In this age of austerity, the return of Foyle's War couldn't be more timely.
Foyle’s War is back. At last, I’m officially allowed to say it. We’re doing three more episodes for ITV, to be aired in 2013. There’s one slight problem, which is we’ve now run out of war and considered calling the new series simply “Foyle”, or even “Foyle’s Peace”, but actually we still have plenty of extraordinary (cold) war stories to tell, starting in 1946 when MI6 turned their attention to Stalin’s Russia, and Britain was heaving with displaced servicemen, ex-Nazis, prisoners, spivs and spies.
I’ve now been writing this series for almost twice as long as the war itself, working with my wife, the producer Jill Green. Where other couples argue about carpets and curtains, we tend to throw the furniture when she tells me I can’t have another Spitfire or set fire to a street. Why come back after three years off the air? Well, it’ll make a change from repeats and the audience is still out there. Travelling around Britain and the United States on my recent, disastrous Sherlock Holmes tour, I think it was the question I was most asked. You know a talk on a new book isn’t going to go well when the crowd comes clutching a pile of your old DVDs.
There seems to be a huge demand for a more serious, thoughtful sort of drama right now. Indeed, what with Downton Abbey, The Hour and Call the Midwife, history – particularly 20th-century history – has never been more popular. Perhaps it has something to do with this new age of austerity… after all, the phrase was first coined to describe the post-war years. The worse we feel about the present, the more tempting it is to lose ourselves in the past.
That said, I’m still trying to find anyone who is behaving in a way that is even slightly austere. It’s not just the jammed restaurants and theatres. What with the Olympics and everything, London seems to be throwing money about as if there’s no tomorrow. You can barely leave Clerkenwell for all the road narrowing and widening, and every time I look out of my window another crane has sprung up, building another tower. I suppose all this is a good thing, but I do wonder who’s paying.
My view is now dominated by the so-called Shard – about as alien and inappropriate a structure as London has ever seen. Scarred, more like, I think, as it soars over St Paul’s. Seventy-two floors of high-class accommodation, a hotel and a viewing platform, it’s our very own little piece of Qatar in Southwark and a suitably intemperate memorial to Lord Prescott, who saw it through planning. But that’s the future. Foyle’s Waris the past. I’m stuck in between.