I've detected a trend which I find quite intriguing. I've just come across a third highly successful writer of screenplays who has finally turned to writing a novel. I've mentioned in recent times the former cricketer and Heartbeat scriptwriter Peter Gibbs, who wrote the wonderful Settling the Score, and also the admirable Robert Banks Stewart, creator of Shoestring,who has published a thriller, The Hurricane's Tail.
Now it's the turn of Rob Gittins to produce a crime novel. I'm pleased to see he's joined the ranks of those of us who favour Sixties song titles as titles of crime novels - his book is called Gimme Shelter, and it's published by a small press, Y Lolfa, which is based in Wales, where Rob lives. It's quite a gritty story which concerns witness protection, and features Ros Gilet, a witness protection officer whose job requires her to tell lies every day. Witness protection is a fascinating topic for a thriller. In fact, is a subject in which I'm very interested myself. Some years ago, I even wrote a synopsis of a mystery about witness protection, but never got any further with it - partly because I wasn't quite sure how best to research it.
I met Rob around ten years ago at a CWA conference in Hereford. Even at that stage he was a well-established member of the scriptwriting team of EastEnders, and his name continues to pop up on the credits at regular intervals - he's written more than 200 episodes. He also co-created and wrote all eight episodes of the BBC 1 crime series Tiger Bay, as well as a three-part political thriller for ITV, In the Company of Strangers. And much else besides.
The perception I have, which I think many people share, is that television writing is lucrative. And certainly Peter, Robert, and Rob have all achieved great success in their field. Yet, for most of us, writing novels is a long way short of being a massive money-spinner. So why are scriptwriters tempted to write novels? I guess that one reason is that writing a novel is essentially a personal thing, whereas television writing is highly collaborative - which can be rewarding, yet also frustrating because of the lack of control. And for a creative artist, retaining a significant degree of control over one's creation is often very important.