Print deal sought for son's screen tribute to his father
For a first-time author, it's the stuff of dreams: to have your debut novel transformed into a feature film with an all-star cast led by Bob Hoskins.
That journey has been all the more emotional for Mark Baxter because he chose to write the autobiographical tale – loosely based around the violent events of the 1986 Wapping printers' dispute – only as a means of coping with the grief of losing his father, John, who died of cancer. He is now looking forward to the release this year of a movie in which Jenny Agutter will play his mother, Shirley, and his own part will be taken by the rising British actor Calum McNab (The Firm, The Football Factory).
Despite this, Baxter has yet to find a publisher for his book, The Mumper, and is struggling to meet demand for the story by printing copies on the self-publishing website Lulu.com.
A former print worker, Baxter wrote The Mumper to depict the adventures and banter of his father's circle of friends – drinkers in The Flying Dutchman pub in Camberwell, south London.
The story, about the group's decision to club together to buy a racehorse, was picked up by Trix Worrell, the south London-based writer of the Channel 4 sitcom Desmond's. Worrell introduced the story to producer Tony Humphreys and it is being made into a film called Weighed In: The Story Of The Mumper, from a screenplay by Nigel Smith.
"My dad was always saying he would write a book of the escapades that he'd heard over the years," said Baxter. "After a couple of years of getting over his death, I started to write it down and the stories just grew and grew. It was never my intention to write a book, just to document the stories that I had heard."
The memoir, told in the argot of south London, documents a group of amateur pub crooners, including Baxter's father, played in the film by veteran British actor Phil Davis (Quadrophenia, Vera Drake, Lark Rise To Candleford).
"When I was 12 and 13 my mum would say, 'Take the boy' and I would sit among the crowd and watch my dad singing and just soaking up the characters and the humour around me. I have a lot of affection for the people but a lot of the guys were dying or moving out of the area, so it was a case of getting the material down on paper."
Baxter, 48, was assisted by co-author Paolo Hewitt, an established music writer. "We decided to publish it ourselves through Lulu.com," said Baxter. "I printed 10 copies and handed them to the guys in the book, they read it and passed it to their friends and family and then asked for more. It grew by word of mouth."
The involvement in the film of Hoskins, playing union man Percy "Smudge" Smith, has raised the profile of the story to another level. "I'm buying 30 copies at a time which then fund another 30 copies," says Baxter. "I can hardly cope with the orders that are coming in and I need to pass it on to a publishing firm that can get it in the bookshops and satisfy the demand that we've already got. With the film being released this year, I'm sure there will be lots of interest."
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre