Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The writer who doesn't understand authors

I've mostly been enjoying the BBC series Undercover (Sunday at 9pm). However, there did seem to be a bit of a gaping plot hole. In it, the character Nicholas Johnson, played by the brilliant Adrian Lester, has a secret life that is gradually getting out of control. 'Nicholas Johnson' is a made up person (within the drama), adopted by Lester's character 20 years ago when he was an undercover cop. He falls in love in character and ends up living the lie. Only now his old life is intruding on him.

So far, so good (if a little unlikely). When Lester's character originally devised the Nicholas Johnson cover, which we see happening in the second episode, he had to think of an occupation that didn't involve regular hours so he could turn up anywhere any time. So he plumped for 'writer'. We learn that he writes crime novels. And that it's just as well that he came up with a detailed cover story, as the people he is infiltrating run a background check on him.

I have two problems with this. There's the minor one that he would probably call himself an author, not a writer. But the big one is the matter of the background check. We are shown that Nicholas Johnson really existed with that birthdate, but died. But here's the thing. Lester's character is clearly relatively affluent. So he must be a success writer. But where are his books? Surely the background check would turn up the reality that there were no books by Nicholas Johnson? Even with a good undercover backstory, you can't suddenly produce existing books that have been in print for several years. Anyone would think that the writer of the drama didn't understand, erm, being a writer.


  1. Haha I was thinking the same thing, fine people may not be interested but you would think his wife would perhaps after 20yrs be slightly curious as to what he has written. I guess he could be a copywriter for generic copy?

  2. Replies
    1. That would be cunning, though if he was, you’d think he’d choose a more likely genre than crime fiction.