Friday 3 July 2009

Bleached Bones in the Dust

I received a contract for my Nun with a gun Black Horse Western I discussed earlier. In the end the story was entitled Railroad to Redemption and although Sister Angelica wasn't as important a character in the final version as she had been in the first draft, the idea did at least get me writing. So I've now been rooting around for my next story to write. Luckily a long-forgotten idea came to mind to write a story entitled Bleached Bones in the Dust and so now the writing is going well.

Memory is an odd thing. One piece of advice often given to writers is to keep a record of their ideas. I've never done that. I've always been a believer in the principle that you write things down to forget them rather than to remember them. By not writing anything down my brain will sift through ideas and decide if they're worth remembering. This means I forget just about everything. But I judge that as being better than having a huge notebook crammed with notes like: 'sausages are fishy' and 'the bullet has no friends' and wondering what possessed me to make that note.

But occasionally ideas that I stored away resurface and that's what happened when I was musing recently about the British tv series Hamish MacBeth. This was a series that ran in the 1990s and was the only Sunday night feelgood tv series I've ever liked. I even named my ginger Tom Hamish.

The series starred Robert Carlyle playing a policeman in the fictional Scottish town of Loch Dubh. Hamish is a skilled cop, but he also knows that he has to keep his head down or he might get spotted by his bosses and relocated to the bright lights of Inverness. So to stay in Loch Dubh and enjoy the quiet life he passes his successes on to others. He also sees himself as a western hero and enjoys reading westerns.

In one episode he meets his favourite western author Paul Jeffreys. This meeting created some unintentional humour as the author is a bestseller whose latest western has just come out in Britain in paperback and is available in all book shops. As if! Even more amusingly Paul's career as a British bestselling western author earns him enough money to buy a huge house in Loch Dubh. This rather strains credibility. Hamish MacBeth was filmed in the impossibly picturesque town of Plockton where property prices are so high even a British MP on expenses would struggle to buy a single storey shoebox.

Anyhow, Paul is impressed when he finds that Hamish loves his books and so he gives him a copy of his latest novel, Bleached Bones in the Dust. I loved that title and I immediately resolved to write a story using it. That resolution lasted almost to the end of the episode by which time I'd forgotten about it. I have the series on video though and I've watched it several times since. Each time I've re-remembered my resolution, and each time I've promptly forgotten it, but this time I didn't.

I started writing Bleached Bones in the Dust with a scene involving some bleached bones being found in the dust. The bones had been there for some time and nobody knew whose they were. So then the search started to find out who had died. I haven't found out yet, but I've got some momentum going so hopefully the answer will turn out to be an interesting one. Originally I'd started with the intention of it being a short story for the forthcoming Express Westerns anthology, but I've written 10,000 words and I still don't know why the bones were in the dust so it'll probably become a novel.

I'll report on progress later. And I'll also report on how bad my memory is. Recently doubts have assailed me and I'm now 99% convinced that the novel title in the Hamish MacBeth episode was not actually Bleached Bones in the Dust and I've just remembered it wrong. So I've promised myself that when I've finished the first draft I'll drag out the episode and find out what the actual title was. Hopefully I might have remembered at least one word right!

1 comment:

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I still think of it as nun with a gun - look forward to it.