The new New World Order

In January 2011 I got one of those emails every author likes to get from time to time, from a fan saying how much he liked The New World Order, my deliberately Turtledovian take on the English Civil War.*

Oh, and he was John Wakefield, Head of Speech Broadcasting at University Radio York, and would I mind if he adapted it as a radio drama?

Hmm, decisions, decisions. One of those things for which you really need to go on a long walk, indulge in a couple of cold showers, maybe sign up for a meditation course to put you into the right frame of mind for weighing up the pros and cons … Okay, it took about 1.5ms to say yes. Rather, yes in principle, but sadly you ought to be asking the rights department of Random House, not me.

Which he did, and they said yes, and everything went quiet for a while … until now. Part 1 will be broadcast this Sunday, 11th November, by URY and part 2 on the 18th. That means it won’t be heard on the air outside the university campus, but as far as I can tell from their website, it’s streamed. Just saying.

I’ve had the pleasure of a preview of both parts and it is excellent. I find it hard to believe these are fresh-faced students. It has a specially composed score and a cast of tens. It was odd to hear someone else’s interpretation of what a Holekhor accent ought to sound like, and I always imagined Oliver Cromwell as sounding like Bernard Matthews, and sadly my dream cast of Russell Crowe, Kate O’Mara and Philip Madoc (in his War Chief role) were unavailable and in one case dead – but against that are some pitch perfect performances. I must single out the actor playing Prince/King Charles who manages exactly the right mixture of affability and spite, plus a suitably wobbly adolescent voice in the first half. My hero Daniel is cleverly played as both a 12 year old and a 17 year old by the same actor. And I was carried away by the sound effects, not least the adrenaline pumping excitement of an airship taking off – all clanging bells and shouted orders and roaring engines.

Some of the dialogue seems to be mine – which is nice, as it suggests I can actually write it – and some is revised for the purposes of the show with no discernible join, which is as it should be. A couple of scenes here and there are condensed or elided but again you can’t tell if you don’t know. I wondered if they would assay the epilogue, which describes real events in both our world and the world of the Holekhor and makes it obvious (to us) exactly who they are, but that bit was omitted – probably for the best.

It’s a shame it’s a one-off performance; I hope John and the rest of the team can use it in a portfolio for a future career. I wish them every well-deserved success.

(* Summary: dimension-hopping technologically advanced Neanderthals return from whence their ancestors disappeared to thousands of years ago and interrupt the events of 1645.)