BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO: EVERYTHING OLD BEING (RELATIVELY) NEW
Adapting a quaint medieval romance into hardboiled noir might seem an odd match-up, yet in doing so over the past eighteen months I’ve come to realize – with much valued assistance from fellow writer Renee Asher Pickup – how surprisingly easy (and apt) it actually can be.
As 2014 drew to a close, I got an itch to do something with the thousand-year-old story of Tristan and Isolde (or Tristram and Iseult, depending on historical sources). You might recall the tale from dusty library tomes, Wagner’s over-the-top opera, or a fairly lame 2006 Hollywood potboiler starring James Franco and Rufus Sewell.
Think unequivocal adoration, betrayal, intrigue, lies, revenge and a tragic finale – all things that fit so well within film noir and hardboiled detective or crime fiction. The problem being the love dram, and that took some nutting out to squeeze into a novel set in more recent times (the 1970s).
Times have indeed changed, thus it seemed a given that we should switch gender roles for our two key protagonists. Trista Cornwall is rough, ready, loyal and skilled, Issy Holt verging on a spoiled princess-cum-playboy – yet ready to renounce everything for what he deems right.
Filtering through the original source material are the things true to form – repeated readings of Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Brubaker, Macdonald – along with the dozens of viewings of their spin-off cinema that I tend to salivate over. But equally vital in the context of this novel are the era recollections of the ‘70s, from the first Godfather film and Taxi Driver to TV nuggets like Starsky & Hutch, CHiPs and The Rockford Files; the decade’s atrocious fashion excesses and the arrival of punk and disco.
There’s a closet nostalgia for these things that I think both Renee and I shared. Being able to squeeze them all into a romantic legend that gave rise King Arthur and Guinevere and Romeo and Juliet?
A form of monochrome icing with martini chaser – and just a sprinkling of MDMA.
- Black Sails, Disco Inferno will be available via Open Books from June 30.