Springtime for Romney.

Some weeks I wonder what on earth I’m going to blog about in my writer’s diary. Other weeks, like this week, I have so many ideas for blog posts that I hardly know where to start.

I wasn’t planning on powering up the laptop tonight to write this week’s blog-post. I was going to wait until the weekend. I was going to wait because I’ve just finished a first good draft of a writing project and usually when I get to that landmark I open a bottle of wine and a family bag of crisps and watch crap on the telly all night. As a reward.

Should be considered a punishment. I was feeling quite jolly, quite buoyant. I had a couple of glasses of the local anti-freeze with dinner, turned on the telly, watched ten minutes of doom and gloom (the news) and decided that I was wasting my life.

So telly off, laptop on.

Last week I reported that I’d gone straight from R&M#5 into R&M#6. I was confident enough in my idea to have given R&M#6 a title. (I should come clean with my diary here. I started R&M#6 because I had a good underlying plot line that I wanted to get straight into after R&M#5. I even had the title of the book. A couple of thousand words in and the story had veered off at an obtuse angle, the title was no longer relevant and the story was evolving to be far removed from what I had envisaged. Old title New Age Graves. New title Happy Families.) Upside is I have an idea and a title for R&M#7. It’s going to be called New Age Graves.

Anyway, I got twenty-five thousand words into R&M#6, Happy Families, and I had another writing idea. And because I feel pretty confident about R&M#6 and where it’s going to go I treated myself to a week’s break to indulge myself in another project that really had me by the… interested.

I’ve being toying with this project idea for quite a while now. This week I tore into it and I’ve finished a first draft. It’s only nine thousand words but that might be enough….when the songs are included.

Yes, I typed ‘songs’.

This week I have written the first draft for Romney and Marsh……..the musical.

(Tumble-weed moment.)

I had this idea ages and ages ago that there was nothing I could think of that couldn’t be made funny by tacking the words ‘the musical’ on the end. I have loads of contemporary and historical examples that I’ve just typed and deleted because I don’t want to upset anyone by poking fun at meaningful present-day tragedies. Try it yourself. Take a modern day tragedy and give it a headline and then add ‘the musical’ on the end. Could be funny? Maybe it’s just me. I blame Mel Brooks.

Anyway, I had this idea for Romney and Marsh the musical. And this week I’ve written the script. I really enjoyed writing a play script. Like I say, it’s only nine thousand words. I read it through on the bus home tonight and timed it at fifty minutes. But that’s me reading every part and quickly. Add in ten songs and you’ve got an hour and a half easy. Plus an interval and an ice-cream. A few beers afterwards and supper.  All adds up to a good night out.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, musical??? Has he lost his mind? Complementing a series of police procedural novels with a musical? That genre doesn’t traditionally lend itself to song and dance routines. (That’s my whole point.) And what about the music side of things? No sweat. I’m also a song writer. I have written dozens of songs. I love writing songs. Some of them are pretty good. Some of them are real show tunes.

Basically, what I’ve done this week is write a R&M short story around some of my songs. I bet I know what you’re thinking again. That’s a recipe for disaster. Maybe. But maybe not. I keep thinking of The Producers. Or rather the play within The Producers and how it worked (in the film) Anyone else remember Springtime For Hitler? It could work for R&M. What the hell, even if it doesn’t, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely this week and that’s what writing for fun should be all about: enjoyment.

You don’t have to subscribe to the faith I have in this idea. I don’t demand that. But I’ll say this: if you read this blog you probably have enjoyed one or more of my books. So trust me on this. Trust me to know what can work. This can work. Romney and Marsh the musical can work.

There are other good things about this week’s work. I can turn the play script into a short story. Maybe enter it into a competition and up the profile of R&M by grabbing some attention elsewhere. I can tweak it into a radio play and send it to the BBC. Of course, if the musical becomes a Broadway hit then think of the effect on ebook sales of the series.

For those of my trusted and valued readers who are still thinking DON’T BE A FOOL! here is the opening. Let me know what you think. Seriously. Let me know. Please. Try to picture yourself in the cheap seats at your local theatre. And what do you think about the concept. But bear in mind – the R&M Files are, like their author, more interested in having some fun than being taken seriously. There are enough crime writers failing at that, even if they are doing rather well for themselves. Grrrrrr. (See next week’s blog-post.)

