In the Silence — the version that never was

Saturday 16 November, 2019

In the Silence — the version that never was

Some of you probably already know that the novel that eventually became In the Silence originally started life as a feature film screenplay which I wrote in 2006. Certain core elements remained the same from day one: Anna, for instance, was always the protagonist, and Zoe was always her best friend and comic relief. The killer’s identity was the same too, as was their motive, and the climax unfolded in the same location. And, of course, it always took place in Glasgow, though I did briefly toy with setting it in Rome when I initially came up with the idea (an echo of this remains in the form of Anna returning, at the start of the novel, from a decade of living there). A number of other elements, however, changed almost beyond recognition, some major, some minor. These are a few choice examples.

I recommend you DON’T read what follows if you haven’t already read In the Silence. Spoilers abound.

- Anna’s surname was originally “Scabbia”, not “Scavolini”. While “Scabbia” is indeed a perfectly legitimate Italian surname, I belatedly discovered that it also, rather unfortunately, means “scabies”.

- Zoe and Carol’s relationship was no secret, and Anna was aware of it from the beginning.

- Ross Garvey was originally a put-upon supermarket worker called Billy Primrose. Mandy, the prostitute Ted Renfield visits in the novel, had a namesake in the form of a colleague of Billy’s who was his ally and would-be lover.

- Renfield was a PE teacher at his old school and a somewhat more functional member of society, though he was always wracked by guilt over what he and the others did ten years ago.

- The attack on Anna that occurs on the second night of her return to Glasgow occurred much later and took place in her hotel room (in the script, Anna stayed at a hotel overlooking Bingham’s Pond).

- In the script, Jenna Atherton (the precursor to Jenny Guilfoyle) was dead, having taken her own life because of what was done to her. In a scene I’m genuinely sorry to have lost, Anna visited her grave and found it defaced with obscene graffiti.

- Mark Westmore was an old schoolfriend of Anna’s who participated in the rape of Jenna (which took place in Kelvingrove Park rather than at the house on Woodlands Hill). He was murdered shortly after an abortive sexual encounter with Anna, during which she told him about her own rape (which took place in Rome around a year before the story’s events, rather than when she was a teenager as is the case in the novel).

- Zoe and Victor’s grandmother was still alive and living with them, and suffering from the early stages of dementia — and with some awareness of what Victor was doing.

- Far more was made of Carol potentially being the killer, to the extent that Anna actually had suspicions about her and shopped her to the police. Carol was arrested and underwent a less-than-gentle interrogation by Norton and Murray — a precursor to Anna’s own night of hell at the police station in the published novel. This, rather than Anna using and dumping Victor, was the reason for Zoe turning against Anna in the script.

- The breakthrough which ultimately led Anna to the Glasgow University bell-tower and her confrontation with the killer, was a letter of confession found among the dead Billy Primrose’s effects and passed on to Anna by Mandy.

- When Victor took Andrew Foley hostage in the bell-tower, he was armed with a gun, which Anna eventually managed to wrest control of. It was her, rather than police marksmen, who ultimately shot him dead.

As you can see, the decade-long journey from initial draft to publication was one fraught with twists and turns, as scenes, plot twists and entire characters were added, modified or removed entirely. There’s little doubt in my mind that what finally saw the light of day is by far the best version of the story, though a part of me does sometimes wonder what might have been if certain elements had retained their original form.

Cruel Summer, on the other hand, changed considerably less from its initial draft to publication, though it did, nonetheless, undergo a few significant revisions. I might do a post on them at a later point.