Friday, 24 March 2017

The More Than Quite Interesting Mr Colgan

It was a quite and dull night in Holbrook Towers, a knock came on the large oaken doors.  Annoyingly it was the butler's night off, and so I was forced to come upstairs from the torture chamber to answer the door myself.  Normally an obtuse and miserable man, prone to violent fits of rage, I was pleased to see a familiar face, one that I had run into a few weeks ago in York, where he gave a most enjoyable talk regarding the likelihood of there being intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Our exchange over drinks was recorded as follows:

Who the devil are you? Why are you here? What is your purpose?

I’m Stevyn Colgan. Author, artist, songwriter, collector of vintage Viewmasters, ex-pat Cornishman and tea fetishist. Oh and I’m one of the ‘elves’ that research and write the TV show QI. My purpose is to be FABULOUS. I am failing dismally.

Written a book have you? What the bloody hell is it all about?

Written several actually (smug face). The latest is a novel called ‘A Murder To Die For’. It’s a murder mystery set at a murder mystery festival. And, I hope, it’s funny. People who’ve read it think so. One person said it read like Tom Sharpe had written a Miss Marple novel. Stephen Fry liked it enough to give me a cover quote. So did Sandi Toksvig. I trust their professional comedy judgment! I’m now trying to persuade someone to turn it into a TV comedy drama.

Can you remember the first thing you ever wrote that you are creatively proud of?  Was it a story? A poem? A toddlers dirty protest, perhaps a forged cheque?

The first thing I remember writing (that I was pleased with) was a story about a small hairy thing called The Offog. I can’t remember the plot – it was around 45 years ago – but I do recall that it involved the Moon being tethered to the Earth with a piece of string. I suspect my Ricicles had been spiked.

There's a door in front of you. Behind the door is a world without imagination, without spurious thought, where no one has ever thought about writing stories and the idea of a novel is seemingly fantastical and impossible.  Take the complete works of another writer with you through the door (Shakespeare and Dickens are banned) who is the lucky woman/man? And would you pretend to be them?

Wow. How can I pin that down to just one author? Part of me says Douglas Adams. Another screams P G Wodehouse. Yet another howls for Tom Sharpe. But I’ll take the complete works of Rev J P Martin, creator of the extraordinarily mad world of Uncle the elephant. Pythonesque humour, inspired names (Beaver Hateman, Butterskin Mute, Isadore Hitmouse etc.) andwonderfully insane and surreal stories all explosively illustrated by Quentin Bake. Tha t should cheer up No Imagination Land. And no, I couldn’t pretend to be the Reverend due to my crushing atheism.

Tomorrow you expire.  The day after you come back. Which animal would you be, and how would you use your new found animality to wreak revenge on the human world that cast you out?

Probably something like a Tyrannosaurus Rex (Hey, if you can have reincarnation, I can have dinosaurs, okay? I bloody love dinosaurs). I’d quickly rise to the top of the food chain and then sort out the political situation on both sides of the Atlantic. Or maybe a cow. Cows are mellow. Cows are worry-free. And who wouldn’t enjoy being milked?

 Invisibility or shape shifting?  Which would you choose to cause the most havoc?

Invisibility every time. And no, of course I wouldn’t spend the summer hiding in some young ladies’ finishing school. The very thought! It would be shut.

Literary heaven and literary hell. What novel is a dream and which disappointed you the most and should be cast into the pit for all eternity?

A novel that was a dream? I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but the first time I read John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ I was blown away. All of his books are brilliantly written. The sci-fi element hardly intrudes; it’s all about the characters. He throws people into extraordinary situations and then tells their stories brilliantly. Literary hell? Tricky. I’ve read books that I thought were steaming piles of shite but who am I to judge? ‘50 Shades of Grey’ has sold millions. I hated it. Dan Brown is massively successful. I’ve read a few of his books and I thought they were terrible. But maybe that’s just me? The fact is, taste is personal and they have sold many, many more books than I ever will.

Ideas.  Do you pluck them out of the air or do you have to put some work into it?

I am bursting with ideas all of the time. I carry notebooks and voice recorders with me everywhere I go. I’ve never suffered writers’ block. And everyday situations and stories I hear can set me off on a chain of thought that ends as a story - I once wrote an entire novella after seeing a lone glove sitting on some railings. By the time my brain had taken a long ride on the Train of Thought I’d created an entire temporal refuse disposal industry that, in the far future, gets rid of its landfill by dumping it into the past. I then wrote it up as a Doctor Who script and submitted it to the BBC and got as far as discussions with the producer. Ideas are not a problem. Having the time to get them all down is.

“The best comedy is tragedy.” Discuss.

It’s true. The best comic creations are built on tragedy: Reggie Perrin and his deadly dull corporate life; Basil Fawlty’s relationship with Sybil and his intolerance of hoi-paloi guests;  Henry Wilt’s whole life; Tony Hancock’s interactions with idiot Bill Kerr, bullish Hattie Jacques, dodgy Sid James and odd Kenneth Williams; Edmund Blackadder’s lack of recognition and power; poor thick Bertie Wooster’s utter reliance on Jeeves to get him out of every scrape. In ‘A Murder To Die For’, I’ve done the same with my leading characters. They’re all either jealous, avaricious, angry or in some other way discontented. And that leads us to plenty of funny situations.

Where can we find you? (not in a stalky type of way, obvs)

When I’m not hanging out at some young ladies’ finishing school, you can find me on Wikipedia or on my website at, both of which desperately need updating (any Wikipedians out there?).

I’ve been keeping a blog for a decade and the most recent iteration is at: There you can also find links back to my previous blogs and, most importantly, to my books.

My latest book ‘A Murder To Die For’ is out later this year but you can read all about it and pledge for an early special edition by visiting here

On Twitter I’m @stevyncolgan and on Instagram I’m simply StevynColgan

Last, but not least, if you want to email me, send me spam or unsolicited nudity, I’m

Thank you, Stevyn, you have been most illuminating.  I for one have already pre-ordered 'A Murder to Die for' and am very much looking forward to seeing the postman negotiate the moat in order to deliver it.

Please feel free to visit Holbrook Towers whenever you are passing.  I shall make sure there are milkmaids a plenty next time, just in case you return a bovine.

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