Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wind | Fiction | Wind In The Willows Reboot To Tackle The Financial Crisis?

An interesting announcement in the Guardian today; the estate of Kenneth Grahame has made it clear that they intend to release a sequel to The Wind In The Willows, tentatively titled, The Wind In Willows: Wealth Always Wakes, written by none other than famed thriller-writer James Patterson. It’s not as bizarre a choice as you might think – Patterson has written about ambiguously animal creatures dwelling in a land of humans before, in his sensically-titled Maximum Ride series about avian hybrids, and he’s even ventured into children’s fiction once or twice, in his collaboration with Neil McMahon, Toys, a charming novel about sentient toys, and a couple of Alex Cross adventures for younger readers, Pop Goes The Weasel and Four Blind Mice (which also reminds us of his skill at taking on the reins of an existing franchise).

Patterson actually mentioned the project on his personal website, saying how proud he was to take the series on. He also explained that this will be an ‘updated version of the classic tale’ that brings Toad, the greedy and charming capitalist pig, ‘kicking and screaming into the twentieth-century’ by exposing the darker side of his actions.

‘It’s going to be a wild ride…we’re actually going to take it further than the originals ever did. So in my story, Toad doesn’t just stop at motor-cars. He buys a limousine, then a helicopter, then a plane, and ends up destabilising the world economy. I mean, this guy is a selfish dick, and I wanted to show that side to him. The wealthy, chauvinist, materialist rogue no longer has a place in our fiction, even as an anti-hero. He’s a banker, and that word itself has now taken on a whole pejorative vocabulary of its own.”

Patterson did assure fans of the original that his book would be suitable for young children (the scene in which Toad, high on cocaine smuggled in to his minimum-security prison, garrottes a washerwoman before fondling her small, child-like breasts will only be available as part of a special omnibus), with the satirical subtext visible to adult readers without being crass.

“It’s a wonderful story, and I think it can be relatable to today’s children with the minimum of tinkering. The kids may not understand that Mr. Badger’s intense misanthropy is a result of his psychologically-scarring experiences murdering women and children in the second Gulf War, and they probably won’t pick up on the exact nature of the close relationship between Mole and Ratty either. But they’ll love to see these colourful, clearly-defined personalities engaging in plenty of action without too much plot, nuance or character development slowing things down.”

This won’t be the first Willows sequel, of course (William Horwood wrote several books in the series) or even the first one to try and feel like a big man by stamping all over the proverbial sandcastle of a beloved seventy-year-old children’s book and proving how it’s appalling when considered as an adult’s social manifesto. Jan Needle’s 1981 Wild Wood recast the predatory stoats, ferrets and weasels as hard-working, oppressed members of the rural proletariat, struggling against the lazy aristocratic Toad, the petty bourgeois Ratty, and Mole, who by his wide-eyed enthusiasm for the comforts of Toad’s lifestyle, is clearly a class traitor. I’m sure we can all agree that such a book definitely needed to be written.

But, of course, another outdated but much-admired British archetype is currently being given the modern-day dust-off, in the form of James Bond; it’s probably fitting that the reins of his rotten funereal carriage are being handed to an American writer, Jeffrey Deaver. We know that Deaver is a dedicated researcher (while beginning work on his first thriller about quadriplegic detective Lincoln Rhyme, he has confessed that he spent an entire forty minutes lying very still on his bed one Tuesday morning, only moving to scratch his nose), so thankfully we can be sure that the re-booted Bond of Carte Blanche, an Afghanistan veteran, won’t just be a vague pastiche of well-known English traditions; we know, for example, that he enjoys Radio Four.

Long before we get to see any of that, however, we will enjoy the BBC’s modern-day Sherlock Holmes reboot, Sherlock, returning to our television screens, including a version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which this editor is especially intrigued to see considering that the plot would make absolutely no sense in a modern-day context. But then again, neither did The Blind Banker, although it did manage to get in a few pointless swipes at bankers for being greedy, which is obviously how you make a classic appear relevant and urgent in a modern reboot.

Jon Ware
Fiction Editor

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