A Shakespearean villain I’ve never had much time for is Don John in Much Ado About Nothing. He’s a stock character drafted in to do mischief and to foul up the relationship between the fairly uninspiring Hero and her bland lover Claudio. His villainy is never convincing, though he himself and other characters do their best to establish him in it. The fact is, of course, that the real sparkle of this rollicking romp of a play is the battle between the confirmed bachelor Benedick and the verbally-adversarial Beatrice, whose developing relationship steals the hearts of the audience. Aided by his henchmen, Don John does his worst, runs away and ends up caught; his punishment is postponed beyond the end of the play. I can’t help but feel that Shakespeare missed a trick with him, considering the potential he has in this comedy as a serious knot to be untied. Perhaps the playwright lacked an actor in the company to turn Don John into something much more compelling. I have such a person in mind!
Yesterday, I travelled to London to meet my friend James. He is an entrepreneur, bursting with business ideas, most of them relating to the publishing industry. He’s had the odd failure, but mostly he succeeds. He’s a millionaire several times over, but he keeps on working. I think that this is not only because of his prodigious energy and industriousness (both of which I admire), but because he is addicted to the thrills and spills that each new (ad)venture brings. He is a piratical sort of man. I don’t think that he would break the law, but he certainly isn’t a ‘suit’. He may be obliged to wear one, but I’m sure he’d be happier with long hair and a beard, parading in lace and velvet, hung about with ornaments in the manner of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
What does he have to do with crime writing? Apart from having sold a great many e-books, some of them fiction, some undoubtedly belonging to the crime genre, nothing, as far as I know. Not yet, anyway. But I feel that it is my duty as a crime fiction writer not to pass up the opportunity offered by such promising raw material. He’s such an extraordinary character that he’d make an excellent hero in an action novel; on the other hand, he’d be an equally good villain.
I know that I said in an earlier post that I wouldn’t betray my friends by making them into recognisable characters, but the fact is that James would love it. (I mentioned the idea to him in passing and he latched on to it at once.) He would dine out for months on telling the tale and, in the process, sell many copies of the book to his extensive circle of friends and many more to readers worldwide on his e-books platform (though, knowing James, he’d extract a keen discount for this service).
And the headline of ‘James, by James’ would be bound to intrigue!