A few more words about Hamlet

Hamlet-Prince-of-Denmark-A-Novel-NookI’m still a little shellshocked by yesterday’s discovery that A.J. Hartley, Richard Armitage and I are responsible for Audible’s Audiobook of the Year with Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel.  I really had no idea any of this was on the cards. The first I knew was when people started congratulating us.

Reflecting on it now though I think a few more words are in order. I know people thank everyone on these occasions. But thanks really are in order. I couldn’t have even contemplated this project without the hard work and deep intellectual insight of my fellow author, Andrew (sorry — I know it’s initials when it comes to the author name but he’s always Andrew to me). I write from ignorance. Andrew writes from knowledge. I suspect that’s one of the things that made us a good pair since I asked the questions that elicited the right answers from him.

More to the point are the people who don’t often get thanked, especially the production team behind the task. Let me make no bones about it: taking Shakespeare and turning these classics into different dramatic forms, ruthlessly and with no fear of rewriting the original, takes guts. Audible went out on a limb when it commissioned our first Shakespeare adaptation, Macbeth. It took an even bigger risk with Hamlet, a project that goes much further in playing with the original, inventing new characters and reimagining existing ones in ways no one has ever tried before.

Richard Armitage at work in the Audible studios

It was incredibly brave of Steve Feldberg, our guide in the creative team at Audible, to put such trust in us. Just as important when it came to finding the vital deliverer of the book — the narrator — Steve took a careful and painstaking approach over many months looking for the right person for the job. As we now know that person was Richard Armitage, who now possesses the book so confidently I simply cannot imagine how anyone else could have managed it.

We deliberately tried to push the envelope with this project and Audible stuck with us every inch of the way. This isn’t common in the media. Hamlet doesn’t fit into any obvious genre or marketing category, which may be why, even though listeners clearly adore the work, no publisher has shown any interest in turning it into a book. You can, of course, get our self-published ebook of the original now through all the usual sources.

So when I say thanks to Steve’s team… truly, I mean it. Without Audible’s courage we couldn’t have pushed the boundaries the way we did. Now all we need is a visionary TV company to come along and turn it into a six-part series. I have the perfect title by the way: Yorick. And kindly cast Peter Dinklage in the lead part.


Dream of Venice

Dream-of-Venice-CoverThere are millions of Venice-lovers out there. If you want a reminder of why people adore this unique city on the water here’s a book for you. Dream of Venice is a compendium of photos by Charles Christopher with words by a selection of writers and artists associated with the city over the years, from Woody Allen to Julie Christie, star of Don’t Look Now.

I’m delighted to be represented too with an extract from Carnival for the Dead, which is set entirely in Venice during the February carnival.

You can read more about the book on this site. I very specifically tried to capture the atmosphere of the city during a freezing February carnival, and spent a lot of effort there trying to get it right. Given that Venice is an unreal place at the best of times the idea of setting a story there when it deliberately tries to put on a show was a challenge I found quite irresistible.

Carnival isn’t conventional crime or thriller though. It’s what I think of as an entertainment — a toying with literary forms, false stories within false stories, designed to evoke the atmosphere of carnival itself.

Here’s a clip from the Dream of Venice’s Facebook page. I’m delighted to say I’ll be back in Venice next month for a week finishing off a new book. I seem to have fallen into that habit over the past few years — it’s the perfect place to work undisturbed. So the third Pieter Vos tale, set entirely in the Netherlands, will be completed in Dorsoduro.

And here are a few of the hundreds of photos I took while researching the book.




Hamlet is Audible's audiobook of the year

I’m still gobsmacked from this news so please excuse the brevity here. Audible has just listed its best books of 2014… and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel comes top of the list.

Yes… we are Audiobook of the Year.

Here you go…

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 20.22.04

I’m truly gobsmacked. It was a pleasure and a great privilege working with my co-writer the learned A.J. Hartley on this project. But our words would have meant nothing without the fantastic support we received from Steve Feldberg and his team behind the production.

And it was Steve who found the incomparable Richard Armitage to voice the production — the perfect performance for the work.

Thanks everyone! I will now sink a glass of wine. A large one.

Web/Tech Writing

Why is it so easy to write in Ulysses?

As anyone who’s listened or read me on the subject of writing knows, I’m very sceptical of word targets. It can be all too easy to fool yourself into thinking something’s working on the basis of a word count alone. Cutting the words you don’t need is as much a creative act as writing them in the first place. Equally, setting down words you don’t want — and will have to cut later — is the opposite of creativity.

That said I’m now a good way through my current novel, the third Pieter Vos title headed for 2016 publication. It’s the first book I’ve written in Ulysses and boy is it happening quickly.