Because a lot of long-running BBC crime series like WAKING THE DEAD or NEW TRICKS are starting to near the end of their natural lifespan, the drama department are naturally interested in filling those gaps in the schedule that will be appearing in a couple of years time. Hence me being one of a number of writers assigned to having a stab (yes yes) at developing something a bit crimey that could run for a few years.
Now I'm a massive crime fiction fan. More of the American stuff, to be honest, starting with Chandler and working through to George Pelecanos, Carl Hiaasen, Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard, but it's not something I ever set out to write, for the following reason:
Crime plots are hard. Things have to happen in a certain order, and you have to work out not only who was where when Event A happened, but whether they knew about Event A at the time, or were distracted by Event B, which seemed important at the time, but might later turn out not to be important at all. And they could be lying about the whole thing anywhere. This is why I'm much happier writing comedy, where to be completely honest, it really doesn't matter that much what actually happens, as long as it's funny.
Still, I was determined to make it work, and the drama department liked my teen drama series, even if the channel commissioner they showed it to didn't particularly, so they said why not set a crime drama in the same place, which isrural North Cornwall, and give it the same sort of tone, which is to say: slightly odd.
A couple of weeks ago, I handed in the first treatment.
BBC: We're a bit worried about the bestiality.
ME: Implied bestiality!
ME: You don't see anything. It's just talked about. Also it's intrinsic to the story. (pause) Fine, I'll take it out.
The second version of the treatment no longer has implied bestiality in it. In fact I work quite hard at making it a proper, grown-up drama type thing that hangs together, with three acts and action beats and so forth. I send this off, and last week had another meeting.
BBC: Thanks for the revised treatment. It's like a proper, grown-up drama type thing!
ME: I know!
BBC: I mean, it really hangs together, with three acts and action beats and so forth!
ME: I know!
BBC: It's just...
Quite a long pause.
ME: It's like an episode of The Bill, isn't it?
And no offense to The Bill, which is a cracking show, apparently, and really shifts along. Having dabbled in that kind of long-running show, I know they're a nightmare to write and produce, and they go through highly-skilled writers like a 4th edition D&D dwarf warlock goes through kobold minions, which is to say: they go through a lot of them. So 'nuff respec' to The Bill. But still...
BBC: It's just... I think we want you to go more into James Henry World for this one.
THE NEXT DAY:
PATROCLUS: Do you think they meant elves and goblins and stuff?
ME: (worried) I DON'T KNOW!
Five minutes later, wheeling the blue kitten into town, I have an idea about a magic sword. THIS TREATMENT IS GOING TO BE AWESOME.