There is a problem when you write fiction about real places, everybody else owns them
Much of ‘Playing the Pools’ draws upon real places. The Halfway House, for example, is a real pub with its own clientele and history. Anybody who has ever wandered in for a cheeky pint will have their own perspective and feelings about the place. Writing science fiction is probably tons easier, very few of my readers will have been to the planet Grunighalli, and I suspect none have imbued a pint of green mars juice (it’s lethal!) in the Six Armed Gargoyle Tavern.
I got around this in the past by making pubs up. There is no pub called ‘The lost weekend’ in Birmingham, but it worked for Al & Mark, in ‘After Alyson’, and I think the city is the worse for not having a place like I described in the book. I prefer, however, to deal with real places. Most of ‘Snatched’ features hotels which I’ve stayed in and places that I’ve visited.
‘Playing the Pools’ is different though. For a start, you couldn’t make Tranmere Rovers up! I wish this wasn’t the case as I have lost count of the number of hours I have spent cursing and complaining about their performance only for them to redeem themselves. It is true love, all is forgiven and it is unconditional. Yet the book starts with the team in the 1960s. There is bound to be someone who decides that I’ve put the wrong player in the team for a particular fixture, that George Yardley was out injured for the match in question and the goal scorers were blah, blah, blah. If that’s what floats your boat then go for it. On the other hand, I suggest that you stay away from books that are, in the trade, called ‘fiction’. Whilst every effort is made to be as accurate as possible, you would hope readers are generous and allow poetic licence to intervene.
Mind you, I’m as bad. For years I couldn’t watch ‘No Surrender’, the otherwise excellent film by Alan Bleasdale, because he got the religious affiliations of the red and blue sides of Liverpool wrong. And don’t get me started on ‘Love Actually’. I’ve never taken the point up with Richard Curtis but, after that Christmas gig in the school, the Liam Neeson character says to his step-son, he knows a short-cut from Wandsworth to Heathrow. Seriously!? There is no short cut! I mean, he might have meant via Barnes rather than Hammersmith Bridge, but it’s not enough to gain any advantage. And right at that point the film lost credibility, because until then it had been perfectly feasible to imagine all the other nonsense being true. Ahem, well, I had to look sheepishly at the floor the first time I made this point to friends, but I know I’m right!
In a few weeks time, once ‘Playing the Pools’ is published, I will be curious to see if a tsunami of commentary is unleashed or if readers, instead, focus on the story and plot twists. Hopefully the latter, I’ll just have to stick my tin hat on and hope for the best!
Until next time.