STORIES - Introduction
Shades of Difference was the very first work I ever had
published. It was broadcast by the BBC, which seemed to
me to be even
more exciting than being published in a magazine, and it was
read by an actress called Sian Davies. The Morning Story slot
is now on Radio 4, but then it was on the Light Programme (now
Radio 2), and the BBC held a competition for writers under
thirty under a number of different sections. I won the ‘Romance’ section
with ‘Shades of Difference’, but as you’ll
see if you read it, it was very far from Barbara Cartland’s
idea of romance!
I had written it when I was about sixteen or seventeen, and
I don’t remember if I sent it off anywhere then; I suspect
it just sat in a drawer somewhere. So when the competition
was advertised in the Radio Times, I dug it out and sent it
in. It’s a bit rough round the edges, as you would expect.
I wrote The Tunnel when I was about twenty-five or so, and
I think my style had improved a bit – it’s a very
British story, however, so I’m not sure my American visitors
will necessarily get the point, but you never know.
And both were very much of their time, so I think some explanatory
notes are in order.
Shades of Difference
In mid-sixties Britain, people couldn’t get married without
their parents’ consent until they were twenty-one. And,
of course, race issues dominated the news – mostly what
was happening in America, but here as well, to some extent,
though Britain wasn’t as multi-cultural as it has since
become. Certainly the topic was hotly discussed here, though
we probably had fewer race-related incidents than we’ve
unfortunately had since then. I set it in Cardiff because I
knew that the Tiger Bay area had a large, integrated black
community, and that suited the story; it was important that
there should be virtually no cultural differences.
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In 1973, when this story was published, Colditz, one of the
most popular drama series the BBC has ever produced, was running.
And because of its popularity, there were documentaries on
television and books in the shops about the escape attempts
of the men who really were imprisoned at Colditz (the prisoner-of-war
camp that the Germans were certain was escape-proof), about
the tunnelling out, and how the men above ground would play
noisy games so that the guards wouldn’t hear the digging.
I think that sets the scene!
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