by Emlyn Rees
The only thing that obsesses me more than writing thrillers (and eating curry) is tennis. And not just any tennis. One tournament in particular. THE tournament. The only one that counts if you’re British. The only one you really, desperately, please-please-let-it-be-this-year want someone else British to win.
I’ve cheered plenty of pretenders over the years: John Lloyd, Annabelle Croft, Jeremy Bates, Tim Henman, Anne Keothavong, and even ‘Boggo’ Bogdanovic - who, quite frankly, even I might still be able to snatch a couple of games off down the local park.
But now is different. The age of pretenders is over. Now we have a genuine contender. We have Andy Murray. And, yes, yes, I know, he did once joke that he’d support Argentina against England at football. And, yes, yes, granted, there’s the illustrious trio of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal standing between our Scottish hero and ultimate glory.
But Murray’s still good. As in fourth best in the world good. As in only three other people’s sprained ankles or bouts of food poisoning away from being the best. The champion. The first Brit to lift a Wimbledon single’s trophy since Fred Perry. The first with a real chance of finally soothing seventy-five years of hurt.
Which means that the next two weeks for me should be pretty good, right? Wrong. Because I’ve got a whole bunch of work to do over the next two weeks too.
And herein lies the problem. Watching people like ‘Boggo’ never used to eat much into my precious writing time - by which I mean that sliver of peace and quiet when the kids are out at school and our house no longer resembles a war zone. In years gone by, Wimbledon was more of a threat than an actual issue. Because after three sets in the first round, Bates, ‘Boggo’, etc, could be relied upon to be out.
But Murray’s a worry. Particularly on current form. Insofar as he keeps getting into semis, or even going the whole way to the finals of the slams. Hours wise - if he repeats his success at the Oz Open in the next two weeks - I’ll end up watching up to thirty-five sets of tennis, taking up to fifty hours. Factor into this the additional commentary and Twitter banter I’ll invariably get sucked into, and you’re looking at a Guinness Record-Breakingly low word count for the follow up to my new thriller HUNTED for the month of June.
Which is why this year I’ve decided to think smart over Wimbledon. Instead of letting my writing suffer at the hands of my tennis addiction, I’m going to combine the two.
During the next fortnight, I’m going to justify my TV-ogling by planning out the ultimate Wimbledon thriller. I’ve sketched out a preliminary storyline and am now listing a few of the main plot elements I’ve been toying with below. I’d welcome any feedback or suggestions.
Clearly, the televised, public nature of the tournament seems to lend itself easy to a high profile assassination. But who to kill? The Duchess of Kent is the one the players have to bow to, so maybe it should be her? On the plus side, she’s royalty. But, equally, she’s no Princess Di or Kate Middleton. In terms of this thriller’s commercial prospects, it seems unlikely she’d help in securing serialisation in the Daily Mail, let alone film rights with a major Hollywood studio.
How about one of the players then? Fairly obvious victims, the lot of them, just standing out there in the centre of the court. Forsyth’s Jackal would make swift work of them for sure. There’d be plenty of possible marketing strap-lines to toy with too. Such as ‘Roger and Out’, ‘Shockovic’, or even the more prosaic ‘Fed’s Dead’.
But for me, hasn’t it just got to be Cliff? A.K.A. Sir Cliff Richard. A.K.A. “the total and utter King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, as Rick from the Young Ones once memorably described him. With record sales of 260 million worldwide, and a fanbase covering several generations, he’d be perfect.
Next up: the manner and timing of the hit. A Hammer House style deluge would be most authentic. An irresistible visual image too, with this much loved pop star spinning a brolly Fred Astaire style, as the fatal shot was fired. Just imagine the affront. The public outrage. The cover design. THE BOOK SALES...surely they’d be guaranteed.
Then there’s the escape. How would our shooter make his or her getaway? And who would hinder them? Again, a number of potential heroes and heroines spring to mind. John McEnroe in a Columbo style raincoat. He’d be seriously good. Or how about John Lloyd and Sue Barker hooking up in a Dempsey & Makepeace double act? And surely Becker’s got the hair to get involved Kiefer Sutherland style?
Anyway, it’s all up for discussion. (Apart from the title, because WIMBLEDAGEDDON is a surefire must.) Like I say, these are just preliminary thoughts.
I’ll report back on how it all goes - IF it all goes. Because that’s the other thing with Murray. Even if though he’s number four in the world. Even through he’s in the form of his life. In spite of all this, he’s still British. And maybe, well maybe some things just aren’t meant to be. Meaning maybe, just maybe this year I will still get a whole stack of work done and not have to watch too much tennis after all.
P.S. Oh, and for the record, I should point out that in the plot so far Sir Cliff escapes any actual injury during the shooting. Thanks to a lucky Bible in his inside jacket pocket which stops the bullet in its track. Living legends should, after all, remain just that.