Friday, 7 December 2007

I Sit In Hanger Lane - Jack Trevor Story

I really do not understand why Jack Trevor Story’s books are not in print. They are classic works of social observation that transcend the period in which they were written. He writes clear, clean, and precise prose – not a word wasted in creating complex situations and casting his dark comic eye on the world. Even his pulp work (Sexton Blake, for example) is streets ahead of stuff that gets into print today. I would heartily recommend his work to anyone, especially people who themselves aspire to be authors. His work provides an example of how to write well. It also tells a great deal of truth about the life of a writer.

It is not difficult to keep a book in print these days. Nor is it expensive. Print-on-demand produces a book with a quality comparable with mass printing, and the publisher has no financial risk. Set up costs are low, books are printed only when they are wanted. It is true unit costs are higher, but overheads are correspondingly lower.

Of course, one hopes any enlightened publisher using this method would take the time to reset a text and check it for typos - an ideal job for any literate junior just entering the profession. They get experience working with books, learn the business, and are introduced to some quality writing into the bargain (which would be no bad thing).

And to finish, here is a little quiz. This book is about a screenwriter. So, list your top ten favourite movies (or the ten you’ve seen most recently, or any ten chosen at random). Now list the names of the people who wrote the screenplays. Do it without going to IMDB.

You will probably know the director’s name. You will invariably know the names of the actors in the lead roles. If the film is based on a book, you will probably know the author. But the screenwriter? Well, if you do, I bow down to you and give you a gold star.

Next time you watch the hype around a new movie, count the number of times the screenwriter gets interviewed along with the actors. Watch the credits on the movie and see where, in the list, the screenwriters are mentioned. And then wonder who wrote the treatment, who was then given the job of preparing a rough draft, who took that up to knock it into shape, who had to rewrite because an actor wasn’t happy with it, who had it taken away because it was no longer their property only to see someone else’s name added to the shooting script.

But, most of all, seek out Jack Trevor Story’s books.