumn of 2010 after a very short illness.
I decided not to start another novel until the future of Brandon was resolved. I was up in Donegal for a break and I just love to have some writing work to do to start of each and every morning, so, I dusted down THE LAST DANCE and got stuck back into it as a serious project.
       It was still a story I was very keen to tell having been a manager (I was 15 years old at the time) of a wee group from the South of County Derry called the Blues by Five. The Blues by Five used to play relief to the legendary Irish showbands. During the writing I realised that I might just be unique in the fact that not only was I around in the 1960s but I could remember the times vividly.
       Within a few months the story that I’d wanted to tell had started to emerge and I kept on at it until I was comfortable enough with it that I was prepared to show it to someone.
       I’d met Edwin Higel from New Island a few times over the years. I always got on well with him, enjoyed his company and his honest no-nonsense style and so I sent him the fully reworked and edited version of THE LAST DANCE. He enjoyed it enough to pass it on to Eoin Purcell, his new commissioning editor. Eoin also enjoyed the book and they offered to publish it. I did some more work on the manuscript with input from Eoin and the New Island’s editor, Justin Cornfield. New Island came up with the perfect jacket and here we are nearly ten years to the day after I first started work on the story and it is ready to hit the shelves and primed for those vital e-world clicks.

This time I’ve seen:

Elvis Costello & The Imposters with the Spectacular Spinning Wheel show @ Birmingahm Symphony Hall. Unbelievable! The spinning wheel format means that Elvis and the gang need to have 150 songs (at the very least) ready and available to play at the spin of the wheel. But the really big thing is they just don’t wing their way through the tunes selected by members of the audience, they’re as tight and soulful on every single tune as you’d ever wish them to be.

And read:

Here Comes Everybody by James Fernley – well written insider account of the turmoil that lead to the classic Fairy Tale of New York.
Backstage Past by Barry Fey - warts (big warts) and all story of the early days of the concert promoters scene in USA. Mr Fey, concert promoter for The Who, Springsteen, The Rolling Stones and U2, is not scared of calling it as he sees it and spilling the beans. I imagine there will be a pile of very expensive lawyers sifting through these pages as thoroughly as a colour blind prospector. Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner –a great read.
Calico Joe by John Grisham – intriguing story and possibly a great future movie.
A Natural Woman by Carole King - beautifully written, honest and enlightening biography. The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni – another story, which in the right hands will be a brilliant movie.

And heard:

...that Mark Zuckerberg is now supposedly one of the richest men in the world. I suppose it all depends on your yardstick. In my book the richest man or woman in the world is someone who could write God Only Knows; If I Fell; Love Minus Zero/No Limits; Goin’ Back or Astral Weeks.

Until the next time...