Robin Hood obsessive alert!!!!
You’ve been warned…
I’m delighted to welcome Paul Kane to my place today. Fellow Robin Hood fan, writer of an audio script for Robin of Sherwood- and author of very much more.
Over to you Paul…
When Jen very kindly asked me to contribute a blog to her site regarding my connection with the Robin Hood legend, I started to think about how long he’s been in my life. From an early age, bank holidays were very often spent at Sherwood Forest – we lived about 20 minutes away from it. So, as well as learning about the legend – about Robin and Marion, Little John and Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet – I was breathing the same air they did back then, soaking up the atmosphere.
Then along came Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood, which I would sit and watch religiously with my dad, and Saturday teatimes would never really be the same. Of course, back then I had no idea it had been created by the same man who came up with the wonderful Catweazle, I just knew that this was a version of Hood I could get behind. As well as having all the traditional elements to it, the robbing the rich to give to the poor and so on, it also had a supernatural slant: I mean, come on, the very first episode was called ‘Robin Hood and the Sorcerer’… doesn’t get any better than that! Except, actually, it did – and as we tuned in every week we would marvel at witches, demons, Satanic cults and woodland gods. I was in seventh heaven!
Even when it came time for Michael Praed to step down from the title role, the changeover to Jason Connery was handled seamlessly. In fact, I loved it even more not knowing what was going on at the end of ‘The Greatest Enemy’. Had Robin come back from the dead, was he a ghost? No, in fact what had happened was a clever segue into that other origins story, Robert of Huntingdon taking over the mantle from Robin of Loxley – but both of them Herne’s sons. Wonderful stuff!
Then, sadly, the show finished and I mourned its passing. I watched all the other adaptations over the years – some of which even included elements that Richard had invented, like the Saracen – but none ever came close for me. Only repeated viewings of his series, when it became available, would do. At the same time, my own writing career had started to take off, moving on from journalism to short stories and finally novels and scripts, as well as taking on the job of Special Publications Editor for the British Fantasy Society and helping to run their yearly convention, FantasyCon. It was around 2006 or 2007 that I spotted a shout out for pitches from Rebellion, the publishers of 2000 AD (another staple of my formative years). They were moving into novels, in particular those which would be part of a shared universe called ‘The Afterblight Chronicles’ – set in a future where 90% of the world’s population had died out from the A-B Virus.
I knew commissioning editor Jon Oliver from my time on the convention circuit, so I threw over a few ideas – one of which was a post-apocalyptic version of Hood. It just seemed like an obvious choice, once society had crumbled and mad dictators had taken over, to bring that legend back to life. It would be part of the Chronicles, but also a very distinct story in its own right. Luckily, Jon agreed, and suddenly I was writing my first mass market paperback: Arrowhead. Needless to say, my version was heavily influenced by RoS, whilst still going its own way; it had to really, as my Robin – Robert Stokes – was facing tanks and attack helicopters. Also needless to say, I was delighted when the book was so well received that another was commissioned shortly after the first’s release (a terrific launch ten years ago at FantasyCon in, appropriately, Nottingham).
I remember I had some vague notion about doing the whole ‘death of Hood’ legend – firing the arrow into the sky and all that – when it came to writing the sequel Broken Arrow. Thankfully, Jon talked me out of it saying: “When you have a hero like that on your hands, you don’t kill him off that quickly.” He was absolutely right, of course, and after that novel came Arrowland, forming a trilogy of books Rebellion released as the omnibus Hooded Man (which sold out of its first print run incredibly quickly). Not only that, but the novels had put me on the radar of…none other than Richard Carpenter, or Kip as I came to know him. He loved them, offered me a glowing quote, and even gave his grandson a copy to read. Imagine my joy at that – things had pretty much come full circle.
Or had they?
Spin on a few years, during which I’d pursued a couple of my other passions (the work of Clive Barker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even crossing them over in books like Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell) and mourned the sad passing of Kip himself. The world is still a poorer place without him. Rebellion had also asked me to continue the Hooded Man story with a novella which caught up with the characters a few years later, Flaming Arrow. And I was very excited to hear that RoS was returning in the form of a full cast audio adaptation of Kip’s Knights of the Apocalypse from Spiteful Puppet, something I reviewed for Sci-Fi Bulletin.
More audios followed, some of which I also reviewed – and during the course of this I got chatting with that lovely chap Barnaby Eaton Jones, of Spiteful Puppet. I mentioned the Hooded Man books, sent him a copy, and the next thing I knew I was being asked to pitch a RoS audio myself. As luck would have it again, I’d just finished my first audio script – a full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, which would star Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge) – so I felt confident enough to have a crack… sort of. It was still RoS and there was massive amount of performance anxiety, as you can probably appreciate.
But anyway, I began to think about elements of the show I’d loved myself and what we hadn’t seen so far in it. And, personally, I’d always thought it would be cool to see Robin and his band go up against a vampire, or at the very least someone who thought he was a vampire. I jotted down some ideas for a tale which pitted them against a Vlad the Impaler-type character, driven from his homeland and now a mercenary – and right there and then, The Red Lord was born.
I was over the moon when the pitch was commissioned, and even more thrilled when the script itself was passed – with a few minor tweaks – by SP and ITV. It was then that Barnaby told me it was being recorded soon, narrated by none other than Ian Ogilvy. Ian had played Lord Edgar in RoS, but also another quite well known character from my childhood. My better half Marie will tell you when that news came in, I screamed: “You’ll never guess who’s doing my audio! Only the Saint!” Yes, I don’t mind admitting I am that much of a geek…
And so it’s done, is totally wonderful, and something I’m incredibly proud of. Well, I would be, having lived and breathed Robin Hood – and Robin of Sherwood – all these decades. I hope the fans like it, after all I am one too, and I like to think that somewhere Kip is smiling as well.
Does this mean that everything’s finally come full circle now? Perhaps – but who can tell what the future will bring? Not me, that’s for sure. For now, though, I just feel incredibly fortunate to have had not one but two bites of the cherry.
Thanks for reading, thank you Jen for letting me waffle on, and finally may Herne protect you all!
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over seventy books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and Pain Cages (an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before (a recent Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller). He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
WOW- what a guest!! Thanks Paul- I am humbled by your productivity.
Many thanks for visiting today,