The Diary: Neil Gaiman; Theatre Titanick; Tim Parks; David Cassidy; James Corden

  • @arifa_akbar

A (new) romantic lead

Neil Gaiman, the sci-fi and fantasy writer and graphic novelist, who yesterday picked up a Carnegie Medal for The Graveyard Book, about a graveyard-dwelling little boy who makes friends with the dead, tells me he started out as a jobbing writer-on-demand who was asked by a publishing company if he'd like to write a biography of a band when he was in his early 20s. He jumped at the chance, thinking he would be describing the lives of an edgy, iconic band such as The Velvet Underground. He was brought back down to earth when they gave him three options: "I got a phone-call from a publisher called Proteus who said they'd heard I was a good writer, and did I want to write a music book for them. They gave me three choices: Barry Manilow, Def Leppard and Duran Duran. I chose the last option. Looking back, I think I made the right choice," he says. Far from sneering at the assignment, Gaiman looks back fondly at the venture. "It bought me my first electric typewriter and paid half a year's rent," he says.

An unexpected hit (and a show about it)

As unsavoury as it may seem, the centre of Carlisle will be transformed into an outdoor theatre for what is billed as a "spectacular re-enactment of the sinking of the Titanic" next month. Carlisle Castle will be the backdrop for Theatre Titanick's performance that will see water cascading across the stage. A huge open-air set with seats will be constructed in the grounds of the site and the stage will be dominated by the bow of the great liner. Set to an orchestra, the drama will begin with engineers constructing the Titanic and end with its sinking. All in very bad taste you may think (I certainly did), but the production has proved a "major hit" around the world and garnered rave reviews.

He finally got it licked

The Booker Prize-nominated novelist Tim Parks provided the sunniest sentiments of the week when he told me that despite not having his first "five or six novels" published, he wrote on undeterred, working part-time as a teacher and translator. "I don't know why I carried on, it just became a way of being me, but I was planning to stop when I was finally published," he remembers. His words come as a breath of fresh air amid the scare stories of publishing hardship and penniless writers, and they reveal Parks's remarkable lack of egotism. Fortunately, Parks' seventh (and first to be published), Tongues of Flame, was an award-winning success.

Just fancy that: Cassidy lives on

David Cassidy's particular brand of 1980s sex appeal is in the process of being reignited by women of a certain age, it would appear. First, Dawn French wrote about her obsession with him in her book, Dear Fatty, while Lisa Kudrow has mentioned her crush in interviews. Now, two actresses, Lucie Fitchett and Victoria Willing (the latter the daughter of the artist Paula Rego), have written a play summing up the phenomenon called Could it Be Forever? about a group of adults reminiscing about their "love" of Cassidy.

Corden blare

James Corden, the Gavin & Stacey actor and sometime singer, who this week maintained the No 1 spot for the second week running in the singles charts with "Shout", is also, it turns out, closely connected to Royal Air Force Squadronaires, who hit No 5 in the pop album charts with their Glenn Miller classics, and who used to be helmed by Corden's father as band leader. As a child, he often went to see the band perform. So fond are these memories that he has pledged to lend his musical talents to The Squadronaires later on in the summer. In the Mood: the Glenn Miller Celebration features The X Factor's Stacey Solomon, who recorded the Glenn Miller/Etta James classic "At Last". Released by the RAF's official Big Band in the 70th Anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, the album has steadily overtaken acts including The Rolling Stones, Florence & the Machine, Justin Bieber and Pixie Lott.