Romance And The Lonely Barber
06 November 2008
Should Barney Thomson get involved in ro-mance? There’s the question for The Final Cut.
In the original draft of the book, the draft that was translated into German, he has a thing with the police sergeant investigating the crime. A female police sergeant, I should add, for clarity. It’s not Sergeant Proudfoot from the earlier books, but to be honest, I wrote her in Proudfoot’s image. She more or less is Proudfoot, as if all female police sergeants are made from the same spunky, attractive, mid-30’s, no-kids, jaded mould.
Detective Sergeant Daniels and Barney have a thing, and at the end of the book they’re a couple. I think it worked in its own right. Except that when I came to write the next book I was left with the question of what I was going to do with this extra character. Barney has developed into a cross between James Bond, The Man With No Name and Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit, not William Wallace.) None of these men are meant to have permanent attachments. It doesn’t work. That’s why Bond’s women always die, (or just get completely ignored when it comes to make the next movie), that’s why Clint loved and left ‘em, that’s why Wallace’s women are involved in wool smuggling. These relationships are not meant to be.
However, I did not rise to the challenge of what to do with the female love interest for the follow-on title. I chickened out and just plain wrote her out from the start. It was a cheat, and felt like a cheap bit of writing. For the English version, given that I published the following book first - The Last Fish Supper - I didn’t need to worry about the romantic attachment as she wasn’t there. Now, however, I come to it again. Should Barney get a girlfriend?
If this is to be the last Barney Thomson book, then it doesn’t really matter. I can finish it how I see fit, or more likely, how it works best in terms of the story. Maybe Barney dies. Again. But if he doesn’t die, and I leave him sailing off into the sun with his girl on tow, and then for some reason I decide that there’s need for another Barney Thomson novel, well there I am, stuck with the same problem as before.
All series have their dynamics, the essential threads that run through them, and when you take something away or change something dramatically, then it’s likely that the whole thing gets messed up. Like when Bergerac sailed off around the world in a humph, then came back to be a private detective for a couple of extra years. The dynamic had changed, the series never recovered,( and Bergerac had to put on fifty pounds and move to rural England where people get murdered every weekend in churches and behind hedges.)
Barney has always been a man alone with his demons. Even when he was married in the first book, even when he had a couple of romantical involvements in the fourth, he was still Clint/Bond/Wallace. The women were temporary cyphers, even his wife of twenty years.
For the moment the romance of the original draft is staying put, because it seems to work. And it only seems fair to Barney to give him something more in his life other than the back of people’s heads and involvement with serial killers. However, before I get to the end I feel I’ll need to know what I’m going to do with Detective Sergeant Daniels in future stories, should there be any, before I make any commitment on Barney’s behalf.