Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Exploring the Roots of the Baby Boomer Era: Guest post by Gavin Scott

Gavin Scott is a novelist, broadcaster and writer of the Emmy-winning mini-series “Mists of Avalon”, Dreamworks’ “Small Soldiers”, Working Title’s “The Borrowers” and Sci Fi’s “Legends of Earthsea” He produced and directed more than two hundred documentaries and short films for BBC and the commercial TV in the UK before moving to the United States, where his first assignment was with George Lucas, developing and scripting “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”. His screenplay “The Last Summer”, a thriller about how World War One began is being produced by Aristos Films, to be directed by Downton Abbey’s Philip John. He wrote and directed the New Zealand film “Battle of Treasure Island”, starring Randy Quaid, for Limelight Films. “Absolutely Anything”, the script he wrote with Terry Jones starring Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale, with Eddie Izzard, Rob Riggle and Joanna Lumley and the voices of Robin Williams and most of the Python team, will be released in the US this year by Lionsgate. Archetype Productions and Lucas Foster are set to produce Gavin’s World War Two supernatural adventure “Lost Squad”, a combination of “The Matrix” and “Where Eagles Dare”, inspired by the graphic novels of Chris Kirby. For Germany’s Gruppe 5 productions he will be show-running a ten part series about Dona Gracia Nasi, a 16th century female Schindler who negotiated with Popes, Sultans and Emperors, set up a continent-wide escape route, set up a colony on the coast of what had been ancient Israel and saved thousands of Jews from the Inquisition. He created and executive produced “The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne” a 22 part sci-fi adventure series set in the nineteenth century about, which was broadcast around the world. 

Gavin Scott describes how he came to explore the roots of the Baby Boomer era in his Duncan Forrester detective adventure series. His latest, The Age of Olympus, has just been published by Titan Books. Read more here.

Gavin Scott:
Exploring the Roots of the Baby Boomer Era

Someone asked me recently why I have set my Duncan Forrester detective adventures in the late 1940s, the period immediately after World War II, and I realised it was because it gave me the chance to go to the heart of the experience of the baby boomer generation.

I myself was born in 1950 and only really became aware of politics in about 1960: one of my earliest political memories is learning in Reader’s Digest about the Chinese mistreatment of Tibetan monks after the invasion of Tibet. Then came the excitement of Kennedy’s election, followed by the terror of the Cuban missile crisis, the shock of the Kennedy assassination and the escalating disaster of the Vietnam War, buy which time I would say I was thoroughly politically aware.

But even then I realised that the roots of these events lay in the years before I was born - not just in the World War in which my father had fought and the town where I grew up (Hull, Yorkshire) had been devastated by the Luftwaffe – but in the years just afterwards during which the Peace had been forged.

So I decided to set my detective mysteries when the Cold War was coming into being, the colonial empires were being dismantled and the atomic age beginning thus giving me a compelling reason to plunge down into the roots of the modern era and find out what was really going on.

I chose as my hero someone the same age as my father, so that I felt confident in describing the world where he had grown up – and perhaps so that I could give my father the kind of war he would have had if he’d been educated at Oxford and been a specialist in ancient history. Duncan Forrester had broken off his academic life when war broke out and volunteered for what became the Special Operations Executive, parachuting into Nazi occupied territory to help, in Churchill’s words “set Europe ablaze”.

Which meant that he had seeing action in almost every theatre of the war and met an extraordinary range of people. In the first Duncan Forrester adventure, The Age of Treachery, he’s returned to Oxford hoping to resume his peacetime life but finds himself having to become a man of action once more to save the friend falsely accused of murder. In this year’s book, The Age of Olympus, he returns to his old wartime haunts in Crete and finds himself coming up against Stalin’s plans to turn all Europe into a Communist satrapy.

Researching both of these books and The Age of Exodus, which is due out next year, has involved to me reading not just political and military history but also the diaries, memoirs, official reports, letters and biographies by and about an extraordinary range of people.

Realising how all these lives overlap is a bit like doing a gigantic jigsaw puzzle and I find myself crying out with delight as I discover yet another connection that’s quite possibly no one else has noticed. In the first book I realised that Margaret Thatcher, then known as Margaret Roberts was studying x-ray crystallography in Oxford at the same time that J.R.R. Tolkien was struggling to finish writing The Lord of the Rings, while his friend C.S. Lewis was becoming sufficiently impatient that he decided to write his own fantasy sequence - which has given us the Narnia novels.

Ian Fleming was the Foreign Manager of the Sunday Times and a pleasure-loving, gossipy man-about-town long before he thought of James Bond and the great adventurer Thor Heyerdahl was in the process of raising the money for his extraordinary Kon Tiki expedition. None of them was famous yet for the things we know them for today but they were all already living rich lives with which Duncan Forrester could interact.

When I began researching The Age of Olympus and reading any material I could get my hands about Greece in 1946, where it was set, I found almost an embarrassment of riches. Lawrence Durrell, long famous for his great Alexandria Quartet novels and with new-found fame through the Durrells of Corfu television series, was based in Rhodes during this time, running newspaper for the British Army. He wrote a wonderfully revealing book about his experiences in Rhodes called Reflections in a Marine Venus, as a result of which I know a surprising amount about what he was doing, seeing and feeling at exactly the period my novel is set. Osbert Lancaster the architectural historian and cartoonist, was also working in Greece in 1946, based in the British Embassy in Athens. He too wrote a book about what the country was like then, a delightfully witty account called Classical Landscape with Figures. Packed with just the kind of detail I needed about the people and places of my story. Stephen Runciman, the historian of the Crusades was there too, and the exuberant Oxford don Maurice Bowra – to say nothing of the extraordinary, legendary Patrick Leigh Fermor, played by Dirk Bogarde in the movie Ill Met by Moonlight.

Here I had a fantastic piece of luck because in The Age of Treachery I had made Duncan Forrester briefly a member of the guerilla band led by Leigh Fermor in Crete during the war. Leigh Fermor had pulled off the extraordinary feat of kidnapping a German general and spiriting him off to Egypt, (that’s what the Bogarde movie is about) and I had imagined that Duncan Forrester had helped him do it. Now, while researching the book in which Forrester returned to Greece, it turned out that Leigh Fermor had himself come back here at exactly this time - and that the great biographer Artemis Cooper, had written a book, Leigh Fermor, which told me exactly what he was doing there.

Before long, surrounded by my piles of weighty tomes and stacks of notes I began to feel like a child in a sandpit with every imaginable toy to play with. And as Duncan Forrester’s own life became more complicated I found the process of weaving his adventures within those of his real-life contemporaries more and more absorbing.

I like to think I have created a murder mystery which will keep you fairly close to the edge of your seat as the action unfolds – but the pleasure I hope The Age of Olympus also gives readers is the feeling of what it was like to be in the Aegean Islands long before the age of mass tourism – in the company of some of the most interesting people of that, or any other time.

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