It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was on one of my daily walks, newly retired from my accountancy practice, and thinking about how I might fill up my days. “Write a book, “ I remember saying to myself.“ It’s something you have been wanting to try for years.” It took only a moment after that initial thought to decide, “why not?” and a mere twelve years later, here it is in print.
Actually, newly retired is not an entirely accurate description of my status. I had already reduced my working hours to enable me to care for my late wife Greta, who had not been in good health for a number of years. Now, I decided , it was time to stop completely. I would be available 24/7, but when I wasn’t needed, there would be time available, hence my musings on that walk.
I had always imagined that if I ever did sit down to write, that (first?) book would be a novel. However, when the moment finally came, I remembered the classic advice I had seen and heard so many times, that you should write about what you know. My own life story, at that time anyway, seemed to me to be unremarkable, and not one that would get potential readers rushing to the bookshops. Ditto the world of a chartered accountant. I could envisage a large remainder counter in our local bookshop filled with copies of a novel entitled “Debits and Credits.” Next, I thought about football; as a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur, it is certainly a subject I know a lot about, but it was just not one I fancied writing about.
And then there was musical theatre, a lifelong passion of mine, inherited from my parents who insisted that they took me to see Oklahoma! during its initial London run at Drury Lane. I would have been only four or five years old at the time, and in the late 1940s, taking children at that young age to the theatre was I am sure, even less common than it is today. So, I believe the story to be apocryphal, but what is beyond doubt is that the first song of which I have a definite recollection is Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’.
Over the years I had built up a sizeable library of books about musical theatre. Biographies of the great songwriters; encyclopaedias about the shows; learned works by musicologists discussing various aspects of the genre; and a handful of books telling the history of just one show, but none of these were about my favourite show, Carousel and online checks confirmed that I had not overlooked any. Indeed, such show histories were a relatively new concept, some being glossy coffee table books linked to the film version of a musical, whilst others were more scholarly in content, published by university presses and adapted from doctoral dissertations. To these could be added just a small number of books devoted to one of the “golden age” musicals.
And so it was, that slowly, the idea developed, that I would not write a novel; instead, I would write the story of Carousel. Looking back now it seems a crazy decision to have made. True, I was familiar with the bare bones of the story, but those bare bones would not fill even a slim volume. I knew there was a wealth of material to be found in various libraries in the U.S., but I was clearly not going to be able to visit them any time soon. Nor did I have any idea whether the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation, who control all the pairs’ works and access to their papers, would be willing to co-operate with an unknown wannabee author without a publisher or agent behind him. (As it turns out, they provided me with more help than I could ever have hoped for).
Now you may be wondering, what made a retired chartered accountant think he could write a book that anyone would want to read? The truth is, I had no idea if I could or not; but I did know I wanted to try. Whether anything would come of it only time would tell, but meanwhile, I looked upon it as a challenging and interesting exercise. I would be researching into a topic I loved, and at the same time, I would at least be making a start at trying to achieve a long-held ambition. I had nothing to lose, and so, more in hope than expectation, I began to sketch out my preliminary ideas for a history of Carousel.
So was it a good idea? Of course it was. There were many trials and tribulations along the way, and just how well the book will be received, I have no idea, but I am very, very glad I decided to embark on what has been an amazing journey.
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