Apr 30, 2019

Tradecraft: KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS Miniseries in the Works

Interior artwork from the U.S. paperback
Deadline reports that the BBC Studios-backed production company Moonage Pictures has optioned Lionel Davidson's legendary final novel, Kolymsky Heights (1994) to adapt as a miniseries. As the trade puts it, the novel "tells the story of an Oxford Professor, who receives an envelope containing nothing but two cigarette papers, which begins a chain of events that will change the course of history. Set just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the story follows Johnny Porter’s attempt to infiltrate the most secret research facility in Russia – a laboratory buried deep underground, a place nobody has ever left alive. Porter’s quest takes him over the Arctic Ocean and into deepest Siberia – constantly switching identities as he goes."

Davidson rose to prominence as a writer of spy thrillers in the 1960s, debuting with The Night of Wenceslas, which was adapted as the immensely entertaining 1964 movie Hot Enough For June (aka Agent 8 3/4) starring Dirk Bogarde, Sylva Koscina, and Leo McKern. He wrote spy novels for adults and, under the pseudonym David Line, for children fairly consistently throughout the Sixties and Seventies before going dormant in the early Eighties. He then re-emerged in the Nineties to great acclaim with Kolymsky Heights, and then never published another novel, dying in 2009. The book had gone out of print and Davidson had faded into relative obscurity until bestselling The Golden Compass author Philip Pullman talked it up, calling it "the best thriller I've ever read." The subsequent demand prompted Faber & Faber to issue a new edition in 2015.

According to Deadline, Moonage Pictures was "set up by a handful of Peaky Blinders execs," including "veteran Tiger Aspect exec Will Gould, former BBC Drama Commissioner Matthew Read and Tiger Drama’s Frith Tiplady." They've produced the Sean Bean action drama Curfew for Sky One, and are currently in production on the new sci-fi show Intergalactic. Read has a real passion for this project, telling the trade, "Lionel Davidson’s sensational novel has been at the top of my wish-list to adapt for a very long time. It has all the flair of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, combined with the awe of The Revenant, and in Johnny Porter it has that same elemental will to survive at its core. It’s a breath-taking adventure, and it demands the time and the ambition that only long form TV today can offer."

This will not be the first miniseries based on Davidson's work. His Cold War children's adventure Run For Your Life formed the basis for the beloved 1974 ITV miniseries Soldier and Me (available on Region 2 DVD from Network in the UK), and his 1978 novel The Chelsea Murders was adapted on Thames Television's Armchair Thriller series in 1981 (also available from Network, as, for that matter, is Hot Enough for June).

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