Today I am joined by Charles Harris, international award-winning film writer/director.
Charles is a highly respected script consultant, best-selling non-fiction author and co-founder of the first screenwriters’ workshop in the world. His debut novel, The Breaking of Liam Glass is to be published by Marble City Publishing on 29th June.
Charles has written a post for us all today entitled ‘Inspirations’, so I do hope you enjoy…
by Charles Harris
Seven years ago, I wasn’t actually looking to write a novel. I’d in fact just thought of a great way to finance a low-budget film and needed to write a script.
At the time, there was a general election in full swing and the level of political debate was reaching a new low. Politicians repeated slogans until you wanted to tear your ears off. Newspapers either parroted the party line or were confused and ineffectual. We didn’t yet use the phrase “fake news” but there was definitely a lot of it around.
At the same time, there was serious, real news, not least a spate of tragically fatal stabbings here in North London, almost all involving innocent young men who were in the “wrong” place.
Where does inspiration come from?
How is it we can muse on a thousand matters, important and trivial, without effect, but then something jumps into place. In that unknown, subterranean part of the mind, things swirl together, join, unjoin, rejoin in a different shape until a story surfaces, asking to be told – or rather – because it is rarely more than a few half-thoughts at this stage – discovered.
What re-emerged, to my surprise, was a short story I’d written many years before. It told of a teenage boy who was attacked and left in a coma and the effect on his single mother, who contrived more and more desperate plans to get him to wake up. The story, ‘Cash Card’, was short-listed for an award, but I hadn’t thought about it since.
However, now my comatose teenager was joined by a young local journalist, stuck in his job and desperate to work on a tabloid. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship to British tabloid newspapers.
It’s easy to hate their easy cynicism and looseness with the truth, but there’s also something attractive about their energy and audacity. On a good day, the red-tops can mount vibrant campaigns that really do improve life in a way that the broadsheets simply can’t match.
Near the end of what has become The Breaking of Liam Glass, [link: http://www.thebreakingofliamglass.com] two senior editors on the fictional tabloid The Post, reminisce about the great campaigns of the past – “obesity and body image, postcode health, MPs for sale, rip-off trains, graduates who couldn’t spell.”
This passage was in turn inspired by the huge blow-up front pages of the campaigns run by the Daily Mirror [link: http://www.mirror.co.uk], proudly displayed on the walls of the Mirror’s massive open-plan newsroom, where I did much of my research.
Into my young, frustrated journalist, who was to become Jason Crowthorne, I poured my own conflicted feelings and frustrations. On the one hand, Jason is a figure of satire – ready to sell his soul, if only he can find a Fleet Street editor to buy. On the other hand, Jason is truly horrified by this apparently unstoppable flow of knife crimes and wants to do something about it. And if in the process it helps his career, what’s the problem?
His problem, in fact, turns out to be that a teenage stabbing is not big news unless there is a hook – a celebrity angle. And Jason suspects that Liam may well have a celebrity connection, secretly fathered by a major premiership footballer. But he can’t prove it.
But how far will Jason go to trick, cheat and finagle to get that front page? How much of his own moral code will he trash? How many people is he willing to climb over?
I had to write the novel to find out. As I wrote, part of me was shocked at what he turned out to be capable of doing. And yet part of me loved his breath-taking effrontery, his naive yet beguiling way of crashing through walls that I would have never dared do. And I found myself wanting him to succeed, somehow to overcome each new disaster, despite all the darker, more corrupt, people around him.
Of course, Jason isn’t alone and as new characters arrived, I knew I had a story that needed a larger canvas. This had to be a novel – an almost Dickens-like panorama of London today.
And now today, seven years and a hundred thousand words later, we have an election setting lower standards of debate than ever before, with newspapers content to peddle fake news and knife crime on the rise. How things change!
When I first spoke to my (then) agent about Liam Glass and how topical it seemed, he warned me that novels don’t chase topicality. However, it seems that some themes stay topical, and will probably remain so for much longer.
As for that original idea for a movie, maybe it’ll emerge one day.
But I’m more than happy with the book that – to my continuing surprise – actually arrived.
Thank you so much Charles for such an insightful post.
You can find out lots more about Charles and his book below, but in the meantime here is the all important Purchase Link ~ The Breaking of Liam Glass (Pre Order)
The Breaking of Liam Glass
A darkly gripping and constantly entertaining satire of today’s media.
Jason Worthington, frustrated journalist, desperate to sell his soul, if only someone will buy…
Andy Rockham, sleep-deprived detective constable whose one mistake could cost him his job, unless he finds someone to pin it on…
Jamila Hasan, loyal politician who will lose her seat at the coming election unless she discovers a principle to stand for…
And Katrina Glass, single mother, whose only child went out to get cash and never came back…
Their stories weld together on a mixed-up, mixed-race Central London estate when white teenager Liam Glass is stabbed and left in a coma. And Jason is handed a once-in-a-lifetime ticket to tabloid heaven…
Not so much a Whodunnit as a blackly comic What-They-Did-After-It.
International award-winning film writer-director and best-selling non-fiction author Charles Harris hooks the reader from start to finish with this dazzlingly sharp and moving tapestry of modern life set at a time when phone-hacking was just a small cloud on the horizon.
If you liked Capital, Catch 22 and Bonfire of the Vanities you’ll love The Breaking of Liam Glass.
Purchase Link ~ The Breaking of Liam Glass
About Charles Harris
Charles Harris is an international award-winning writer-director and a highly-respected script consultant, writing and directing for cinema, television and theatre. He is also a best-selling non-fiction author with titles including A Complete Screenwriting Course, Police Slang, and Jaws in Space.
Several of his short stories have been published, with two shortlisted for awards.
Charles has a black belt in Aikido and teaches police, security personnel and the public, self-defence against street violence, including knife attacks.
He has a wife and two cats who live with him in North London and two sons who don’t.
To find out more about Charles here are some links