Bethan Robert’s beautiful and emotive book My Policeman has been given the movie treatment by Amazon Studios.
This love is all-consuming
It is in 1950s’ Brighton that Marion first catches sight of the handsome and enigmatic Tom. He teaches her to swim in the shadow of the pier and Marion is smitten – determined her love will be enough for them both.
A few years later in Brighton Museum Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted with Tom and opens his eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world.
Tom is their policeman, and in this age, it is safer for him to marry Marion. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
My Policeman was first released in 2012. Inspired by E.M. Forster, Bethan explained the inspiration behind the novel in a blog post she wrote for her website. ” P.N. Furbank’s wonderful ‘Life’ of Forster makes it clear that the policeman Bob Buckingham was the love of Forster’s life. What really interested me was how the two men negotiated the fact that Bob was married, and stayed married, to May, a nurse with whom Forster had at first a very tense and later a very warm relationship. May actually nursed Forster at the end of his life, and was there holding his hand as he died. She seemed to me to be the keeper and survivor of the triangle.”
In the same blog post Bethan explains that May was her started pointing for her story, with her wanting to understand and investigate “how could a wife end up holding the hand of her husband’s lover as he died?”
As the story began to take shape it inevitably changed. “Perhaps because it made for better drama, or perhaps because my own disposition is not as generous or forgiving as May Buckingham’s, I couldn’t help but focus on the wife’s inability to cope with the triangle. Marion’s struggle with her emotions became my story, and it became a much darker one than the real-life situation from which it sprang.”
As part of her research in to the period Bethan read a collection of first-hand accounts of gay life in 1950s Brighton called Daring Hearts. It was reading this that made her set My Policeman in the 1950’s. Further reading she did for research included Peter Wildeblood’s Against the Law, his own personal account of involved in the Montagu trials of 1954 and his sentence at Wormwood Scrubs.
Taking on such a story is a lot of responsibility and something Bethan was keenly aware of while researching and writing it as she documented in her blog post on the process “I was very aware, during the writing of the novel, of the responsibilities involved in portraying this situation. This is a political, as well as a personal, story, and in it I inhabit the voice of an oppressed minority – a gay man in 1950s Britain, Patrick Hazlewood. At first the pressure of the responsibilities involved made me reluctant to write in Patrick’s voice, to make any claim to knowing what life was like for this man.“
“Whilst I believe in the writer’s right – indeed obligation – to imagine other lives, however far they may be from their own, it’s tricky, because it also steers close to the dangers of colonisation, of exploiting stories or voices that have been historically repressed by the likes of you. All of this weighed quite heavily on me at first, but in the end I just couldn’t resist the challenge of writing Patrick’s voice and inhabiting his persona, and my attitude was: why not? After all, one of the great pleasures of reading and writing fiction is inhabiting worlds far from your own experience.”
Bethan’s entire blog post on the writing process for My Policeman is as wonderful read as the book itself,giving you an insight in to the more poignant and emotive moments which happen in the story. It shows the absolute care she took while writing the story.
As someone who first read the book when it was released back in 2012 from a local library and then purchased a copy, it’s langushed on a book shelf for years. Surviving every subsequent book quell, merely because it’s one you can not read for months, sometimes years. Then you pick it back up and find yourself deeply involved in the story. Feeling the love, the heartbreak, the fustration all over again as if you are reading it for the first time all over again.
When the news was released it was getting the movie treatment, there is always an air of trepidation when a much loved book is optioned by a studio, will they do it justice?
And Amazon Studios certainly have. They took this wonderful book and a story which is still as relevant today as it was in the 50’s and created a piece of art which pays homage to the characters lives and experiences, keeping the spirit of the book.
Under the careful direction of Michael Grandage the cast of Harry Styles, David Dawson and Emma Corrin who play the younger versions of Patrick, Tom and Marion. Deliver emotionally charged performances, full of subtle nuances that highlight the depth of relationships and feelings they all held.
It’s powerful and one that will have you reaching for the tissues, My Policeman is a movie and book you will never forget watchng and reading!
My Policeman is out NOW in selected cinemas and will premiere on Prime Video on 4 November. You can purchase the movie tie-in edition of the book, which is out NOW, via Vintage Books, here!