Thrillingly, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” continues to break records, playing in cinemas all over the world – proving, if proof were needed, that you don’t have to be twenty-five to go to the movies. We could have told them that, couldn’t we? A story about the over-sixties is bound to find an audience. People of my vintage are terrific film-buffs, it’s in our blood, and what’s more we visit mid-week and even in the afternoons, so cinemas love us. The problem has been a lack of movies that reflect our experience. This is due to Hollywood’s shameless sucking-up to the young, of course, but this movie’s success has given the studios a jolt, and about time too.
Another reason for its success is its stars. More and more I realize how great movie actors are worth every cent, and then some. They understand sub-text; they can invest even a banal line with nuance; the changing weather on their face reflects their inner life. Their timing is pitch-perfect; watching Bill Nighy shake a dead telephone is bliss. And somehow, in that indefinable way, they have a presence on the screen. One feels in good hands.
Needless to say, all this has been great for the book. I’ve had many, many emails from people who’ve seen the film, often several times, and then gone on to read the novel. One or two, to their irritation, have discovered that they’ve already read the book when it was called “These Foolish Things” – to them I can only apologize for Amazon’s misleading marketing, nothing to do with me (anyway you should have gone to a bookshop!). Apart from that hiccup it’s been hugely pleasurable to see a film giving such joy and then to see how many people are reading the book which, as you might have discovered, is very different to the film. In a way this is a bonus – one doesn’t confuse the two, or resent the fact that an actor has taken over a favourite character and made it their own, because the characters in the film are unrecognizably different anyway.
The weird thing is that my next novel is also set in a hotel – (“Heartbreak Hotel”, due out in February). This wasn’t intentional. I guess the thought of throwing strangers together in an alien environment is simply too tempting to resist – a place where they can shed their responsibilities, where they can become anyone, do anything, and surprise both themselves and us, the readers. There’s something about hotels that loosens the inhibitions, which is always fun.
The main character has already had a life in an earlier novel, “The Ex-Wives” but he reappears here ten years later, having been left a ramshackle B&B in an old lover’s will. The problem is, because the B&B’s in Wales it’s always raining, so after breakfast none of his guests leave. Being a hospitable chap, he cracks open a bottle a bang go his profits. So he decides to convert the place into a hotel and run Courses for Divorces. Nothing works out as planned, surprise surprise, as the wrong people fall in love and subject themselves to the usual indignities. Some of them are well past middle-age but, as we know, it’s never too late to make a romantic fool of oneself. I’m going to link it to some short films which I shall put on the internet, which may work or may be a disaster – who knows?
Apart from that I’m developing a couple of TV series which may or may not happen. One is an update of a Zola novel, set in Cameron’s Britain, and the other is a story about Soho prostitutes set in the 1950s, an era which is both lost in the mists of time and yet dimly recognizable.
Meanwhile I’d love to hear from you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and meanwhile have a great summer.