Recent news of the publication of a Hercule Poirot story not written by Agatha Christie seems to herald something of a trend for literary spin-offs not written by the original author.
Tom Stoppard’s new musical, ‘Hamlet, King of Denmark’ develops Shakespeare’s work in a strikingly novel way. “I always thought the ending of the original play was unnecessarily depressing. In my new piece, Hamlet turns out not to have been killed after all but instead recovers and becomes a wise, just and - if I may say so - witty ruler, a sort of Scandinavian Oscar Wilde.” To add to the gaiety of this version, Stoppard has collaborated on half a dozen songs with Abba’s Benny Andersson who, he says, “has a surprising, almost instinctive feel for the Danish atmosphere I wanted.” The titles the pair have composed include ‘A Fool for Ophelia’ and ‘Everything’s Great (in the Danish State)’.
Crime queen Martina Cole meanwhile weighs in with her sequel to Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, ‘Let the Punishment Fit the Crime’. In this, the murderer Raskolnikov flees Russia after his prison sentence and seeks a new life in London’s East End. “He’s not a bad lad,” notes Martina, “but unfortunately he falls in with some Russian gangsters based in Plaistow and he’s soon up to his old tricks, except this time he’s aiming to get rich too. The question then becomes if he’s going to become the kingpin of the London underworld, or if his lover Sonia can get fast-track citizenship and help him redeem himself once again.”
Perhaps the most potentially controversial is ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ Bible prequel, ‘Alpha Tale’. All involved are sworn to secrecy as to anything specific about the story, which concerns the time preceding the creation of the universe.
Williams himself is especially tightlipped, refusing to say anything about the book’s beginning or its ending, except to smile and say “I don’t think Richard Dawkins is going to like it!”