‘Where did the idea for the novel come from?’ – is a question I’ve been asked a few times about ‘The Pirates of Maryland Point’ [Currently FREE on Amazon], and every time the best answer I can give is a shrug. I don’t where the actual idea came from. I started much like a chef, with a whole host of ingredients I liked, and tried to make them into something. So, to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate day tomorrow, here are 14 things I think influenced my pirates vs cockneys comedy. Warning, this contains spoilers! 1. Monkey Island & Ron Gilbert I could write many blog posts on the brilliance of these games (only counting games 1-3, the others do not exist, mmmkay?). I played Monkey Island as a teenager and it blew my mind. I was completely transported to another world, supposedly the ye olde Carribbean yet there were Coke machines and other twentieth century objects hanging about…I liked that. In-fact, why couldn’t you do that, mixing up past and present and making some sort of other ‘far-fetched’ place? Genre be damned. Perhaps it was this genre bending that made the game so enjoyable – you never knew where it would go next. Monkey Island also had jokes, good jokes, and lots of them. Even though the first two games required you to read the dialogue (rather than hear the character speak it) you still got personality by the galleon-load. If you’ve never played these games, I highly recommend them. They were reissued a few years ago with the graphics lovingly updated and re-rendered. There is no question, without these games I as a writer, and Pirates of Maryland Point as a novel, wouldn’t exist. As an interesting aside, Ron Gilbert claimed these games were influenced by Tim Power’s novel ‘On Stranger Tides‘ (which was later made into a ‘Pirates of the Carribbean‘ film with Johnny Depp). It all gets a bit tangled about what came first and what influenced what, but Monkey Island is by the far the finest thing to come out of the ‘On Stranger Tides’ / ‘Pirates of The Carribean’ soup. In fact, Depp’s films owe a lot to Monkey Island. 2. Indiana Jones I’m only counting films 1-3, (the other one does not exist, mmmkay?). Raiders of the Lost Ark was recently voted as one of the most rewatchable films of all time, it has a bit of everything: action, adventure, treasure, girls, chases, humour…and snakes. The treasure in ‘Pirates…’ is a mix of Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant. One of the things I like to do if I don’t know how to write an action scene is write out a scene from Indiana Jones, to see if I can recapture the pace and excitement. Doing this shows me how much (or normally how little) direction is needed. 3. Mike Reid / Jason Statham / Danny Dyer / Lenny Maclean Actors with excellent East End voices and great screen presence. I imagined them delivering every line of dialogue. If it didn’t sound right in one of their mouths, I changed it until it did. “You get me those guns…quick!“ 5. Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels Guy Ritchie may have become the godfather of Mockney, but there’s no denying the brilliance of his debut feature film. Great dialogue, great characters, great soundtrack, good plot. I spent a lot of my teen re-watching it on DVD at a mate’s house. Here’s the best lines…here 6. Steven Spielberg / Hook Spielberg gets a kicking in the novel. Oscar doesn’t like him, but I do. Yes, he can be too sugary, but grew up watching so many of his films like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Hook (which gets a bashing in my novel, but it still has some sort of charm – I saw it as a kid at the cinema). Talking of Hook, there used to be a theme bar in Barcelona years ago dedicated to the film. It was a proper Aladdin’s cave. The owners had done a good job decorating it. I drank in it quite a few times when I lived out there. I loved being in a 3D pirate movie. Also…the best pinball table I’ve ever played happens to William’s ‘Hook’ Machine. Totally unrelated, but whilst searching for Hook images I found this tattoo. Madness. 7. Cockney Lingo I love slang. The playfulness of Cockney is great. You can experiment with all sorts of odd combinations and people won’t have a Dexter Fletcher what you’re on about. Okay, Dexter Fletcher doesn’t work, but you knew what I meant. 8. London Fairly obvious influence for a novel set in London, but hey it was an influence. If you’ve ever visited the place or lived there, you’ll know how it can get under your skin. It’s a very hard city to leave and is an amazing place to live. Living in the East End I loved the fact I had Canary Wharf as a view. It conjured up a certain magic and reminded me how big the city was and how many things could happen there.
9. Duncan He’s a real person, y’know? Seriously, he’s real. As is most of his dialogue. And they’ll be more of him – the real Duncan – in my next book. 10. Only Fools and Horses Despite being voted Britain’s favourite comedy of all time many I’m surprised how many people see it as Martmite. My feet are firmly in the ‘love it!’ camp. This was family viewing as a kid and the jokes, pathos, set-ups and payoffs were skilfully done and brilliantly acted. The dialogue was note perfect too and the supporting cast of characters were equally excellent in creating a perfect fictional world. It later proved a victim of its own success as clamour for more episodes (after the lottery win) saw the series well and truly jump the shark. 11. Chas and Dave Most of the time I was writing I was listening to Chas and Dave, especially during the pub scenes at The Blue Eel. Listening to music whilst writing is important to me, I try and get music that matches the place and mood. I never really took Chas and Dave seriously, but when a free copy of a live album somehow made its way into my collection, I found myself listening to it more and more. And not just for the novelty. I was singing along to hits like Gertcha and the Sideboard song. Their style of play and dialogue were a massive inspiration for the book, and in the run up to the 2012 Olympics I made a late and subsequetly doomed attempt to have Chas & Dave make an appearence at the opening cermony. I think they would’ve been received far better than McCartney. “Whooooose sorry nah!” 12. Cockney Thug / Alan Ford Pure gold. 13. Proper pubs Y’know old ones. With thick carpet and full of smoke and character. This picture above was taken at The Manby Arms in East London many moons ago. When I was living in London ‘The Manby’ used to be my local and I more or less based the fictional ‘Blue Eel’ on it. Rumour reaches me that the pub has since closed down. No chance of a blue plaque going up there then. 14. Carry On Movies As a kid in the 1980s there wasn’t a lot of TV in the UK. Four channels, that was it, and even then a week didn’t go by without a Carry On movie being on. Did I understand the jokes? Not really…but the cartoonish expressions and slide whistles were good fun, plus they taught me a lot about puns and innuendo and how you can play with language. They were also very British, seeming a world away from the slick American films I’d watch comprising of groomed and chiseled actors of the Clooney ilk delivering wise-cracks in westerns. I wanted my book to have that same British feel with a host of characters each as cartoonish and loveable as the next. And there you have it. Happy ‘pirate’ day one and all