Thursday 14 January 2010

For your own sake, Peter, stop stealing my scripts

Fiction writer GARBHAN DOWNEY offers some belated advice to the First Family

If Peter and Iris Robinson have indeed been reading my novels, I must strongly appeal to them to stop immediately.

I watched Thursday night’s Spotlight programme with all the unfolding horror of a puppet-master whose charges have sprung to life and are racing towards a very messy finale.

So I am pleading with them now, NOT to buy my new book, out next month, as it could damage their lives irreversibly.

Let me explain.

Since 2004, I have published five black comedies set in the world of Irish politics, and the Robinsons, it seems, have now adopted all of them as life-coaching manuals.

Let’s start with Running Mates (2007), which centres on a crooked race for the Irish presidency. In it, the right-wing candidate is a lifelong advocate of family values to such an extent that he employs a perfectly lovely psychiatrist whose speciality is “curing” homosexuals.

My fictional doctor’s techniques include giving his “patients” copies of Readers’ Wives and instructing them to pretend they are “married” to some of the prettier ladies. I don’t know what methods Iris’s friend used...

Okay, this first hit could be a coincidence, I’ll grant you. But let’s go back a bit. In Off Broadway (2005), a Northern political leader is cuckolded by his glamorous wife. In my book, however, the hero is forced to forgive his wife as she knows where his bodies are buried - in his case literally. But luckily for Harry the Hurler, the media are too afraid of him to publish a word – and even collude in a cover-up.

Again, I accept, this could be a fluke. But by 2008, strange things are starting to happen, and my characters really seem to be morphing out of the pages. Yours Confidentially: Letters of a would-be MP tells the story of a planning scam, and at one stage we have a sitting Northern Ireland MP being forced to pay back cheques to developers. Maybe this happens all the time, I don’t know. But I’m starting to feel a little uneasy.

Then last year, in the novel War of the Blue Roses, I invented a totally improbable tryst between a teenager and a sixty-something hillbilly politician. It was so far off the scale, I nearly removed it from the book as I wasn’t sure readers would believe it.

But on Thursday night, up pops young Kirk and nearly blows my socks off. And people say life never imitates art.

There is some hope, however. During the Great Not Speaking Crisis of 2004, I produced Private Diary of a Suspended MLA, which predicted an eventual partnership between the DUP and Sinn Fein. So, I now feel fully entitled to claim the credit for Peter’s thawing towards Martin.

There is, however, always a moral balance to my books. Comedy by its very nature is concerned with righting wrongs and the judicial application of poetic justice. And I personally subscribe to Carl Hiaasen’s dictum that the nastier the villain, the more horrible his or her demise must be.

In my next book, for example, The American Envoy, the femme fatale, a real sun bunny winds up posted to Alaska for five years. And the lead villain is shot in the ass and forced to carry around a rubber toilet ring for all eternity. Others prove even less fortunate...

But that’s too much already. I’m giving the script away again.

The Robinsons really would need to stop reading now.

The American Envoy will be published by Guildhall Press in February 2010 and launched at the Dublin Book Festival.

Article appears on CSNI courtesy of the Irish News.


Michael Stone said...

Haha, nice one, Mr Downey! Um, you are kidding, right? Although, come to think of it, you could be on to something here...

Garbhan said...

It's very hard to know these days where the fiction stops and real-life begins, Michael.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Garbhan is not the first to make the connection between his own somber books and Iris Robinson's hilarious life. (Scroll toward the borrom of the comments list.) The comment you will find there, in turn, inspired this.

Well done!
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Peter Rozovsky said...

Er, the bottom of the list, that is.

Garbhan said...

Great thread, Peter. But did he ever give Iris a walk-on cameo in his books - as I did in 'MLA' and 'Yours Confidentially'? (She's top of Shay Gallagher's list of 'alternates' to Sue. Sue's is Sinn Fein's Greek god-in-waiting Gerry Kelly.)

seana graham said...

Garbhan, I think you may have to write avery dull one where nothing much happens, but peace reigns supreme. Sure it stifles your creativity, but the fate of Northern Ireland may well depend on it.

Garbhan said...

Good idea, Seana. As long as I could included a Chelsea-supporting satirist who becomes a multi-millionaire.

Garbhan said...

(Should of course be 'include'.)

seana graham said...

Oh, definitely. You've got to get something out of your powers, after all.

adrian mckinty said...


The problem with your argument Garbhan is that Peter Robinson is a kind of humour black hole, sucking all the fun out every room he's ever been in. He's a dangerous entity. If he really is using you as his life muse you'll start to be less funny every day until that time in the future when you're not funny at all and you find yourself wearing aviator sunglasses indoors and having a strong urge to climb Slemish in the middle of the night in the rain waving a piece of paper muttering about Leviticus.

seana graham said...

But maybe Peter is reading Garbhan's books like a script and is just not that good an actor. I think his wife is the one with the gifted interpretation.

Garbhan said...

I interviewed Robinson once in Derry, Adrian, about 10 years ago and he was surprisingly funny off-mike, if incredibly non-PC. Tend to agree with Seana, though, that Iris is where the money is at in that family. (And in their case literally.)
Did Genesis for O Level Religion (Grade C - bate that up you Mrs Sweeney!) but never felt the urge to go any further. And visiting Slemish would mean having to go through Ballymena, and both you and I know, Adrian, that that will entail a cold day in hell first.
But I do think it is possible to score humour from cold, clinical and repressed hard men - particularly when events send their lives spiralling out of control. Not that you'd laugh too hard mind - as it's always your turn next.

adrian mckinty said...


Derry? Never heard of it, as Peter Robinson would say.

I've seen P R a few times but never "interviewed" him. Arent you the fancy one? He drove past our house in Victoria Estate in Carrick on the back of a milk lorry with Ian Paisley when I was quite wee. It was at night and Robinson was wearing a camel hair coat and sunglasses. The other time was when my brother and I went to see Ozzie Osbourne at the Ulster Hall. Peter and Ian were together again outside protesting about the devil or something. Ozzie dedicated his first song to Paisley but Peter sadly got left out.

Garbhan said...

Radio Foyle have a very talented commentator called Anita Robinson who does a five minute weekly slot on whatever strikes her as odd. After her bit last Friday, a listener rang in to say how well she'd done and suggested playing 'Here's to you, Mrs Robinson' as a salute to her.
But the presenter just laughed and said we're not allowed to play that song this week, "for obvious reasons". So it seems poor Iris can't get a song dedicated to her either.