Writer's Commentary


The JFK quotations: I though it would be a nice touch to begin each section with the words of US President John F Kennedy, to help remind readers of his importance to the book. This opening quote is lifted from the Shona Laing song 'Glad I'm Not a Kennedy', a chart hit in New Zealand and Australia during 1987. I transcribed the quote wrongly, it should be: 'We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the course of world-wide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouths...' This apocalyptic quote was a neat lead-in to the opening sequence of the novel.

22 January 1964: This short what-if sequence suggests what could have happened if JFK's wife Jackie had been assassinated at Dallas instead of the president. The sequence was suggested by former Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel when I told him about the book I was writing. The 30th anniversary of JFK's murder had generated a lot of useful reference material and inspiration for my novel. There's some dialogue Clint Eastwood says during the film In the Line of Fire here, transposed to the thoughts of JFK.

22 January 1996: Who Killed Kennedy was written almost entirely as a first person narrative by a fictional character, journalist James Stevens (my middle names are James and Stephen), assisted by me. I've since revived Stevens as a pen-name for some of my other fiction writing. So far David Bishop is proving more successful.

During development of Who Killed Kennedy, the name of the first person narrator flip-flopped between a few alternatives. He was called Jack Marshall in the original proposal before becoming James Stephens early in 1995. Virgin wanted the character's surname changed to Stevens for reasons I can no longer remember. I preferred Stephens but felt it wasn't worth an argument. The character's name was derived from my own middle names to underline that the two authors named on the cover are actually one and the same.

Using a first person narrative was a typical feature of conspiracy books like David Yallop's Carlos: Hunt for the Jackal. It gave the reader a strong insight into Stevens' thoughts and feelings, and also helped keep the familiar characters of the Doctor and UNIT at arm's length. Virgin editor Rebecca (Bex) Levene was worried this would become too much to sustain for a whole novel. We overcame that with short insert chapters, as you'll see later in the book.

James Stevens relates how he was on work experience at Auckland's Saturday afternoon newspaper 8 O'Clock newspaper when JFK was assassinated. The 8 O'Clock was an odd paper, essentially a vehicle for publishing the results of sports fixtures in the days before teletext or the internet. Unsurprisingly, it has long since folded. In the 1980s I did work experience at the 8 O'Clock's parent paper, the Auckland Star. That's gone too now.

Stevens' origins as the illegitimate son of a US soldier stationed in New Zealand during the Second World War was inspired by seeing John Wayne supposedly in NZ during some war film - The Sands of Iwo-Jima perhaps.

The preface quickly establishes the tone and style of the book, while outlining the central character's background and philosophy. Like him I had been a daily newspaper reporter. I grew disillusioned at simply reporting what others did in impartial terms; I felt the best journalism came from a quest for the truth - hence Stevens' quest for the truth about UNIT and the Doctor. His character is forced to sacrifice everything for his quest; he undergoes a fundamental change over the course of the book. In most Doctor Who novels the central character is the Doctor, who cannot change. WKK's unusual format enabled him to overcome that restriction.

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