When I first heard that Left Bank were going to produce a pilot based on the Banks books, I was excited. For years the books had been kicked from option to option, and I had just about given up hope of ever seeing them realised on any screen, small or large.
Although Stephen Tompkinson didn’t conform to my idea of what Banks should look like, it was never an important issue with me. Everyone who reads the books has a different idea of each character’s appearance, and to please them all you’d have to have make . . . well, thousands of different versions! That’s one difference between novels and TV. Novels leave the readers to fill in part of the picture – you have to do some of the work yourself – but with TV you get the whole picture, and there’s little room left for your imagination.
I was pleased with the pilot, and with the first and second series. Sure, they changed a lot of things, but that’s only to be expected. TV adaptations and books are as different as chalk and cheese. All the things readers like about the novels – such as Banks sitting around listening to music, drinking wine and mulling things over – disappear, and what you get is plot-driven, fast-paced entertainment. But I do think Stephen manages to capture the essence of Banks’s character very well.
Andrea Lowe, who plays Annie Cabbot, was unable to appear in most of the second series because she was in the late stages of pregnancy. In her place, the producers brought in DI Helen Morton, played by Caroline Catz. I like Helen Morton – she’s a strange character, reminiscent of Saga Noren in The Bridge, only with a husband and children – but I didn’t write her. I like Caroline Catz, too. She is a popular, and very good, actress, and it comes as no surprise that the producers want her to stay on. When Annie comes back, plus baby, in the third series now being filmed, there are bound to be plenty of fireworks between her and DI Morton. I’m sure the viewers will enjoy them. I know I will.
Sometimes though, I feel as if it is all slipping away from me. So many people are part of it – from the crew to the cast, writers, producers and directors – that things could hardly be any other way. I continue to take an interest in the scripts, watch the series, visit the set and meet up with everyone involved whenever I can, but my main job is to write the books. To do that, I have to put DI Morton, Annie’s baby and all the rest out of my mind and return to a man sitting by himself in an isolated cottage, looking out on the Yorkshire Dales, sipping an Aussie shiraz, listening to a Schubert string quartet, an old Miles Davis or Pink Floyd CD or the latest Richard Thompson, mulling things over. That’s my Banks, not theirs, and it’s important for me to know the difference. Long may they both thrive!