Unfinished, presented by Alastair Sooke, was shown by the BBC to coincide with its airing of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Sooke, who is an art critic for The Daily Telegraph, started with Droodism, and interviewed the screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes, before moving on to consider other unfinished works, continuations of characters or story-lines begun by others, and other variations on the theme of completion (or its absence.)
His range was broad, taking in Sanditon by Jane Austen, a portrait of George Washington, poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Franz Kafka, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and The Sopranos. There might be a risk that such diversity would lead to superficiality, but Sooke managed to surmount the hurdle with ease, presenting in an intelligent yet accessible and engaging style that made the programme quite fascinating.
I found that my thoughts were provoked on several levels. This is a subject that has intrigued me ever since I finished Bill Knox’s The Lazarus Widow, and I was also shown an incomplete manuscript by another deceased writer some time ago, which I felt was too fragmentary to complete in a meaningful way. Jill Paton Walsh has, impressively, finished one Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and written two others, and her work in this field is also fascinating, though it did not earn a mention in the programme. Has anyone ever written a novel about an unfinished book? I am sure it must have been done plenty of times, but off-hand I can’t call any examples to mind.
One final point about Alastair Sooke. I’d never heard of him before this programme, but I did take to him, and towards the end of the show, I suddenly realised why. Odd as it may seem, he reminded me, just a bit, of my personal vision of Daniel Kind.