June is going to be a busy month for me; after two years a new Mervyn Stone Mystery is going to surface, this time on a shiny CD…
…in which Mervyn is challenged to solve a murder, and comes face-to-face with Phyllis Trilby, the TV executive who cancelled his show in 1992.
Any fan of a Television programme that gets suddenly ripped from their screens will sympathise with the murderous rage this person inspires…
‘Cos it ain’t fair, is it? We don’t want the story to ever end, and we never have. The frustrated grinding of teeth from deprived fans are, ironically, over-familiar sequels from years past; it’s probably the distant ancestors of ‘Babylon 5’ fans who bullied Homer into recounting ‘The Odyssey’, that disappointing follow-up to the Iliad.
Queen Elizabeth used the force of her magisterial power to fight wars, kill catholics, and nudge Shakespeare into rolling out Falstaff one more time in a crowd-pleasing but ultimately unwelcome prequel. In many ways she was the first ‘Star Wars’ fan.
(Apropos of nothing, are the ‘Star Wars’ prequels the most sophisticated textual joke ever played on a movie-going public? The message in the films is ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’, a cautionary motif that is contained both within the narrative of the story and the fact they exist at all. Is the should-have-seen-that-coming impending doom visited on the Jedi actually a metaphor for the gullible optimism that fans deluded themselves that ‘this time round it’s not going to be a disaster’?)
Scheherazade saved her own life with the promise of ‘just one more story’. Perhaps like many fans today, that Persian king might have looked back on his huge Scheherazade box set, and actually wondered if staying up red-eyed for a thousand and one nights was worth it, and he should have just chopped her head off and gone out to play football, or learned to play the piano, or something.
Writers pretend to share the fan’s rage, but secretly, we love it. I’m sorry to tell you that, but yes, we do. Joss Whedon may have popped his bottom lip out when ‘Firefly’ and ‘Dollhouse’ got the chop, but he’s a writer and writers are unsentimental bastards; his brain had finished with them the precise second they died, and already busy forming quips that could be delivered by buff men and women in spandex. I’m sure the only reason why Chris Boucher regrets there was no ‘Blakes’ 7’series five is because then fans would not keep asking him WHAT THE F*CK HAPPENED NEXT? because i’m sure he had no idea either. He had the best thing that could ever happen to a writer. He got to write a fantastic cliff-hanger and never had to resolve it. As ‘Sherlock’ series three advances on us, and we are on the verge of what happened after that impossible ending, Steven Moffat knows full well what a lucky bastard Chris was, because if the BBC pulled the plug after series two, Steven could still tantalise the viewers for years with ‘what could have happened’ anecdotes on chat shows, but he could have also powered down the macbook and gone to the pub.
We writers love it because it give us a feeling of power without having to do any work. Someone has very helpfully taken our creations hostage on our behalf, put a gun against their head, and reminded the fans why they care about them. And how much do fans care about them? A lot more than the writer does. We get bored much quicker than the audience, because we have to write the f*cking words. Just look at Sherlock Holmes again; most of the time we just kill them off ourselves, Conan Doyle stylee, just to see if anyone cares anymore. Marvel and DC comics do it every other week, to jolt some passion into their readers. Shame they’ve done it far too many times and it doesn’t work anymore.
To this end, I have given ‘The Axeman Cometh’ a subheading of ‘Mervyn Stone’s Last Story’. Modelled as it is on Agatha Christie’s ‘Curtain’, Poirot’s final bow, I am going to tantalise you and enrage with the possibility that this is the last you will ever hear from Mervyn Stone EVER again.
Of course it’s all rubbish, but you can’t blame a lazy writer for trying, can you?
‘The Axeman Cometh’ is available from here: