The Muse Steps In…

I finished White Crane (the latest in the Nathan Hawk Murder Mysteries) and dead pleased with myself I rolled it off and gave it to The Muse to have a read. It took her two days of intense work, interrupted by the demands of her own business, and I did my usual thing of “popping in” to see “how she was getting along”. In other words did she like it? On several occasions I noticed she was wielding the red pen … not to circle misspellings or repetitions, but to make notes. Some of them quite long. Spirits plummeted. I asked outright what she thought of it. Terrific, she said. Spirits rose again.

Finally we sat down in the living room – dogs, log fire, coffee, faces smiling to the point of aching, and she waded in. She liked the book, she said. Spirits rose. But … Spirits sank again. The last third of the book needed work, she thought. Spirits sank even lower. I pretended I was grateful for her input when, in truth, I could have killed her.

The thing about all this is that we’ve done this macabre dance time and time again over the last xx years. (Number withheld for various reasons) I’ve written literally hundreds of scripts for television and not one of them left the house without The Muse had the final say. It’s pissed me off every time because, like every writer I’ve ever known, I’ve always believed (at least for a while) that the first draft is the definitive one. The fact that even a humble episode of Boon or Lovejoy often ended up with a second, third or even fourth draft is irrelevant.

She even reads these newsletters before I publish them, by the way. So any criticism I make of her is offered in a caring way.

Anyway, apart from some … reasonably sound story points The Muse made about ‘White Crane’ she also also said that Covid19 is apparent in the book. Not that it’s mentioned once! What pokes through, according to her, is my attitude to my fellow man, life itself and outfits like Waitrose, Costco, and Land Rover. The Muse says they’re over the top. By which she means bad-tempered, irascible, grumpy … you name it. I call them honest. Whatever the truth they’re the result of being cooped up like a chicken for a year. So White Crane will take another couple of weeks while I sort out the tone. It’s pretty mean of The Muse, though, when she knows I’ve got another book in the Nathan Hawk series ready to be written but she’s probably right. Mind you, I can’t promise my attitude to Waitrose will change that much … I mean over-priced, small fish counter, small meat counter, indifferent deli, etc…

White Crane Book by author Douglas Watkinson

While I’m in a critical mood I watched the first episode of Simon Nye’s new series ‘Finding Alice’. It’s a dark comedy drama, witty and beautifully written, and with a cast who are all on the same page as far as style is concerned. We thought we would binge on the rest of it, only to find that ITV doesn’t subtitle episodes two onward and (here comes the complaint) the sound quality is less than perfect. Too much wow and flutter so that a lot of the nuance goes unheard. And, alas, there is one actor in it who doesn’t help … a young actor who should have learned from the rest of the cast how to be heard on telly.


Douglas Watkinson is an English novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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