A Lamb for a Sheep

Romney and Marsh: ‘The Musical’


Romney and Marsh are standing on Dover cliffs, staring out at the English Channel (audience). Behind them the curtain is closed. Their clothes are being blown by a fan (the breeze). The calling of seagulls and a distant ferry’s horn can be heard.   While Marsh sings the Romney and Marsh Theme Tune Romney is smoking. He is obviously relishing the panorama and the air.

Marsh finishes. Romney goes to flick his cigarette over the cliff but a look from Marsh stops him and he puts it out on the sole of his shoe. Then he places it in the cigarette packet and puts that in his pocket. A seagull squawks and shits on him. With some angry mumblings he wipes at it with his handkerchief.

Romney: So?

Marsh: So what, sir?

Romney: Have you worked it out yet?

Marsh: Sorry, you’ve lost me. Are you still thinking about four down? Cantankerous old git, ten letters ending with ‘n’.

Romney: What? No. Look around you. Where could you possibly hope to find the answer to that up here? Have you worked out why I’ve brought you to this spot?

Marsh: To admire the view?

Romney: Yes. But it’s more than that.

Marsh: Not thinking about jumping are you?

Romney: You know what, it does cross my mind now and again, usually when I reflect on the professional company I’m forced to keep.

Marsh: Thanks very much. Is your pocket meant to be on fire?

Romney: Jesus Christ!

Romney beats at his pocket, yanks out the cigarette packet and stamps on it to put the ‘fire’ out.

Marsh: Just another example of smoking being bad for your health.

Romney: How disappointingly predictable. This is Dover: the final frontier. These are the cliffs of the south-east of England. Their age old mission: to resist the invasion of strange new worlds, to repel new life and new civilisations, to boldly stop foreigners going where too many foreigners have gone before.

Marsh: So apart from xenophobia, this is about history then?

Romney: What isn’t?

Marsh: Star Trek. That’s about the future.

Romney: If you think Star Trek is about the future then you just don’t get what Lucas was doing.

Marsh: George Lucas was Star Wars, sir.

Romney: Whatever. Those things are all the same.

Marsh: Is this a British pride thing?

Romney: You make it sound like a racist organisation.

Marsh: I think it’s fine to be proud, so long as that’s as far as it goes.

Romney: Are you not proud to be British?

Marsh: Not always. Not often, actually.

Romney: I can understand that. But I’m proud to be policing the front line at the chalk face.

Marsh: Make up your mind, sir. A minute ago this was the final frontier, now it’s the front line.

Romney: What I’m trying to communicate and what you seem to be struggling to grasp is that I’m proud of my town and its place in history. I’m proud to be counting.

Marsh: As in numbers?

Romney: As in contribution, Sergeant.

Marsh: Right. Got it. Me too. Now we’ve got that sorted, can we, please, go back to the station? I’ve got the paper equivalent of Kilimanjaro on my desk. And it looks like rain.

Romney: When you’ve lived in Dover as long as I have you get to recognise the signs for imminent downpours.

Marsh: So heavy black clouds sailing in faster than a French fleet and lower than a squadron of German bombers isn’t something that concerns you when you’re all exposed up here, no umbrella and the car half a mile away?

Romney: Certainly not. Take it from me – if we leave now we’ve got plenty of time to get back in the warm and dry.

Thunder and lightning. The stage is plunged into darkness. Curtains open. When the lights come on Romney and Marsh are hurrying into one of the neglected and weather-battered WWII anti-aircraft gun-emplacements that dot the cliff top. The concrete and brick structure is now only a crumbling shell, covered in graffiti, littered with rubbish and overgrown with plants that have sprouted from its cracks and crevices.

Marsh: You were saying, sir.

Romney: Weather is not an exact science – ask Michael Fish. We’ll be all right in here for a minute. At least it’s dry. Deluge like that can’t last long.

Marsh: I hope you’re right. I’ve got court in the morning to prepare for and did I mention my paperwork?

Romney: You’re repeating yourself. Foster versus the Crown will be like Grimes’ cake-chute when there are biscuits being passed around – open and shut. Like the biscuits, Foster hasn’t got a prayer.

Romney is looking out of the wide open aperture at the front of the building at the storm raging over the sea. Marsh is exploring the interior, kicking things as she peers into the darkest recesses of the old ruin.

Romney: I’d mind where I was treading if I were you. These old gun emplacements get used for everything from public conveniences to opium dens to lovers’ bolt-hole to vagrants’ doss house. If you’re not treading on condoms, or in human faeces, you’re tripping over syringes and tramps. I remember one time when I was up here in the summer, must have been two, three years ago…

Marsh: Sir.

