I am really looking forward to an author event coming up at Ketts Books in Wymondham, Norfolk. It will be towards the end of April - I will release the date as soon as it is confirmed.
My name is Neil Mason and I live in the beautiful city of Norwich in the idyllic county of Norfolk, England. I moved here with my wife in 1999 from Bedfordshire.
The inspiration for There There My Dear came from a newspaper article back in 2009 that both shocked and amused me. Simon Cowell, it was reported, planned to make a game-show to find the next ‘big thing’ in politics. The article made me think about the whole politics-media-reality TV-unhealthy interest in fame and immediate gratification conundrum. At first I could not believe that anybody would think of such a programme, that anybody would watch such a programme and that anybody would enter such a competition.
After a while I realised that these were ideal ingredients for a comedy, a satire or a spoof to mock the concept. I also worried that the format of the programme would attract extremists and polar-opposites. Certainly this would make for great TV, but would it further political debate? Would the contestants just be supporters of existing political parties or would they offer innovative and considered ideas? Or would it provide a soap box for the deluded, the extremist or the downright bizarre? Could holders of certain political viewpoints be excluded from having their say? Would there be a need for censorship?
Admittedly, I have a tendency to over-think things, so I started to consider the format and, initially, I settled on a TV or film script. How I revelled in the prospect of writing the next ‘Yes, Minister’, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ or ‘The Thick Of It’. How I dreamt of the plaudits, adulation and praise. How deflated I felt when I realised that I did not stand a chance of bettering those outstanding creations.
Whilst considering the format again my mind wandered to other things that had sat uncomfortably within me for many years. Answers were not coming to me, but more questions popped up in my head: why is there still such poverty in Africa? Why don’t the various African-nation governments address their own social issues and why isn’t the money that is made available spent on infrastructure? Do all political party members agree with each other? If not, why are they in the same party? Does democracy really exist?
Still over-thinking, I started to listen to some old 1980s music in order to inspire me and to spark my imagination. I found that Shalamar and Black Lace weren’t doing it for me, so I turned to bands like The Jam, The Beat and The Smiths, and to the singer Billy Bragg. I then remembered a line from a song by Dexys Midnight Runners and, within minutes, the plot for my novel was formed.
The title of that track is There There My Dear and it is a very important song for me. The lyric starts with “Dear Robin, I hope you don’t mind me writing, it’s just there’s more than one thing I need to ask you”. My dad’s name was Robin and he died of cancer in 1983 aged 42. I was 14 at the time and certainly there’s more than one thing I need to ask him.
After my wife had finished reading the novel she listened to the track and, not having heard it before, cried when she heard the opening line.
Believe it or not, I have a sense of humour and I have tried to lace the plot and sub-plots with elements of comedy. Very, very dark comedy in places. Within the story there are political viewpoints that I share and those that I abhor. There are suggestions that politicians may manipulate the media in order to misdirect and misinform the populace, and there are references to actual events that have happened in Africa that made me think that we do not know the whole truth about the state of that nation.
If you read ‘There There My Dear’ and it makes you feel angry, please get in touch and tell me why. If you read it and you think it is just a series of paranoid conspiracy theories, get in touch and let me know your thoughts. If you find it thought-provoking and inspiring, tell me. And tell your friends.
And if you think it does a disservice to the reality TV industry, please contact Simon Cowell at SyCo Productions. You’ll find the address on the internet.
Best wishes, Neil