Thursday, November 22, 2007

My novels #4: Who Killed Kennedy

DOCTOR WHO: Who Killed Kennedy (Virgin Books, 1996)

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on 22 November, 1963.

Now, the publication of this volume reveals frightening new information about the assassination, the real reasons why the Present of the United States had to die and an incrdible plan to save the man known as JFK!

These stunning relevations involve an ultra-secret military force disguised as a minor off-shoot of the United Nations and an international terrorst leader who has twice brought the world to the brink of nuclear conflict.

For more than three decades the public has been fed lies, half-truths and misinformation. Now - despite government attempts to halt the publication of this volume - the comple, shocking story can be told. Read the book they tried to ban!


By 1995 I was itching to write another novel. I'd had three Judge Dredd tomes published, but the last of those was an unsatisfying experience. After a year away from writing novels, the urge to create another was strong. Having been a been a life-long Doctor Who fan, it made sense for me to pitch an original Who novel to my regular publisher Virgin, as it then held a licence from the BBC to publish original Who novels. There were two ranges at the time - the New Adventures featured the 7th Doctor and had built an extended continuity of stories and characters, all set after the show was cancelled in 1989, and the Missing Adventures, novels featuring past doctors slotted into gaps between television stories.

I pitched all sorts of ideas to editor Rebecca Levene, none of them good enough to get commissioned. Finally, I suggested a Doctor Who version of the comics mini-series Marvels. That took a sideways look at Marvel Comics continuity, showing epic moments from a photojournalist's point of view, giving a fresh perspective on familiar events. Why not take the same approach to classic Who stories, like the Pertwee era when the 3rd Doctor was stuck on Earth in the early 1970s? How would normal people react to the spate of alien invasions that occurred in that period?

Somehow this burgeoned into a book written in the breathless style of non-fiction expose, blending Who continuity as seamlessly as possible with real history to create a new reality. Everybody loved the idea, but I didn't have an ending. I suggested the book could culminate in events that saw the Roger Delgado Master dying and regenerating. Virgin suggested swapping that for a JFK assassination theme, to broaden the book's appeal to a wider audience. I bought into the idea, knowing it would get me a commission. The hybrid book I was writing didn't fit easily into the New or Missing Adventures, so it became a new kind of Who fiction - miscellaneous.

Looking back from this distance, the JFK elements still feel bolted on, despite my best efforts to incorporate them into the text. But Who Killed Kennedy is a masterpiece of what's termed fanwank - the blatant, sometimes gratuitous use of continuity references to further a narrative. It's easily the most popular and best-selling of my Who novels, and still gets remembered fondly.

In its own way, Who Killed Kennedy is a forerunner of sorts for the new series TV story Love and Monsters. Both feature a man on an obsessive quest to discover the truth about this mysterious individual called the Doctor. Both characters fall in love and the women they love suffers a terrible fate as a consequence of that obsession. Both characters only meet the Doctor near the end of the story, as events shudder to a climax. But Who Killed Kennedy features considerably less ELO and there's no implications of paving slab fellatio.

You can read Who Killed Kennedy online, accompanied by extensive author's notes and annotations, by clicking here.


MerseyMal said...

I have this book in a pile of books somewhere waiting to be re-read and shelved when I've sorted out my reading/hi-fi room (and soon to be reading/hi-fi/gaming/home cinema room).

I remember reading the Virgin Doctor Who novels with relish as they were much better than the majority of the Target novelisations which tended to be dry conversions of the TV episodes and not much else added. Though they improved later on.

jonathan said...

I'm enjoying these trips down memory lane.

In 2002, when asked by Big Finish to write something that referenced the Pertwee era in an oblique way, I turned to Who Killed Kennedy for inspiration.

The words "Who killed Kennedy" became the inspiration for Doctor Who Unbound: Sympathy for the Devil. So David Bishop is also at least partly responsible for that.

MerseyMal said...

Hi Jonathan. I bought "Sympathy For The Devil last year and it's my favourite Unbound story (David Warner makes an excellent alternative Doctor too), though I rather liked Gary Russell's "He Jests At Scars" too.