Before I get too deeply involved in the characters and back story to the series it would be wise of me to tell you how the series came to be.
In June 2011, I was in a friend's house watching TV -- I don't usually watch daytime TV -- when Lorraine Kelly came on. She was doing a walk across the desert and all she was doing was complaining about the heat and sand and sweating too much. At this point I thought, "You ungrateful bitch, you have not said a word about the camera crew who have to lug heavy cameras around so your fans can see you."
Being a former photographer, my thoughts naturally turned to the unseen heroes who never get credit for their work, and from here I created Mark Johnson, former celebrity photographer turned recluse.
If there is a motive behind my stories it is praise for the likes of Tim Page, Mike Herr, Philip Caputo, Sean Flynn, Dana Stone, Martha Gellhorn, Kate Adie and Marie Colvin. These photojournalists often put themselves in danger to bring us news and rarely get the praise they deserve. To me this is photojournalism not (!) sitting in a plush studio taking 'pretties' of celebrities or shooting from distance.
Stranger than fiction
When I started to write Chronicles I had a great worry. I was worried the series would be so popular that the fans would ask questions about the characters and setting to which I had no answers.
As you will read later most of the characters are based on fictional TV characters but Mark and P A share a lot of my personality traits. And the enigmatic Lana Pawcel has a secret yet to be told.
CONCEPTS OF CHRONICLES PART 1
I decided to write a series of articles on my award winning book “Chronicles of Mark Johnson” explaining the formulating of my ideas and thoughts on the subject matter, I apologise to anybody who has read the background before but there will be new insights revealed.
WRITE WHAT YOU BELIEVE
I can understand why Chronicles never took a hold, the book demands the reader to believe in a world which they have no proof exists and therefore cannot imagine. I fully understand as I have the same problems with the zombie genre of films and books – not with real zombies – I believe in the real zombies.
This concept is often quoted by many writers, “You write better about what you believe in,”and in the case of my book it is true. I have had no personal experience of spiritual occurrences but I have had experiences which I have yet to find a logical reason for.
Do I believe in the spirit world of which I write? Definitely, without going into a Religion Vs Science debate, putting the situation in layman’s terms I believe when we pass across the veil of death our spirit remains, as water turns to steam our spirit remains.
Do I believe we can contact the spirit world? Yes, I do. Spirits are energy waves and certain people with open minds can tune into the world of spirits, much the same as a radio receiver can tune to a radio signal. A reason many people cannot tune in is that they are either afraid to open their minds or they don’t want to believe in the other realm.
At this point, I must point out I do believe in evil and will never (!) use an Ouija board, it has nothing to do with the Robin Williams film “Jumanji,” it is because when my late father was in India during WW2, he and some friends used a board for fun and from what I heard of the tales of terror which followed it was closer to a 1970’s Karen Black trilogy episode where a doll gets taken over by an evil spirit. You need to remember for there to be good spirits there has to be bad spirits too.
I have had two out of body experiences and firmly believe in the realm of spirits, only a few days ago I had an eye-opening encounter with death. After a series of bad nights caused by my ill-health, I was so tired I went into such a deep sleep that at one point I found myself not breathing in my dream world, this incident caused me to wake and find I wasn’t breathing in the real world either.
One of the main ideas in Chronicles is the acceptance that the world of spirit entities does exist, these entities do not have to have form as they are energy rather than mass, much like the mist on the moors at day break, we can see it is there and yet cannot touch it. Believing does not involving touch, we all see the effects of wind and accept it is there even if we cannot see the wind, so, the belief in the world of spirits crosses the divide between Science and Religion, or are they compatible?
The only characters based on actual people are Mark Johnson and his mentor P A Canella, both have a large portion of me in their character. Beyond that no character I write about is based on any person living -- the exception being John Andrew -- who was a real Yorkshire pirate and featured in my story "The Lost Ship."
Many of the characters are based on fictional TV shows. The exception being Lana Pawcel, who had no image in my mind at the time I started writing stories involving her, it was only later that I considered who I thought she would be like.
Mark is like myself in as much as we despise the falseness of the celebrity scene. He is based on the Whitby photographer Frank Sutcliffe as much as on myself; Mr. Sutcliffe made a living at the turn of the century photographing the people of Whitby as they lived their lives.
P A Canella epitomises my wish to have my work read and yet remain an unseen person -- fame is not the spur -- in the original story about him, P A kept his secret even from his closest friends. If there was to be a model for P A Canella, it would be Roy Dortice playing Albert Haddock in A.P. Herbert's "Misleading cases."
Rachel is to Mark a true friend, the type of person you can count on in a tight spot and her feelings for him are never known until book 3. Rachel is based on the character Gladys Moon from the TV show "Moon and son."
Mark's other close friend is Phil, who is based on Carl Kolchak the news reporter of the TV show which bears his name and like Rachel will stand by Mark through all his troubles.
The idea behind Mark is that real people matter more to him than the fame and glory of the celebrity scene.
The enigma which is Mark Johnson
From the outset of the series, I had nobody else in mind as Mark other than Clive Owen. I took his role in "I'll sleep, when I'm dead" as part of the character and added the reclusive photographer from my persona as the final touch -- in the film he played an ex-gangster brought back to find his brothers killer -- elements of my personality dwell deep within the characters of both Mark and his mentor P A Canella. The character of Mark is also based on Whitby photographer Frank Sutcliffe, who at the turn of the last century took pictures of local people going about their lives.
