Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reflecting on 2016, planning for 2017

Stuff I did and stuff that happened in 2016:
Wrote my 46th issue of Fantomen comic, as yet unpublished. 
My 2002 Doctor Who novel Amorality Tale was released as an unabridged audio book, read by Dan Starkey, which was nice.
Revisited my Doctor Who novel Who Killed Kennedy and added a new ending to create a 20th anniversary edition, one with which I'm finally happy - you can read the ebook free here.

Signed the contract to co-write a putative trilogy of SF novels about which I can say no more.

Updated and expanded my Inspector Morse guide by nearly 50,000 words and published it as an ebook, Endeavour: The Complete Inspector Morse, available exclusively for Kindle readers through Amazon.

Spent several fruitless months in development hell working on Tealeaf, my TV project for pre-teens.

Devoted several months to finessing the treatment for my rom-com spec feature Nobody's Perfect, working with a development student at the National Film & Television School.
Stuff I will do and stuff that will be happening in 2017:
Thrill-Power Overload - my history of iconic British weekly 2000AD - is being reissued in February 2017. The edition will be hardback, 400 pages and updated with new material by journalist Karl Stock to cover the last ten years. I'll even be attending 2000AD's 40th birthday bash in London to help pimp the book. You can pre-order Thrill-Power Overload here
I'll be working on the co-written trilogy about which I can say no more. 
I'll be writing at least a first draft of Nobody's Perfect.

And I'll be starting a Creative Writing PhD at Lancaster University in January, part-time via distance learning. For this I will be writing a historical crime novel with the working title Safer To Be Feared.
I may well spend some more time in children's TV development hell, and would love to write another script for Fantomen, but the things listed above are my 2017 priorities.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why Endeavour is the best Inspector Morse spin-off

My new ebook Endeavour: The Complete Inspector Morse includes a section tracing the character's evolution over the decades. In this, I argue that the young Morse TV drama series Endeavour is the most creatively successful new work involving Dexter's characters since the author killed off his Oxford detective, trumping the Lewis spin-off, Morse stage play and all other efforts. Below is an exclusive extract:
Broadcaster ITV struggled to fill the void left by the loss of Morse, with nothing able to match the success of such a beloved series. So in 2004 ITV went back Dexter and secured his permission to resume development of a Lewis spin-off. Whately was persuaded back into the role and approval gained from Thaw’s widow, Sheila Hancock.
            Launched in January 2006, Lewis was another success, making a regular series inevitable for the newly promoted inspector. He would deal with 33 cases over the next nine years, ample proof of how enduring Dexter’s creations had become. The author even wrote a short story for Lewis and his television sidekick Sergeant James Hathaway in 2006. The circle was complete once more, in print and on screen.
            Morse has also ventured into theatre, taking to the stage in a 2010 play called House of Ghosts. It didn’t match the success of his other incarnations, but history proved the inspector is a resilient character and a revival of the play followed in 2015.
            But the most unlikely and - in the opinion of this author - the most creatively successful new incarnation of Morse is the prequel TV series Endeavour. Conceived as a one-off to mark the 25th anniversary of Morse’s first television appearance, it was inspired by a short story Dexter wrote for the Daily Mail in 2008. The prose tale had an undergraduate Morse solving a mystery, but Endeavour moved on to his earliest days as a police detective in Oxford. Dexter has written little about Morse’s background, much of its contradictory, leaving the creative team free to craft their vision.
            The 1960s setting enables Endeavour to avoid the narrative pitfalls borne of 21st Century technology like mobile phones, facial recognition software and DNA profiling. Instead, the detectives must rely on their instincts, intelligence, and deductive reasoning to solve cases. The period also provides a vibrant storytelling backdrop, with British society undergoing radical changes during the Swinging Sixties.
            The usual high standard of production values, the glorious backdrop of Oxford and an outstanding cast of actors have all contributed to the success of Endeavour - especially Shaun Evans and Roger Allam as DC Morse and DI Thursday, respectively. But the masterstroke for this particular show has been the presence of a single writer - Russell Lewis - providing each and every script.
            Having Lewis as executive producer and sole writer for Endeavour echoes the role of Colin Dexter as Morse’s creator. This authored approach helps give the show a consistent creative vision. Characters can grow and evolve but retain their unique voices and attitudes, even in the most outrageous experiments with tone and genre. From the spooky chills of ‘Nocturne’ to the serial killer thriller ‘Fugue’ or the nature strikes back bizarreness of ‘Prey’, every episode still feels like part of the same show.
            Lewis says he has already written the final scene of Endeavour. Perhaps it will be Morse getting the keys to his beloved burgundy Jaguar 2.4 Mk II - registration 248 RPA - and driving it away through the dreaming spires of Oxford? Whatever the show’s finale, hopefully we will not be seeing for a while yet...

Monday, December 26, 2016

This is Endeavour: The Complete Inspector Morse

 January 6th 2017 is the thirtieth anniversary of Inspector Morse making his TV debut, starring John Thaw as the grumpy Oxford detective and Kevin Whately as his long-suffering sidekick, the redoubtable Sergeant Lewis.

To mark the occasion I have self-published a new ebook edition of my guide to all things Morse. ENDEAVOUR: The Complete Inspector Morse is a vastly expanded and updated version of the book formerly known as The Complete Inspector Morse, adding nearly 50,000 words of new material to the ebook.

It covers Colin Dexter's original Morse novels and short stories, the Inspector Morse TV series that ran from 1987-2000, and related materials - radio adaptations, the Morse stage play and so on. The big addition to this edition is comprehensive analysis of Endeavour, the TV drama prequel set in the 1960s, starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse and Roger Allam as his mentor, DI Thursday.

The new ebook covers the first 13 episodes of Endeavour, up to and including Series Three. To mark Morse's 30 years on screen, ITV is launching Series Four on Sunday January 8th 2017. I've got a wee preview of Series Four in the ebook, a full analysis will be in a future edition. The new run of stories looks like a corker, judging by this trailer:

For now, ENDEAVOUR: The Complete Inspector Morse is only available as an ebook, sold exclusively through Amazon sites in various countries [the US edition is available here, for example]. This raises two questions: why is it only available as an ebook, and why have I chosen to self-publish it this round?

The Complete Inspector Morse has always been a steady rather than spectacular seller. Titan published the fifth edition in 2011 after acquiring Reynolds & Hearn's list of titles, but The Complete Inspector Morse didn't shift enough to persuade Titan into commissioning an update for Morse's 30th TV anniversary.

But my original contract is so elderly [2001 - long before Kindles or tablet computer], it gave the publisher only non-exclusive electronic rights, enabling me to issue a new ebook. With the ease of self-publishing, I choose to do just that.

Endeavour enthusiast Jo White [aka @Jodelle08 ] provided the cover photo which she took while the show was filming its fourth series in Oxford earlier this year. She even waived a fee, suggesting I make a donation to Oxfam instead, which I was happy to do.

Being too time-poor [and, let's be honest, too lazy] to learn how to format my complicated text for ebook, I employed the publishing consultancy services of Caroline Goldsmith to do all the coding. Very helpful and reasonably priced too - I can recommend her.

I don't expect to make money from ENDEAVOUR: The Complete Inspector Morse - indeed, if I eventually cover my costs, I'll be happy. So why did self-publish it? Because I enjoy all things Morse and wanted to mark the character's 30th anniversary on TV.

So, if you enjoy all things Morse - or if you're simply a fan of the TV series Endeavour - you might give ENDEAVOUR: The Complete Inspector Morse a look. And if you enjoy the ebook, please give it a good review on Amazon or Good Reads. Onwards!