Thursday’s child, according to the rhyme, is full of woe. Not this child! It’s been a good week on several levels.
Who could fail to be knocked out by Sally Wainwright’s sublime storytelling in ‘Happy Valley’? The concluding part was a showstopper of characterisation. The villain of the piece, Tommy Lee Royce, played brilliantly by James Norton, was the right side of cracked and yet also humanised by his touching response to the discovery that he had a son. Sarah Lancashire’s portrayal of Sgt Catherine Cawood, a bereaved mother, who always knew that her daughter was no angel, was searing in its depiction of grief and rage and thirst for justice.
Often, when writers talk about characterisation, they refer to consistency of thought and behaviour. There is a truth in this, but what makes Wainwright’s work stand head and shoulders above the crowd is that she creates characters that tick to their own internal logic. She has that rare and genuine understanding of human frailty. She ‘gets’ that humans are inconsistent. We don’t always have to like them all of the time. With immense skill, she translates this into fictional form. I suspect this is why she can turn her hand so effectively to comedy, as in ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ as well as writing gritty, crime drama with raw and credible characters that speak to the heart. I look forward to the next series.
Back in the day, to coin a phrase, I worked for a top public relations consultancy off Regent Street in London. We had all sorts of high profile accounts and one of my jobs as a lowly employee was to write press releases, which I’d then push in front of a journalist’s nose in the fond hope of gaining coverage for a client. It usually worked. My boss at the time used to blither on that ‘Ishers’ (my nickname) had the best track record for getting press releases published virtually word for word, no subbing. I had good contacts with the Press and enjoyed an easy-going, symbiotic relationship. Flash forward a few decades and I’ve been surprised and a tad alarmed by how little editors of local newspapers and magazines are interested in local authors and new novels. This week, that all changed.
My other half picked up the Cheltenham Standard in Café del Art on Sunday morning and said, ‘This looks rather good.’ I had a quick flick through, found out the name of the editor and email address and, on impulse and without much confidence, contacted him early on Monday morning asking whether he’d like to cover my newly released novel ‘Game Over’. Back came a reply within hours. By 5.00 pm, a journalist had contacted me for a telephone interview. The following day I was sent a list of questions, which I responded to and by close of play, the whole lot had been written, filed, ready to appear in today’s copy. Joy unconfined. This is how it’s supposed to work, and thank God for a newspaper that has gone back to core values, cares about editorial and doesn’t put you in a vice with the chilling phrase, ‘You take out an ad with us and we’ll do you an advertorial.’ I am not against advertising, but as I learnt a long time ago, column inches speak louder than paid for puff-up.