Strachan McQuade (deceased) Interviews Stephen Volk
More recently Volk's was the writer behind the recent box-office supernatural chiller, 'The Awakening' starring Rebecca Hall and Dominc West. For many people however, his name will be forever remembered for 'Ghostwatch' the BBC hoax 'live' Halloween broadcast that scared the crap out of half the country when it was aired.
In between writing screenplays, Volk has published two collections of short stories, 'Dark Corners' and 'Monsters in the Heart', as well as an award nominated novella, 'Whitstable' that featured the actor Peter Cushing in his latter days doing battle with a contemparory monster. His new book, 'Leytonstone' is available this month from Spectral Press.
I'm also chuffed to bits that I'll be sharing book space with Stephen Volk later this year when we both have short stories published in an anthology of morbid tales inspired by the writing of M.R. James.
|Strachan McQuade R.I.P.|
McQuade: Welcome back to Dead Man Talking. To set the scene for this interview I thought it might be appropriate to have a cup of tea by candlelight in the Glasgow City Morgue. I’m not sure why, but the pathologist has left behind some sheet-covered cadavers on the dissecting tables. Hopefully they won’t cause a disturbance. Hoi there! Volk! Stop peeking under that sheet and get over here. This isn’t Jim’ll Fix It, you know.
McQuade: In Savile’s defence he did at least provide a whole generation of shell-suited, bling-flashing ruffians with a proper dress code. Without Savile they’d likely still be wearing Harrington jackets and Sta-Prest trousers. Now Volk, before we start, may I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the now notorious BBC spook-spoof that fooled an entire nation - Ghostwatch.
Volk: It fooled me! In that the reaction when it went out (Halloween, 1992) was a bit over the top. None of us were expecting that. Personally I thought the viewers generally might think “eh?” for about ten minutes, then “get” it, then go “ah!” and hopefully enjoy it for what it was. Which was a ghostly drama done in a particular way, (i.e. it pretended to be going out “live”).
McQuade: It certainly caught me out. I didn't even realise Michael Parkinson was dead when you recorded it.
Volk: Yes. I believe so. Lots of tabloid fodder.
Volk: Fun-time Fanny… Is that a new Channel Four series? If so, I reckon it’s a winner.
Volk: I once responded to a “free hearing aid” advert in the paper simple because I fancied having a bit of plastic in my ear like Mr Spock. I was about ten. Sadly I was rumbled. One day A salesman knocked the door. I was upstairs sitting on the toilet at the time. I thought “Shit!” My dad knew what was going on and invited the salesman in, just to embarrass me. Which it did.
McQuade: That’ll teach you not to lock the toilet door. I remember one time just before a Sunday service I was in the bathroom inserting a suppository when our cleaning lady walked in. She startled me so much my sphincter went into spasm and I had to perform the whole service with my finger up my chuff-pipe. Thankfully it eased off towards the end and I was able to shake hands with my congregation on the way out. Unfortunately that was point the suppository kicked in and I had to beat a hasty retreat to spare my parishioners further calamity.
You mention in your bio that you dislike your cat. I myself detest those sly, sleekit creatures who spend all their spare time hanging around with witches and working on stratagems to steal a tasty slice of fish off my dinner plate. Is your cat a practitioner of the dark arts or is it just a rubbish colour? (ie ginger) And by the way – did one of those stiffs on the tables behind us just break wind?
Volk: No, they always smell like that. As for the cat, it is an Abyssinian (called “Asbo”), so a sort of fawn dappled colour – very beautiful, which contributes to it feeling innately superior to its keepers. It never shows an ounce of affection and if you stroke it, it bites you. If you tickle its tummy it gouges its claws into the back of your hand. Touching little things like that. And throwing up as soon as you’ve fed it in the morning. And once you’ve tidied up the vomit, then the thing is crying to be fed a second time. Bloody hell! I think cats were designed to test writers, to warn us against getting to up ourselves. But I often think when mopping up cat sick of a morning: “O, the glamorous life of a screenwriter!”
Spot the Cabbage
a) Star Trek
c) Terry and June
d) Anything else you can think of
Which one would you go for?
Volk: Sherlock. Possibly. Or the old Jeremy Brett incarnation, really – or Cushing or Rathbone, both of whom are my favourite Holmeses. I’ve written Sherlock Holmes stories in print – and I’m writing a series of stories at the moment with Sherlock in them, though in a very different context to any we’ve seen him in before, in that he is the young “Watson” figure to another great (greater?) detective. Have a look in The Mammoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad at my story “The Lunacy of Celestine Blot” and you’ll find out who that is. It’s out soon, if not on the shelves already. The TV show I’m re-watching at the moment and never tire of is The Avengers with Steed and Mrs Peel – such a lovely witty double act, and such bonkers, imaginative stories – quite unique. My dream project would be to revive that. I think it was the show that got me excited about TV drama when I was young, the idea of continuing stories with the same characters, which I eventually got a chance to do myself with two seasons of the ITV
series Afterlife (starring Andrew Lincoln and Lesley Sharp). Those ABC/ITC shows of the sixties were fantastic though, and amongst my fondest memories is The Prisoner, which baffled my parents, and consequently I absolutely loved (though I didn’t completely understand it at the time: now I think it’s possible the most radical and one of the best TV dramas ever made). Nowadays there are great shows to wax lyrical about too – imagine writing Penny Dreadful in particular: as a staunch fanatic about Victorian gothic and Hammer horror, I would love to.
One last question. One of your current projects involves transforming Phil Rickman’s novel, ‘Midwinter of the Spirit’ into a three part TV drama. Has this posed any particular challenges given that Rickman’s readers can be a pernickety bunch and will blame you for anything they feel doesn’t stay true to the original book, not to mention holding you responsible for everything from the font used in the closing credits to the casting and the use of false moustaches.
BANG (Editor - Well, fancy that...)
McQuade: By Jove, it was her after all. Erm… sorry about you losing those fingers, Volk. I imagine you can still type with one hand.
Visit Stephen Volk's web page
Buy Stephen's new novella 'Leytonstone'
Friend Stephen Volk on Facebook