Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Mr Hudson's Diaries - Michael Hardwick (Sphere, 1973)

For all my pretentions to literary fiction and for all the nice things I might say about Umberto Eco and Ian McEwan (well, not McEwan - he bores the arse off me), my real first love are tv tie-ins.  Some of that is down to nostalgia, obviously - the Target Dr Who books for me, as for lots of people my age, were the reading materials of my youth after all - but sometimes it's because a tie-in novel seems able to do things which I can't believe the parent show would ever touch.

Books like the BBC Doctor Who novels The Blue Angel or Interference go well beyond what their parent show is even capable of imagining, let alone presenting on screen, but that's possibly to be expected.  The Virgin and first set of BBC Doctor Who spin-offs are acknowleged by all but partisan fools to be amongst the best tie-ins every created and the show is one which cries out for limitless imagination.

Other series, however, seem as though they'd be far less interesting when committed to paper - but that's an equally foolish assumption.  As I mentioned somewhere else on here (I'm sure my reader can get off his chair and go and look) the Crossroads book 'A Warm Breeze' features a Lost Horizon-style hidden valley, a boy who talks backwards and ends with actual magic taking place, but that's a genuine novelisation of several bonkers (and now tragically lost) episodes of the soap opera, so the madness lies with the script-writer not the novelist.

I've just finished one of the Upstairs Downstairs back-story novels, Mr Hudson's Diaries however, and Michael Hardwick and his wife Mollie have done as solid a job with the story of Angus Hudson's life prior to coming to 165 Eaton Place as anyone could possibly expect.  But added to the tales of Hudson's crippled father, first dalliances with women, tragic loss and eventual rise, is a chapter in which an actual poltergeist haunts the Bellamy family home until the bones of a murdered baby are found buried nearby.  Like the apparently genuine Ouija board in the Christmas 2011 edition of Downton Abbey it's this brilliant implausability which raises the book above the ordinary.  There's no need for anything so mental, but it's entertaining and interesting and improves a solid book into a memorable one.

You don't get great stuff like that in bloody Atonement, I can tell you.

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