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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Monday 23 January 2012

Hector is the second book in the series suggested by Carmen Callil when I was at Chatto and Windus.

I doubt there is an author who does not dream of their book becoming a film or adapted for TV.  Such dreams coming true are as rare as hens’ teeth.  The problem sets in when you get a call that someone wants to buy an optioned on your book - an option is one thing, it coming to fruition is another.  When this happens, my advice is always the same - bank the money and forget about it.

For those who don’t know I’d best explain.  A film company or an individual will ask for an option, usually for a year, to make your book into a film etc.  At the end of the year if they are still hopeful they will take another option for another year and so on.  There are stories, largely apocryphal I’m sure, of authors getting cheques from Hollywood studios for years because the project has been forgotten.  I wish!  Several of mine were optioned and I had learnt, the hard way, that I was more likely to win the lottery.

Molly and Hector were a special case, however; and I ignored my own advice and became hopeful.  Bryan Izzard, a producer with a CV as long as your arm, optioned Molly with the understanding that he would option Hector if . . .!  Bryan was successful - On the Buses, The Rag Trade were just two of his successes, when I met him he was working on Channel 4 with Melvyn Bragg.  He was a huge man with a huge personality, I adored him the moment I met him

We were invited to Pinewood Studios for an exploratory meeting, where we met Roger Marshall who was to write the script - another experienced and successful professional, he had written many of the Lovejoy episodes.  I was wide eyed and star struck, gawping at the familiar faces in the huge dining room.  Pinewood is redolent of the past and I  quite expected James Mason or Stewart Granger to appear at any moment.

The good news was that Bryan, Roger and myself hit it off immediately.  I was kept abreast of what was going on, my opinion was asked.  We were set fair.  The first script was rejected by the BBC and so Roger wrote a second.  By now we were into the second option but things were getting very exciting.  We had Penelope Keith on board to play Molly - perfect casting - and Timothy West as a possible Hector.  The  BBC were enthusiastic and paid for further development.

It was a Tuesday, Bryan rang to say  the final meeting, when the BBC would rubber stamp the go ahead, was set for Thursday.  On Wednesday the commissioning editor changed.  On Thursday Tales from Sarson Magna was rejected - the new editor didn’t like it!

I was so disappointed.  Several years later, the phone rang, it was Penelope’s husband asking if there was a possibility of it being resurrected.  I said of course, trying to sound as laid back as possible.  But I never heard anymore.

Herein lies the warning.  Counting chickens springs to mind.  Best to wait until it is on the screen - just to make sure.


  1. Bummox! What a massive anti-climax. Especially as Penelope was so keen to do it.

    Jan x

  2. Such a shame when really good optioned work gets sidelines, and some poorer standard stuff gets broadcast.
    Thanks for the post,

  3. How disappointing. I'd love to see The Cult brought to TV, I think it would make a fantastic mini-series.