Two: November 1969
The continuity references start coming thick and fast. Books like The Discontinuity Guide by Cornell, Day and Topping, and Lance Parkin’s A History of the Universe and Jon Preddle’s articles in TSV were essential reading for trying to join the dots of Doctor Who continuity. For example, this chapter opens with mentions of the British Space Centre and the Mars Probe, setting up subsequent references to The Ambassadors of Death. Inspired by Remembrance of the Daleks, I also worked in a reference to the old British Rocket Group from Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series. Plus there’s links to The Invasion (the collapse of Tobias Vaughn’s International Electromatics company), Ashley Chapel from Craig Hinton’s Missing Adventure Millennial Rites, and Professor Kettlewell from the Fourth Doctor story Robot.
Part of the challenge in writing Who Killed Kennedy was squaring events shown in the TV stories with contemporary events on Earth in reality. I chose to set the broadcast adventures close to their broadcast date, deciding most of the fashions and technology on show were contemporary. But the likes of The Ambassadors of Death present special challenges - Britain still hasn’t sent manned missions to Mars. So there needed to be a plausible explanation for how the Mars Probe was possible. Happily, the cybertechnology left by Tobias Vaughn provided an answer. Bex was responsible for a lot of cross-pollination between Who Killed Kennedy and other Doctor Who novels being written at the time, hence Ashley Chapel’s mention.
But the main story source for this chapter is Doctor Who and the Silurians. I remember being scared almost senseless by this story when it was first broadcast and gripped by Malcolm Hulke’s Target novelisation - Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters (complete with illustrations of groovy flares). The Silurians was one of the broadcast stories that provided lots of great material for Who Killed Kennedy. When rewatching the story I chuckled with delight at discovering Lethbridge-Stewart having an angry phone conversation with a reporter from a daily newspaper. That went straight into the novel, strengthening the links between Stevens and the characters on-screen. Discovering moments like that were akin to winning a prize without buying a raffle ticket, a little moment of joy and glee.
The paragraph about Stevens trying to overcome writer’s block by going to the toilet is exactly what I used to do at the New Zealand Herald. Some of my best opening paragraphs were composed in that bathroom. When I left the Herald in January 1990 to emigrate to Britain, the use of new technology such as computers had yet to be introduced to the paper. We were still typing stories on typewriters, using scratch pads and jealously hoarding our precious supplies of carbon paper. It seems arcane now in an era of desktop publishing, but the experience provided valuable background material for Who Killed Kennedy.
This chapter has Stevens commit adultery with a woman he meets at the Savoy Hotel. I was all set to write a steamy sex scene but chickened out at the last minute. Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate for the tone of the book.