The Shark Net: articles

Murder, he wrote

Given that Ian David is most famous for writing true stories about police corruption and serious crime, you might think he'd find penning a screenplay about the life of a respected writer a relatively straightforward affair. After Roger Rogerson and Neddy Smith, what problems could Robert Drewe possibly pose?

But the author of Blue Murder says it was still nerve-racking. After all, Drewe had already done a good job writing about his life in the original book version of The Shark Net.

"I said to [Drewe] fairly early on, 'I'm going to make really crashing mistakes because the book is what I'm going on and, in all likelihood, I'll make assumptions that are completely wrong. I promise I won't get offended if you tell me that this wasn't the way it was.'"

So Drewe did tell him. He went through each of David's drafts and made corrections. These were mostly "housekeeping" matters, such as altering a person's mannerisms or changing a nickname. Otherwise, David says Drewe was remarkably hands-off about the translation of his early life for the screen.

"It was a fascinating process," David says, "because it occurred to me, as I was working through it, that I don't think I could do this. I think Robert's very—I don't know—courageous, perhaps."

The series should provide a fillip for David after poor reviews for his previous comedy, Bad Cop, Bad Cop. Many will see The Shark Net—a literary, reflective piece—as a change of pace, but David doesn't. "Before the kind of cops and corruption stuff, this is the kind of work that I saw myself doing."

Like Drewe, David is a West Australian. He moved east at 27, leaving behind a fairly successful theatre career. "I wanted to be the best romantic comedy writer in the world," he remembers. So he wrote Blue Murder? "Yeah. Strange that."

He sees The Shark Net as a chance to return to his roots—to the type of stories he originally wanted to write and to his home town of Perth. Although he now lives in Sydney, he vividly recalls the places where the series is set—Rottnest Island, the Claremont Showgrounds—and the terrifying effect of the Eric Cooke murders, which began when he was nine or 10. In particular, he remembers how Cooke's murderous spree on Australia Day affected the entire city's sense of security.

"I remember my father buying window latches. We lived in a State housing home, which wasn't all that secure, and I remember him coming back from the hardware store and getting all the windows to lock. I don't think Perth quite ever went back to that easy, breezy way of things. It's a cliche, a town losing its innocence, but certainly there was an element of fear."

As for what Drewe made of the finished product, David isn't sure. When we speak, Drewe has only just received the video tapes. "So I'm keeping my fingers crossed," David laughs."

By Catherine Keenan
August 07, 2003
The Sydney Morning Herald