A puff of dust, and there was James McLevy.
World Wide BBC and Random House are issuing the whole McLevy canon starting June 2015 with series one and two plus original pilot episode, then every two months will see another two series until by next year the whole caboodle will have been covered.
On sale at Amazon or BBC shops.
I get quite a few emails asking about repeats, where to find what series, and here is the answer. You heard it from the horse’s mouth.
My first love and like all first loves, returns periodically to haunt the synapses. The wireless.
1984. Orwellian. My friend Graham said, “If you’re going to write. You better hurry up.”
I sent a 45minute play to radio 4. They replied that there was a good 30min play in there somewhere. I replied that it was a 45min masterpiece. They said – take it or leave it. I took it. Sold. A small matter of reduction.
Next year won the Radio Times Drama Award with, “The Old Ladies at the Zoo.” Two consummate performances from Peggy Mount and Liz Smith and the play itself highly praised
Since then, many original plays and numerous adaptations. All shapes, sizes and subjects. Sold.
I love the radio. No limits on imagination, great casts, no time to discuss the intricacies of creation – get on the mike, don’t make a noise turning the pages, get off again.
Which brings me to McLevy. The immovable object. My hero.
I found James McLevy at the British Library in 1999; he was falling to pieces at the time.
“The Other Side,” a film for by BBC2. Conan Doyle (Frank Finlay) meets a dubious cove (Richard E Grant), who claims he is Sherlock Holmes. A veiled woman lurks in the shadows.
In the research I came across mention of an actual Victorian detective called McLevy who was one of the first practising policeman to write a diary of his experiences on the streets. The city was Edinburgh.
The requested book arrived reluctantly but at last lay before me, pages curled and yellow, gnarled cover warped and arthritic, all held together by a dingy white ribbon tied in a bow. I pulled gently on the ribbon, a puff of dust, and there was James McLevy. He and I, like Holmes and Watson, have been partners ever since.
The writing was anecdotal, street crimes McLevy solved in four or five pages, but the boundless appreciation of his own worth plus soaring flights of self-basting philosophy thrilled me to the bone. The word “anal” could never be applied to Jamie McLevy so stick it somewhere else.
Patrick Rayner, senior radio producer at BBC Scotland, and I proposed the idea for a radio 4 series. The powers-that-be were somewhat sniffy till Brian Cox came on board and announced that it shall be so. Siobhan Redmond brought some much-needed elegance as McLevy’s protagonist Jean Brash, the ineffable Michael Perceval Maxwell played the sidekick Constable Mulholland and I was persuaded to enact the part of McLevy’s long-suffering boss, Lieutenant Roach.
Now in our twelfth series and produced by Bruce Young, each one four episodes of 45 mins, that plus a Christmas Special amounts to almost 40 hours of drama. In the process McLevy has been completely reinvented, becoming a synthesis of my imagination, the original man, and Brian’s full-blooded portrayal.
We are now approaching series 12 and it will be, sadly, the last. The BBC have spoken – not my idea – write to them if you find it a howler.
The latest radio play THE QUEST OF DONAL Q was broadcast Christmas Day BBC Radio Scotland and one week later on Radio 4.