‘The Naked Doctor’ was initially intended as no more than an exercise. Can I write a book? If I can produce something acceptable then maybe I will be able to make something of the tale that I really want to tell. My own history, the story of our lives, mine and Audrey's.
It seemed an ideal apprentice project. Not least because so much of the framework was already in place. Over the thirty years I appeared as Dr Evadne Hinge, my colleague and I had created a fictitious background, a life history, for the characters we portrayed. Many of the details had found their way into our performances, on stage, on radio and on television. It was important, essential, I thought, to keep these intact as far as possible, as they were already familiar to many of those who had enjoyed our work. And these were the people who would be most likely to be interested in reading the book
So what was the history of this Evadne Hinge? I considered the inescapable and established facts.
She is a Scot, as I am myself. Her father was an internationally renowned musician and composer – at least in the view of himself and of his daughter. She grew up in a rural environment, and attended a highly unusual educational establishment where she enjoyed considerable success in her music studies. She had one sister and one brother. The latter disappeared mysteriously in his teens, details vague. While our heroine had a warm and close connection with both her father and her brother, her relationship with her mother was ever strained and uncomfortable. Once again, the exact reasons for this had never been clarified.
This mother, Maureen, was, according to the legend, considerably younger than was Evadne’s father, and of a domineering and forceful character. Was that, perhaps, the foundation of the problem? Did Evadne’s devotion to papa verge on an Electra complex? Was an unhealthy rivalry for his affection and his attention at the root of this tense and uneasy mother-daughter relationship? Where did Leicester, the adored brother, disappear to? And just as importantly, why, and with whom? And what about that sister, barely mentioned... What was her story?
These questions begged answers.
It had been occasionally implied by Dame Hilda that Evadne had spent a brief and undocumented period of her youth appearing in ‘variety’, the despised bastard sister of legitimate theatre. Details were scant, and the Doctor refused to discuss the matter. This gave me carte blanche for the second part of the book, and the opportunity to use some of my own experiences in painting a picture of what theatrical life in Scotland was like in the nineteen-thirties. And I was unable to resist introducing my protagonist to the gay underworld of the time, and here, once again, some of my own youthful adventures provided a ready source of material.
Remained the question of men and sex. Did she or didn't she? Would she or wouldn’t she? Well, I won’t give the answer to that here. Sorry, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
My first sketches had a rather different tone from the final version. It had been my original idea to paint Evadne as an innocent abroad, a naïve soul surrounded by predatory and warped individuals, each eager to take advantage of her youth and inexperience. She would, as I envisioned it, be entirely unconscious of the motives of these monsters, and miraculously manage to emerge unscathed and intact from every perilous encounter.
I allowed myself to be convinced, however, that a chapter in which our heroine is first flashed by the gardener’s boy, subsequently mildly molested by the gardener himself and finally witness to her father cavorting carnally with the housemaid might be taking things a little too far, too fast. I'm not certain I made the right decision there. If we want to avoid blandness, then a little spice has to have its place.
However I already knew where a bit of piquancy would fit in perfectly and appropriately. When it was time for my own story to be told. And hers, of course. That legendary creature, my lifelong companion. Fabulous, clever Audrey.
The Naked Doctor
Evadne's Odyssey, Book One
Published by GJB Publishing ©2014 ISBN: 9780957624290 246 pages
Available from Amazon. Price £8.99 €11.01 $12.22