Romney: I walked in on this pair of pensioners. He had his trousers round his ankles and she was…

Marsh: Sir!

Romney: What?

Marsh: Come here. Marsh has her key-ring torch working.

Romney walks over to where Marsh is investigating a pile of material on the floor. The corner is dark. Romney uses his lighter to illuminate things further.

Romney: Oh dear. Poor old Jacque.

Marsh: You know him?

Romney: Yes. One our celebrity bums. And I don’t mean in a Hello way. Poor old sod. French. Been here for years. What a way to go.

Romney sings The Man with the Special Brew Eyes.

Marsh: Looks like he’s been stabbed.

Romney: Eh?! Where?

Marsh: It’s seems recent. The blood’s fresh.

Romney hurries back over.

Romney: Bloody hell. That changes things. He is dead, I suppose? Have you checked his vital signs?

Marsh: No. I thought you could.

Romney: I’m not touching the old flea-bag. What if he needs the kiss of life?

Marsh: Then one of us will have to give it, sir, and seeing as you know him…

Romney: You must be joking if you think I’m getting up close and personal with that stinking old soak.

Marsh: What happened to poor old Jacque?

Romney: That’s when he was dead.

Marsh huffs and feels for a pulse.

Marsh: I can’t feel anything.

Romney: Call it in and step away, Sergeant, or you’ll be off forensics’ Christmas card list if he croaks. Let’s leave it to the professionals. We shouldn’t interfere.

Before Marsh can make the call there is the noise of a commotion as a man and woman burst in to a timely flash of lightning and clap of thunder. Man and woman scream when they see Romney and Marsh there.

(Just the idea, I say the very idea, of DI Romney bursting into song creases me up.)

18 thoughts on “Springtime for Romney.

  1. I find musicals disproportionately interesting, considering I don’t like them much. It’s just such a weird way to try and tell a story. Should you put the plot in the lyrics? But it’s often very hard to parse song lyrics the first time you hear them, and the audience might not have a clue what’s going on. But if you don’t, then you’re basically interrupting your story every five or ten minutes to sing a song about it instead. Deliberately committing yourself to something that shatters the realism and isn’t allowed to advance the story is one hell of a restriction.

    (But then I’m fascinated by any form of storytelling with bizarre or restrictive constraints. See also: computer games, theme park rides, minigolf courses…)

    Still, I’m not going to tell you not to follow your crazy dream. (How can I, when I have at least two notebooks dedicated to an idea for a randomly generated country house murder mystery computer game that’s ALSO a comedy musical, with semi-procedurally generated songs?)

    But I am hesitant about jukebox musicals. I don’t know how large a catalogue of songs you’ve got to choose from, but the idea of shoving a story round a bunch of pre-existing songs seems the worst way to solve the tensions inherent in trying to tell a story via a musical, and only having a few dozen songs to choose from makes it even harder.

    But any format that favours dialogue seems a good choice, as it plays to your strengths. Just be aware that plays need even more stringent editing than books! Suddenly you have all kinds of timing and other practical issues to consider. I know that’s not your favourite pastime.

    Did you finish it? I’d be interested to read the whole thing.

    • Rich
      Thanks for another thought provoking and realistic comment.

      I agree with everything you say about the issues surrounding musicals and story telling. In fact a few of the things you highlight I’d already seen when I was mooching about the web in search of information on writing a musical. A lot of common sense, particularly the bit about making each and every number a vital part of taking the narrative forward instead of just a song break. I have work to do in that respect. But i do believe it can be done. I think it could work. And, most importantly, I think it could be immense fun and a rewarding viewing experience if well done.

      Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t see many police crime thriller musicals (are there any?) is exactly because of what you say about breaking the spell, the tension build up, by distracting the audience with a song. But that’s not to say that it can’t be done of course. Never say never, eh? Maybe there’s a plot device opportunity in there for messing with the audience – using the concept’s difficulties to the show’s advantage. The more I spend with this project the more I’m intrigued to find a way to combine the two, in theory at least. I think it will take a better and more creative man than me to break that one down. But like you and your notebooks of ideas I get something out of the deliberation. And all the time I’m writing and thinking creatively has to be good for me as a writer.

      Totally agree with your dialogue comment, too. I’m aware of some of my weaknesses as a story teller but I do think that dialogue is one of my strengths, perhaps my strongest string. I have thought about turning this into a dialogue driven and dominated short story. Another literary puzzle for me.