The beautiful and alluring Rachel Stockman
Rachel Stockman, the third member of the psychic research project at the University which included Mark Johnson and P A Canella. She is an enchanting and mystifying lady as nobody knows the true link between her and Mark -- not even P A -- and as Mark said to Phil, "You probably never will find out."
At Uni there was a strong rumour, which was never confirmed or denied by Rachel & Mark, that they were more than close friends and fellow researchers. There always appeared to be a strong psychic link as was shown at the end of Book 1, when she rescued him and Annette Palmer at the abbey.
From the outset of book 1 in the Chronicles of Mark Johnson series I had a definite idea of the lady I saw as Rachel. The lady is British actress Millicent Martin and I saw her part as Gladys Moon, in the short lived series "Moon and Son" as the role for Rachel. In the the series Gladys is a slightly eccentric fortune teller working on a pier at the beach.
Unlike some of her fellow performers fro, the 1970's Ms. Martin has kept her charming beauty.
The truth behind the relationship was going to be revealed in Book 3 in the series, but sadly I will have to leave the final decision as to whether you think they were more than close friends to you -- I know the answer -- and so would you if the other books had sold.
WHO IS P A CANELLA?
A lot has been said -- mainly from the middle of book 2 -- about Mark's connection to his mentor but who is P A Canella? And where did he come from?
The P A Canella you read about in Chronicles isn't my original concept of him, far from it, the original ideas for both P A Canella and Lana Pawcel go back further than Chronicles.
P A Canella started out as an early series of shorts, the general idea was of a well read writer keeping his anonymity by using tricks on his friends. The friends loved the books he wrote but never realised it was a close friend who had wrote them, until he told the truth about the story teller.
Towards the end of the series I introduced another of my noted twists, as it turned out that his stories were ghost written by Lana Pawcel and vice versa.
Time moved on and the concept changed. When I started Chronicles I had no idea how popular or how much I would write -- over 30 stories so far -- and had no intention of where it was going or what was ahead. My original hope was for about half a dozen short stories.
But, to my surprise the popularity kept growing among my friends, and not disappoint them I was happy to keep writing the stories. I used the original idea of P A to create the character you know in Chronicles, most of the characters in my stories are based on TV characters and P A is no exception, he is based on Roy Dortrice's role in A. P. Herbert's short stories "The Misleading cases of Albert Haddock." Albert always started the story in court on some charge, and throughout the story he would turn the law inside out using out dated but still in use bye-laws and walk out cleared.
PHIL & MARK
Older readers will recall Kochak: The Night Stalker.
It was the portrayal of the lonely and misunderstood news hound who tracked demons in Chicago's alleys which inspired me to the series as did the creation of my alter ego Mark.
Like Carl Kolchak, Phil Moore works in a dark and dust atmosphere which comes into play later in book 3, when strange things begin to happen.
Although not as visual as any of the others, Phil's role as Mark's best friend and contact with the outside world is vital to the series. Mark and he go back to their college days -- even if they did separate for a while -- when Mark went on a sojourn to Australia and Phil was contacted by P A Canella about some strange items.
In books 2 & 3 we come across all types of wonderful weapons and it is Phil's task to keep Mark in one piece. While his mind goes deeper into the darker regions of his soul after Annette betrays Mark's love.
If you read book 2 you'll notice how the friends worry over Mark's dark periods and again it's Phil who is left in the dark but has to pick up the pieces.
At the point when Mark takes Annette hostage, it is Phil's role to convince the police that Mark is not (!) psychotic but is perfectly in control of the situation and capable of killing her with no feelings of remorse -- such is his hatred -- at the end of book 2, we are left wondering what lies ahead for Mark.
THE RAVISHING LANA
Lana is an enigma which goes back beyond her role as P A Canella's friend in the "Chronicles" series. Like her friend she came to life in an unread early comedy set of stories I wrote.
She had made an impression even before then, as she become a new persona as a result of a challenge set by my friend Yezall. Yezall challenged me to write an erotica story and the result was "Sex at the Mill."
Lana also holds an unusual occurrence. She is the only character in Chronicles who was written with no person in mind, it was only after I wrote her stories I made the decision who she should look like.
For a vivacious painter of recently passed souls, who better than the lovely Rula Lenska
Lana's role is an entity painter, she can empathise with the spirit of the recently deceased and tell their story in both words and paint.
Among the other ladies I considered is another favourite of mine, the ever delightful Hannah Gordon.
Annette Palmer - Spirit Painter
Annette Palmer, one time lover of Mark Johnson and now his nemesis, his raison d' 'e'tre. His reason for existing, the person he thought of a possible soul mate turns out to be far worse.
She destroyed his soul but beyond soul lies revenge, how far would he go to destroy her? Would he survive the ordeal? What would remain of his soul if he did survive?
All was to be revealed in book 3.
As the headline reads "What she did to him was bad, what he did to her was far worse."
The final major player in Chronicles of Mark Johnson.
The lady I had in mind for the role of the former lover of Mark was always Julie T Wallace, with a dash of Kathy Bates for her role in Misery.
The role of Annette as a spirit painter is different to Lana's as an essence painter, as Annette can see and paint evil spirits from all eras and spatial dimensions.
The character was to have a reference to the often mentioned but never read series of stories which also featured the early appearances of Lana Pawcel and her friend P A Canella but I dropped the idea, the plot was getting too convoluted.
At the end of Book 1, Mark and Annette are terrorised at Wharfemere Abbey and profess their love for each other, so, what went wrong? During book 2, he turned on her but why?
You'll have to read the books to understand the plot.