Being Jack Absolute

Seeing as my boy Jack is getting a bit of attention in the US due to the Kindle promo, here’s the tale of why I chose him to write about. Mainly, because I played the role In Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 18th Century comedy, ‘The Rivals’.

In fact, here’s me doing it:

Author in the role of Jack Absolute. Malvern 1987

Author in the role of Jack Absolute. Malvern 1987

Many people who know me know me through my acting. Even though I do less of it these days – historical fiction writing being somewhat all-consuming (and which can be done wearing holed sweaters and a scraggly beard!) – I still consider myself an actor even if I call myself an ‘author-actor’ these days rather than an ‘actor-author’ as before.

My acting life has affected my writing so directly – in my heightened dialogue, my intensely dramatic situations. Most people who read me, the first thing they usually say is: ‘I can see the movie!’ (To which I usually reply: ‘I hope you do!’). But there’s probably no better example of direct affect than with my novel, ‘Jack Absolute’…

… because I stole the character from a play I was in!

Now before you all yell ‘Plagiarist!’ at me, let me explain. Yes, I took the name – from the 18th century comedy ‘The Rivals’. Yes, I borrowed certain aspects of the character created by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the 1770’s. But here’s my defence: It was my interpretation I stole, my performance of the role that shines through in all I subsequently wrote.

I LOVED being Jack Absolute. It was one of perhaps half a dozen roles in my 35 year career so far that I feel I truly, completely nailed. And I felt that if Sheridan was looking down he would say: ‘Yes! That’s right, me boy! Let me buy you a pint!’ I played him as a rogue, a conspirator, gallant, self confident – and a fool for love. I so enjoyed seeing his brilliant schemes fail, his thrashing around, his eventual success. I was in a great company with a great director and we made people laugh the length and breadth of England for six months. And when it was over I missed him terribly.

Then, fifteen years later, I became an author and, after my first two novels, found a way to be Jack once again. For when my publishers asked me what I wanted to write for them next, I found myself saying: ‘I want to write about Jack Absolute.’ ‘Who’s he,’ they enquired? And since I knew he couldn’t simply be the roguish lover I played, knew he had to do something, I had an answer ready. ‘He’s the Double-O-Seven of the 1770’s.’

They loved that. Three novels later, with more planned, I still do. And if I’ve added to my original conception of Jack a whole string of other passions – swordplay, theater, Mohawks, battles on sea and land, amongst them -why not? He’s still a fool for love and, I think, a grand fellow to spend time with. I am so thrilled he’s loose in America again. For then, in a way, so am I!

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