      Not sure I feel it’s finished yet. Maybe a while in that rather crowded bottom drawer will bring a saner perspective to things.

      Best wishes.

      • Hmm. I’m no expert, but I know of a few mystery musicals. They’re mostly comic though (not that R&M aren’t funny, but they’re not silly…)

        The closest is probably Curtains? I don’t know much about it, but it’s by Kander and Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, etc.), so it’s probably not terrible! But I think the tone is pretty light.

        There was a musical version of Cluedo, but I guess it was pretty gimmicky (at the beginning an audience member randomly selected what the solution would be, so there were hundreds of possible permutations).

        I know someone back on the Golden Age Detective forum wrote a musical called Murder on the High C’s, which I think got produced. But again I guess that’s a spoof thing, from the title.

      • That funny/silly distinction is something I’m mindful of. As you know, funny is important to me in the R&M Files, but I don’t want R&M to become silly. I think what I really want to pull off with this is seriously funny. Or should that be funny serious? My favourite kind of humour.
        Anyway, thanks for your suggestions. I shall investigate them and hope Youtube have something for me to sample.

      • Oh and there’s a long-running musical version of The 39 Steps. But again, I think they might be playing it for laughs.

  2. Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Tidy, if you think we wouldn’t love it?

    One of my favourite musical works of all time is Dennis Potter’s ‘The Singing Detective’ so you’ve got precedent as well as the means, motive and opportunity to snatch musical fame from literary semi-obscurity.

    All together now: “There’ll be blue words over… the white cliffs of Dover…”

  3. Super dialogue for the stage or screen, exactly right. Short, punchy, meaningful sentences. Have you found a space on your mantlepiece for the Oscar yet?

    • Kit,
      Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ve learned a lot about writing dialogue from reading some great authors. Good to know some of my ‘study’ is rubbing off.
      An Oscar? Right now I’d settle for a mantelpiece.
      Best wishes.

  4. I love your Romney Marsh books and have 1,2,3 and 4. Where is 5 ? I can’t find it anywhere and yet you are now on number 6.

    olivertidy wrote: > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ WordPress.com olivertidy posted: ” Some weeks I wonder what on earth I’m going to blog about in my writer’s diary. Other weeks, like this week, I have so many ideas for blog posts that I hardly know where to start. I wasn’t planning on powering up the laptop tonight to write this we”

    • Lilian, thanks for your comment. Good to know that you have enjoyed the R&Ms so far. Number five is in the editing process at the moment. I hope to have it available for download through Amazon late spring/early summer. R&M#6 should be hot on its heels.
      Best wishes.

  5. Oliver,
    You asked me to imagine I was sitting in the cheap seats in a theatre: tried that once and couldn’t see a bloody thing, so I splash-out on the stalls now as I don’t like heights and get dizzy even in the dress circle. As for R&M the musical, why not. I was a fan of Dennis Potter, ‘The Singing Detective’ and other musicals around at that time – can anyone remember ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’?. As long as the lyrics carry the story forward, more power to your elbow.
    But play/screen writing is a different discipline. That must be why authors have screen-writers when their books are made into films. Did attend a course, many years ago, given by a playwright, and found the process most enlightening, especially how scripts should be presented by showing all you see in your minds eye in SFX, then remembering to state who enters or leaves the stage by the left or right wings, then leaving a good gap before indenting all dialogue so that it runs in a block down the, off-centre, right of the page.
    Many moons ago I sent a script to the BBC who were looking for a new 6 half-hour long comedy series. No luck, I’m afraid, but I did write a monologue, similar to those of Alan Bennett, which was taken up by a publisher, but sadly has never been performed.
    As writers we have to explore all forms of communication, be it letters to the newspapers, articles for magazines, scripts, short stories, lengthy novels, poetry or limericks, it’s all about learning your craft.
    Good luck with it.
    Best wishes – Pat.

    • Hı Pat
      Thanks for another great response.
      I found the writing of it really interesting and enjoyable. Someone else has mentioned the formatting side of things, which obviously I’m not up to speed with.
      I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks turning this one into a short story. Seems a shame to write something and then just bury it when it could help further the R&M word. And as you suggest, all writing helps to develop the learning of the craft.
      Best wishes.

    • Sorry to learn that. Maybe I can interest you in the short story version of this one when it’s done (although, correct me if I’m wrong – do you not like short stories and novellas?)
      Best wishes.

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