Invisible Ink: No 210 - Percy F Westerman


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Authors can be successful in their own right without impinging on the consciousness of an attention-deficient public, whose recall-rate of virals featuring inadequate Russian driving skills is above works by novelists who bring a lifetime of experience to their craft. Equally, critics will ignore writers who they consider solid and old-fashioned in favour of current literary darlings.

Bingley is a working writer. She doesn’t like reality TV, alternative comics or political correctness. She penned a column in her local paper, the Grantham Journal, called “The Way I See It”. In photographs she’s a natural smiler, and appears quite at ease with herself. I suspect that if we met we would hold quite different views. It really doesn’t matter; I admire her because she’s a steel fist in an oven glove.

After the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, Bingley’s erotic volumes, written under the pseudonyms of Fredrica Alleyn and Marina Anderson, were all re-issued with glamorous new covers. Their titles say it all; Fiona’s Fate, Dark Secret, Forbidden Desires. But before this she wrote the unclassifiable thrillers Such Good Neighbours, Children of the Night, After Alice Died, Gateway To Hell and others, all out of print now. She is not someone I would have sought out in a bookshop, but back in the 1980s a television producer commissioned me to adapt her novel The Waiting Darkness. I quickly realised it wasn’t my kind of book; the language was plain and straightforward, the setting a suburban world from which I had spent years distancing myself. But as a hungry would-be author I accepted my one-and-only commission and got down to work.

It’s not until you strip down a novel into its component pieces that you realise how well constructed it is. Behind the net curtains in The Waiting Darkness, where young Rosalind tries to be the perfect wife to her weak, older husband, there’s something unpleasant afoot. Her daughter, Anna, is uncontrollable, and sets out to poison her stepfather’s mind against his new wife – but why? The outcome took me totally by surprise.

I realised that what I had here was something fresh and subversive, a viral ghost story of deviant psychology quite devastating in its implications. My finished script left BBC executives aghast, but the book was so well structured that I couldn’t remove anything that they found offensive. I rewrote endlessly to lessen the impact, but they backed off.

Kudos, Mrs B, you shocked a national institution.

Christopher Fowler