Tuesday, 1 July 2014
And welcome to 'Why did the Policeman Cross the Road' - my new book.
Well, I say new book ... that's not strictly true. This one has been in the making for quite some time. In fact, I first started gathering bits together for it as long ago as 2006. I knew that I had some extraordinary stories to tell. I knew that there was something really good in the material. I just didn't know what to do with it. Every time I started to assemble it into book form it quickly turned into a monotonously dull business book.
Then, one evening in 2009, I was at a recording of The Museum of Curiosity - it was before I became involved in writing the show - and in the pub afterwards I got chatting with the show's hosts, John Lloyd and Sean Lock. The course of the conversation came around to my rather curious police career and soon I was telling them some of my favourite stories. Both John and Sean were soon saying to me, 'You have to get these down in a book!' So I went home and I wrote a few down and I took them back to John who looked at them and frowned. 'No, no, no', he said. 'You've left yourself out of the stories. They don't work unless you're telling them.'
And he was right. I read what I'd written and it was as dull as ditchwater. That's what I'd been doing wrong. That's why the stories read like a business book. I had, as John pointed out, removed myself from the narrative. But writing a book about myself seemed a little ... well ... egotistical. And besides, I'm not a celebrity or a famous sportsperson or a celebrated explorer. Who'd want to read the autobiography of a nobody?
I ummed and ahhed aout the book for a further couple of years, trying different formats and voices and never quite getting it right. I then turned it into a stage show and, to my surprise, it became something of a hit. I performed The Skeptical Bobby at over 70 venues around the UK, including at Cornbury, Village Green, Latitude, QEDCon and Edinburgh festivals.
And then I had the good fortune to meet two people who completely turned the project around for me. The first was the journalist and brilliant comedy writer Jane Bussman. I read her amazing book The Worst Date Ever (which tells the story about how she - a comedy writer - followed a UN peacekeeper that she fancied to Africa and, quite by accident, became the person who broke the story of Joseph Kony's brutal kidnapping of 1000s of children to the West) and realised that her style of writing - a mix of personal anecdote, humour and good factual research - was just what I needed to emulate. It didn't have to be autobiography - it could be journalism! And, after meeting her and talking about it, I now had a very clear idea of how to write the book.
The second person was Graham Linehan, of Father Ted, Big Train, IT Crowd and Black Books (and many more) fame. I'd met Graham before and we'd become pally. But last year, when I took my The Skeptical Bobby talk to his home town of Norwich, he called me up and asked me to pop around to see him at home. We walked his dog in the woods, sat and drank tea in hs kitchen and chatted about all kinds of things, including this book. One thing Graham is brilliant at doing is getting you to hack everything back to basics so that you have a clear idea of the direction to take. I guess that's the director in him and why a director is called a director. I came away with a much clearer vision of what the book should be like and, thanks to John and Jane, I also knew how to write it and what my 'voice' should sound like. I owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
And now, hopefully, so do you. Because thanks to them, you'll now get to read this book (as soon as I've written it). I'm pretty confident that you'll enjoy it. After all, what other book are you likely to read in the next 12 months that has cops playing hide and seek and lobster fishermen getting into bed with restauranteurs? Where else are you going to find out the similarity between vice carding and tiger farms, and why you might consider painting the visiting team's changing room pink? You'll see how dragons lying down in Soho affect crime prevention and why Tim Minchin hopes I don't die in a car crash.
It's going to be fun ... so the quicker we get this bugger funded the better! Tell your family, tell your friends. Tweet it, Facebook it, Flickr it. Write the web address on toilet cubicles and spray it on walls in letters 20 feet high. Okay, don't do that last one. Maybe the last two.
Thank you for your faith in this book. And in me.