Authors: Mike Ripley
Tags: #london, #1980, #80s, #thatcherism, #jazz, #music, #fiction, #series, #revenge, #drama, #romance, #lust, #mike ripley, #angel, #comic crime, #novel, #crime writers, #comedy, #fresh blood, #lovejoy, #critic, #birmingham post, #essex book festival, #death, #murder, #animal rights
For Kate and Miranda; early fans.
Telos Publishing Ltd
17 Pendre Avenue, Prestatyn, Denbighshire, LL19 9SH
Digital edition converted and published by
Andrews UK Limited 2010
Â© 1989, 2006 Mike Ripley
Â© 2006 Mike Ripley
Cover by Gwyn Jeffers, David J Howe
This digital edition published in 2011 under licence to Andrews UK Ltd
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
I wrote the second Angel novel in the ten month gap between
Just Another Angel
being accepted by Collins in Crime Club in October 1987 and it actually appearing in print in August 1988.
I was working in London for the Brewers' Society, the trade association of the British brewing industry, when there was a British brewing industry, and I was in regular contact with financial journalists, stockbrokers and City analysts.
One evening, I had arranged to meet a certain broker for a pint or three in one of the pubs near Liverpool Street station. In those days, there were still good pubs, wine bars and even oyster bars there â and just about everybody smoked.
I was early and so I did what I usually did in London pubs: hid behind a book and listened to other people's conversations.
Through a forest of Hugo Boss suits and bright red braces, I picked up on one particular voice saying: ââ¦ so he took out the market-makers in a dawn raid â¦'
I thought that sounded fantastic, even though I had absolutely no idea what it meant. When my City broker finally turned up, I let him buy me pint and then asked him what âtaking out the market-makers' meant. His response was an instant, snappy âWho told you that?' and he looked so guilty, I knew I was on to something.
After another round of beers, or maybe two, I had my plot: a financial scam in the newly-reorganised City of London where a new breed of market-makers were trying to iron out (or exploit) the glitches in the âBig Bang' electronic revolution that had shaken up the stock exchange.
Despite all the promises of an IT-based future, 1987 was still the Bronze Age compared with today. In most London offices, the cutting edge of technology was the fax machine, though it was far from universal. My own office in the West End had only just consigned its telex machine and punched-tapes to a museum. A word processor was a middle-aged woman with a Dictaphone and an IBM golf-ball typewriter. No-one had a mobile phone smaller or lighter than a brick.
Technology has changed so quickly since then that much of
now seems completely dated, and few who work in the City now would recognise the âMcGuffin' of the plot. The background premise, though, may still hold good. On my visits to the offices of brokers and analysts, I had noticed the conspicuous absence of female faces, and the colour of the male ones was, without exception, white.
Therefore I decided on a situation where there was a financial scam (insider trading) going on and the prime suspect was the sole black, female stockbroker. I wanted a situation where Angel, who knew nothing about the City or financial dealing, could be accepted because he was white and wore a suit, whereas Salome was automatically a suspect even though she was brilliant at her job.
The other key element in the story was paint-balling â war games for terminally-teenaged men â which was still a game in those days and had not yet become a ghastly management torture under the guise of âteam-building.' It was so intrinsically silly a pastime, I just couldn't resist it.
Most of the characters in the book were reprised from
Just Another Angel
, but with one notable newcomer, the itinerant musician and professional Irish scallywag Francis Xavier Dromey, better known as Werewolf.
Although he featured in only two books, Werewolf is one of the most fondly remembered of my creations. (Springsteen is the top one.) And like the plot of the novel, he was born in a pub, this time the Three Tuns, the home of the notorious Thursday Club, an informal friendly society of off-duty policemen, writers and other layabouts founded by the lovely Bill Carmichael, step-dad of Pierce (007) Brosnan.
The prototype Werewolf had stumbled (literally) into the pub after a heavy morning auditioning somewhere. Striking up a conversation, as you do, with the regulars, this incredibly hairy young man with fantastically bad teeth and a beard you could hide a badger in, told us he was a jobbing actor, currently unemployed. Someone remarked that he must have been after the part of the Wolfman, and he liked the idea and slipped into character for the rest of the afternoon, whilst remaining witty and charming, though not necessarily upright. He was instantly christened âWerewolf', including by the Irish landlady, but I think his real name was Peter something. He was good value and stuck in my mind, though I only ever met him that one time. I did see him some years later, as an extra in an episode of
, the BBC's hospital soap opera. He played a drunk. He was rather good.
was published in the early summer of 1989 and received very favourable reviews in almost all the national newspapers. Marcel Berlins selected it as his crime novel of the year in
and it went on to win the Crime Writers' Association's Last Laugh Award for comedy.
Much to the annoyance of my editor at Collins, I had acquired the services of an agent, David Higham Associates (who had been Dorothy L Sayers' agents). Very quickly after publication, it seemed as if they had hit the agenting jackpot:
they had sold the television rights.
At the time, this was the crime writer's Holy Grail. The Angel books would never make movies, but a television series was a distinct possibility, and suddenly people were talking about âthe natural successor to
,' and a reviewer on Capital Radio actually described Angel as âa young Arthur Daley with a degree.'
If television was hungry for new material, there was plenty to choose from. The years 1987 and 1988 had seen the blossoming of a new wave of British crime writers, several of whom formed the Fresh Blood group in 1991. But television is a fickle mistress.
, featuring his journalist detective Sam Dean, was the first to be snapped up and filmed by the BBC in 1990 but, inexplicably, it remained a one-off. Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series set in Edinburgh (though Ian lived in France then) was getting noticed by discerning critics, even if mega-stardom and bestseller lists were some years off. Probably due to the continued success of that other Scottish detective
, it was to be the year 2000 before Rebus was portrayed on the small screen by John Hannah, and 2006 before he was reincarnated by Ken Stott. John Harvey's wonderful Inspector Resnick series, set in Nottingham, was adapted for BBC2 starring the excellent Tom Wilkinson. Grittier and more realistic than the usual TV cop-show fare, the short series (two of the books were filmed) was to suffer from bizarre scheduling and disgracefully allowed to wither and die on the vine by 1992.
But Angel's biggest rival was probably Mark Timlin's south London private eye Nick Sharman, a role eventually taken by Clive Owen (the best James Bond we never had) in 1996.
The rights to
had been bought by an independent production company for an initial one year, with the standard option of one further year. The idea was to develop a script and put together a pilot show with a view to selling the idea of a series to one of the television broadcast companies; either the BBC or one of the ITV companies such as Granada or Yorkshire or the brash newcomer on the scene, Carlton.
Being a total virgin in the whacky world of television, I was prepared to do what I was told, which was precisely nothing. The production company made it clear from the start that they wanted to employ a scriptwriter with television experience and not a fledgling novelist who had published two books and two short stories.
For two years all I had to do was dodge the question, âWho do you want to play Angel?' I knew that if I was not allowed any input into the script, I was hardly likely to get a say in the casting, especially as we were entering the era of star-lead productions, where you could sell
to a TV network as long as it had John Thaw or David Jason or Nick Berry (!) in it. (Later, the same applied to James Nesbitt and, almost, Robert Carlyle.)
As 1991 drew to a close, I was told that a writer had been hired and a script was due by Christmas. Now the going rate then for a one-hour pilot script and treatment was roughly Â£8,000. I don't know how much the Angel hack got, but all he delivered was a synopsis of the book and a note saying he had taken on other work and hadn't the time to do a proper treatment or script.
I was appalled by this, but my production company didn't bat an eyelid, simply telling me not to worry as there were âplenty more writers out there.'
The second year option expired and my agent negotiated a third-year option as âthere was no other offer on the table.' As it turned out, there was considerable interest in the books (of which there were now four, three of which had won awards) up at Yorkshire Television, but they were unwilling to show their hand just yet.
Another scriptwriter was commissioned; this time one I had heard of. I had even seen a two-part surreal thriller he had written for the BBC. I felt slightly more confident, although I never heard from the writer. In fact, I heard nothing at all from the production company for about six months and then, when I asked for an update, they reluctantly disclosed the fact that there
a script and it was being pitched to Carlton TV, although I was not allowed to see it. I was aware, because I knew Mark Timlin, that Carlton were also considering a series starring his Nick Sharman, but my production company told me not to worry my pretty little head over things like that.
And then two very odd things happened.
On my birthday in 1992, I met a woman in a pub in Oxfordshire, as you do, who turned out to be the producer of
, the current BBC Sunday evening hit pulling in anything up to 11 million viewers. About a week later, she rang my agent, having gone out and bought a couple of my novels, and offered me the chance to write scripts for the series.
In 1993, my first solo-credit episode (containing a part specially written for Bert Kwouk) was broadcast, and I was no longer a scriptwriting virgin.
I had such a good time working on
(filming near to my home on the Essex/Suffolk border) that I hardly gave
a thought. And then one day I was invited, out of the blue, to the Holborn offices of Yorkshire TV for a meeting on my way home from work with their Head of Drama, Keith Richardson.
Intrigued, and sworn to secrecy, I learned that Yorkshire were interested in
as a vehicle for ex-
' star Nick Berry, who was currently starring in
, the ITV show going head-to-head with the
for the big Sunday night viewing figures. Keith Richardson's main concern seemed to be âHow can we do the music?' but he had obviously read the books and insisted that Nick Berry had too (an unusual thing for an actor.) There was, however, the slight problem that my production company held the rights.
I went away from that meeting feeling confident that things were happening. (Actually, I went straight from that meeting to a wine bar near the Old Curiosity Shop near Lincoln's Inn Fields, which at that time was occupied by homeless squatters in what was known as âCardboard City', and from there sprang the plot of
, which just proves that no day is wasted.)
All I had to do was wait for the rights to revert to me at the end of the third year and I could sell them to Yorkshire and Nick Berry. The only way my production company could hang on to them was if they
their option, something that usually happened, technically, on the first day of filming once the project was in production.