A few years ago producer James Peak, presumably bored, sent his filmmaker pal Duncan Crowe an email under the guise of the ageing Major Arthur St John Trevelyan. He had, he wrote, persuaded a group in Ghana to design his friend’s coffin in the shape of a giant phallus. Duncan replied in the outraged voice of Major Victor Cornwall, and accused Trevelyan of embezzling money from a children’s charity. Scoundrels was born.
An alternative history; in 2016, James Peak and Duncan Crowe founded Black Door Press with the intention of publishing memoirs, histories and biographies. Within days, they received a manuscript from a pair of old Majors that they could not publish in good conscience and subsequently rejected. When they learned that, by signing for the delivery, they had entered into a binding contract to release the book, Scoundrels was born.
Believe what you will. Off the back of the release of the second book in the Scoundrels series, The Hunt for Hansclapp, we checked in with James and Duncan to learn about the Majors, JFK conspiracy theories, and writing as a duo.
Can you tell me a bit about the writing process for this one – did it spring from your emails like the first book, or was it slightly more traditional?
DC: A lot of the incidents and adventures in Volume 2 were written in the original emails and left out of book one because of the timeline. But we kept to the same process of submitting a chapter each in turn within our characters. That was the starting point – from then on we worked on them together.
What sort of research did you do this time around?
JP: Lots of internet based research. Without giving too much away we spent hours looking into various JFK assassination conspiracy theories…
You’ve said that while working on the first volume each of you had to charge in like Rocky Balboa’s trainer to gear the other up at times. Was that still the case with the second book?
DC: A little bit – having a writing partner is really useful to help your motivation but because we’d done it once before we knew we could do it again.
In Volume 1, you each wrote the other’s character into situations you weren’t sure how to get out of. Has that continued in volume 2?
JP: To an extent, yes, but we also wanted to allow the reader to flow through the story more smoothly, so this time it’s like we’re throwing a ball for the other one to hit- setting each other up for the following chapter.
A lot of ‘Scoundrels’ stems from the two of you trying to make the other one laugh. Without giving too much away, what is your favourite or funniest scene the other has written?
DC: In this Volume there’s a memorable scene in the Wimbledon changing rooms. We passed that chapter between us several times and both had great fun building on each other’s work.
You’ve upped the emotional stakes a bit in this one – why did you decide to introduce Anais into Trevelyan and Cornwall’s lives?
JP: Anais’ character was first mentioned in our original emails in 2014 and we’ve been waiting this long to introduce her. She’s important to the story because for the first time the Majors (Trevelyan in particular) care about someone more than themselves.
What’s next for the Majors? Where does volume 3 take them?
DC: Volume three will see their memoirs come to an explosive, stunning conclusion that will wrap up the trilogy nicely. But that may not be the end of the Majors stories. They have plenty of other tales to tell…
Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclapp is available now from Black Door Press.