Malcolm and Juliet is a special book to me. In part, because it was the easiest book I’ve ever written, in part because it is so closely based upon the play of the same name, and in part because it’s the only time I’ve played it strictly for laughs. Not having to rein in my childish instinct to make a joke of everything was a great relief.
The play version was written in 1997. I’d intended it as a graduation piece for a very special group of actors at Onslow College. These were the stars of my first play, two and a half years earlier, and I was soon about to lose access to their company and talents. The story of a young boy attempting to make a documentary on sex, its only goal was to entertain. I envisaged a short season of laughter and celebration. Three weeks before the play was due to be performed, my youngest brother, John, died suddenly of leukemia and the landscape changed completely. The very special place this play now holds for me, has a lot to do with the way the production served as a crutch. It was still a lot of fun, but the laughter was inevitably laden with extra meaning.
I didn’t intend to turn this one into a novel, but while travelling in 1999, I came to the end of Jolt and needed another project to fill in the long hours of a European summer. The lightness of tone perfectly suited the mood of the holiday, and it did feel like a gap filler. I wasn’t even sure it would be published. But it was, and in the way of these things, the novel I had thought least about was the first to win an award, and was later published in Australia and Germany. (I had the very great pleasure of reading from it in Bavarian schools in 2012, as part of the White Ravens Festival).
My one regret with this novel is I couldn’t use my favourite monologue from the play, where Malcolm talks about his father teaching him to drive. The reason it was out of bounds was that I had already stolen it for use in the sex scene in Lester, and at some point recycling just becomes embarrassing. The play script can be downloaded free from this site, so you can have a look if you’re interested.