Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Richard III: This Charming Man

This has been one of the most thrilling years of my career. A bit of a worry when I turned down offers for the revised Valentino book because the publishers who approached me wouldn't do it unless they did the Piaf 50th anniversary one as well. I just didn't want a new outfit being pestered by Valentino loonies, so I did it myself. But, the same loonies drawing attention to me resulted in three more publishing deals--including one for a multi-part series about The Wars of The Roses. The first one comes out next month, round about the same time as my novel about the German Occupation. Roger, my godfather, will be smiling down on me, I hope--it's his story, only the names have changed.
And now, the discovery of Richard's remains has given renewed interest in my other Wars of The Roses saga that's been sitting in the loft for ten years--just as the novels were. When I first started out back in 1987--new career, new name, new home, new lots of other things--I was writing biographies and novels. I published the first Piaf, then they wanted a follow-up. Someone had submitted a biography of George Formby which had caused a bit of a hoo-hah: the publisher kept him hanging on until I had agreed to to do one and it hit the press, then they let him down gently--not a very gentlemanly thing to do, but I'd had it done to me with Josephine Baker, and sadly it's a dog-eat-dog world. The same thing happened again with Maria Callas and Freddie Mercury, and with Liz Taylor the publisher actually negotiated a deal which would see the book emerging a week after she died. Elizabeth knew aabout this all along, and was kindness itself. It's not my fault if I corner the market, they tell me.
But back to Richard. I've now had to completely rewrite the opening chapter of his section of 'The Yorkist Kings'. No more withered arm, humped back and eating live frogs--not that I believed any of that stuff in the first place, though if you're writing something that's supposed to be academic you have to examine every angle. And now I have the 'new' Richard watching me while I work, and I have to say, that image haunted me for many nights before I got used to him. In medieval terms, he now fits into the same matinee idol category as John Dynham and Edward IV.
Neither do I believe that Richard personally killed The Princes In The Tower, only that--again in the dog-eat-dog violent world he lived in--something had to be done about them. The idea of infanticide is repulsive today, but back then it would have been little different than lopping off a thief's hand for stealing bread. The boys were considered dangerous. Insurrections took place in their name, therefore the obvious solution would have been to remove them--like I say, a repulsive thought today, and before the loonies start mouthing off, not one that I agree with. Save that I don't believe that they were removed. Otherwise where does Perkin Warbeck, another medieval matinee idol--fit into all of this?
The television movie about Perkin, with Mark Umbers in the title-role was excellent. It would be nice if they could now do a film about Richard. And I adored that very apt line pronounced by Perkin while referring to Edward, the man who may or may not have been his father, and his excesses: 'If it was dead, he would eat it--if it was alive, he would f*ck it!'

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