TV crime series is back for a second season with some famous guest stars
The very first piece of television drama I wrote was broadcast on Channel 4 way back in 1989. A short film, co-financed with British Screen an organisation founded in 1985 to fund British and European feature films, it was worth every second of its 12 minute length as it went on to be shown with other short films for judges at various festivals – and the Oscars. Most importantly, it brought me an agent.
Unlike most writers I know, I have stayed with the same agent throughout my writing career – and she with me. Our successful working relationship is now 33 years old – longer than my marriage to my husband, Kas. It was my agent who got me writing professionally by steering me on to the team of writers at BBC’s EastEnders in the early ‘90s. From there, I went on to write for other shows, London’s Burning, Medics, Family Affairs while always returning to EastEnders which, over the years, had become increasingly popular and so was broadcasting more frequently.
Periodically, I also went off to write some original drama projects – most of which ended up in what’s known in the industry as Development Hell. As a great animal lover, I was thrilled to accept a commission from an influential Head of Drama to write an original series based on the work of a fictional RSPCA officer. Research for the show entailed lots of lovely visits to RSPCA centres but sadly the Head of Drama was snapped up by another channel and his replacement, preferring a clean slate of drama for himself, failed to greenlight the project.
I was then given the chance of adapting a crime novel for what was intended to be a returning TV crime series – possibly starring Joanna Lumley. Due to various hiccups, the series never got off the ground – or the casting – but one thing that stayed with me from that experience was the firm belief that I should get down to writing my own crime novel – something that as a fan of crime fiction I had always wanted to do. I had never actually found the time to carefully plot a detective novel but I don’t think I’d been sufficiently motivated to do so until, just before the Millenium, and in a rash and impulsive move, my husband and I moved to Whitstable, which I instantly knew would become the setting for my crime novel, with a certain “Whitstable native” as the book’s central character, embodying all the characteristics of the town we had fallen in love with at first sight.
In the Whitstable Pearl Mystery, the first book in my crime series, Pearl Nolan is presented to readers as a fulcrum between old and new; locals and the dreaded DFLs (Down From Londoners); the past and a potentially bright new future. A woman on the cusp of 40, she decides to overcome empty nest syndrome by stepping outside the Whitstable Pearl restaurant she has run for twenty years to revisit old dreams, using some former police training to start up a local detective agency. In an extraordinary parallel with Pearl’s own change of direction, what was to have been a new life for myself writing fiction turned full circle when my books then became the television series – Whitstable Pearl.
Produced by Buccaneer, (the makers of Marcella), for the streaming service Acorn TV, (part of AMC Networks, the makers of Breaking Bad), Whitstable Pearl’s premiere season began streaming in May 2021. With a fantastically talented cast starring Kerry Godliman as Pearl, Frances Barber as Pearl’s mother, Dolly, and Howard Charles as DCI Mike McGuire, the episodes were written by a wealth of television talent including the Norwegian writer/director Oystein Karlsen, Mike Walden and Rachel Flowerday. I couldn’t have been happier with the end result or the reviews the show went on to receive – but I can say I was even more thrilled when a second season of Whitstable Pearl was commissioned – which began streaming on Acorn TV this week.
Joining the regular cast is a list of amazing guest stars which includes Stephanie Beacham, who played Sable Colby alongside Joan Collins in Dynasty and the spin off series, The Colbys – and Robert Webb of Peep Show fame. Emily Head formerly of The Inbetweeners also stars in Whitstable Pearl 2, as does Kingsman actor, Geoff Bell, who actually lived in Whitstable before moving to Deal.
The six episodes in this new season see Pearl bumping heads with Mike McGuire as they solve a variety of local cases. A former soldier hires Pearl to investigate when his son disappears under questionable circumstances; while Mike tackles a case involving his neighbour in an episode that pays homage to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. A woman who plans to sell her mother’s beloved local pub to the highest bidder rather than back to the community, soon finds herself the victim of a hate campaign, and when a bride is murdered at her own wedding Pearl must put on her detective hat again to discover who could have wanted the woman dead…
Stephanie Beacham stars as the ’70s film icon, Zelda St John, found unconscious in her rambling home with her housekeeper as prime suspect – but has the young woman been framed? Of her role, Stephanie says “You aren’t meant to take her too seriously. I had such fun behaving badly. Playing Zelda felt almost metaphorical in a way – like I was putting to bed my own 1970s and ’80s career. I was delighted to be guest-starring. Kerry’s a natural as Pearl, completely down to earth and a joy to work with.”
Kerry herself said, “I’m delighted to get the chance to play Pearl for a second series. She’s such a rich character to dive into and I adore her passion for Whitstable, justice and oysters…and maybe a certain DCI too.”
There are now nine books in my Whitstable Pearl Mystery series, and the latest, Murder at Mount Ephraim, published in August, is a classic country house murder mystery set at the stunning 300- year-old ancestral home of the Dawes family in Hernhill near Faversham. Writing the novels has kept me busy over the last 7 years since the first book was published in 2015, but it also justifies the amount of quality time I have spent exploring and researching Whitstable and other fascinating areas of Kent.
I’m also grateful to have been made an executive producer of the TV series. I always wanted to pay tribute to Whitstable by casting it as a central character in my crime books. Now I’m thrilled to see our town joining so many wonderful stars in a second season of the TV series that will actually be streaming worldwide this year with Pearl immersed in more crime, family drama and a compelling will-they-won’t-they love affair all set against the backdrop of our beautiful but mysterious coast.
Season Two of Whitstable Pearl is now streaming 2 episodes a week on Acorn TV from November 28th on: https://uk.acorn.tv/whitstablepearl/
AND the DVD of Season One is also available.
Julie Wassmer is a Whitstable-based author, TV writer and environmental campaigner.
She has successfully fought a number of environmental issues, including fracking in Kent and tree clearances by Network Rail. Her Whitstable Pearl crime novels are now a major TV series, starring Kerry Godliman, with a 2nd season streaming now.
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