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Masquerade: continued

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

Instead, he turned to Bamber Gascoigne, then the presenter of BBC 2's University Challenge, and a respected academic author. Gascoigne had already played host to the hare at his Richmond home when Cape hired his wife Christina to photograph it there for the book's back cover. He later became Masquerade's official historian.
On August 7, 1979, Williams collected Gascoigne in his battered old Post Office van and the two men drove off into the night. Here's Gascoigne's description of what happened when they reached their secret destination:

“(Williams) produced a compass and measured twenty heel-to-toe shoe lengths. At that point, he moved his compass low over the ground. Suddenly, its luminous needle swung south. Williams plunged a penknife into the earth, and winkled out a magnet. He had buried it there, with its own magnetic north pointing south, some two-and-a-half years previously. [...] Williams now unpacked from the sack a trowel and a black plastic bin-liner, which he spread out on the grass to one side. With his knife, he cut a neat rectangle of turf about the size of the mouth of a generous letter box. He lifted off this piece of turf, unbroken, and placed it with reverence near one edge of the bin-liner. He then took up the trowel and began picking away at his cavity with the caution and delicacy of a good dentist.” (6)

Gascoigne spends the next few paragraphs fretting about what a cold night it was, noting the brick fragments which Williams turns up from time to time, and wishing his companion would dig a bit faster. Then he takes up his description again:

“At last, Williams measured the depth of the hole against his forearm and declared himself satisfied. We were ready for the interment. Nothing solemn was said as the small earthenware object was lowered gently to the bottom of the hole. [...] The earth and bricks went back into the hole, as neatly as they had come out, leaving only a small residue to be carried away in the bin-liner. The rectangle of turf was placed on top of the incision and was gently patted down. Then my two-gallon container of water was emptied over the ground to conceal any looseness of the newly dug soil and to give heart to the uprooted grass.”

As a finishing touch, Williams produced a fresh cowpat which he had brought with him all the way from Gloucestershire in a sealed tupperware container, and deputised Gascoigne to deposit this on the spot where they'd been digging. “Bamber said he knew the height of a cow's bottom,” Williams confided to BBC Four viewers. “So he did the pouring and splocked it around very much like it would be. And then we left.”

Masquerade was a novel enough idea for the media to get quite excited about its September 1979 launch. The BBC's Nationwide, a popular magazine programme which followed the early evening news, sent a crew to visit Williams a few days before the burial, filming him inserting the hare into its terra cotta case and pouring in the surrounding wax. He also staged a little pantomime for the cameras, letting them film him as he packed a spade and a sack into the back of his van, drove off in the darkness, and then returned on foot to challenge viewers directly. “Now the hare's been buried,” he said, staring crookedly into the camera. “It's up to you to find it.”

Only the Italians troubled to remake the book's puzzle completely for their own home market

The Nationwide film was broadcast on September 19, the night before Masquerade's publication. The previous Sunday's Observer, a UK national newspaper, had already printed some previews of the book's paintings in its colour magazine. British industrial relations were in a terrible state at that time, with Labour's Jim Callaghan just ejected from power after the disastrous Winter of Discontent, and incoming Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher beginning to confront the unions. Both The Sunday Times, one of The Observer's main rivals, and ITV - then the BBC's only rival - were on strike during the crucial week, giving the book's publicity a far bigger audience than it would otherwise have had.
The promise of all this publicity, together with Cape's own trade previews, meant the company had already sold 40,000 copies to bookshops around the UK. This accounted for about two-thirds of Maschler's initial print run of 60,000 for the home market, and these flew off the bookshop shelves almost immediately. By the afternoon of publication day, Cape's Bow Street distribution office had received orders for an additional 8,000 copies. “Small bookshops which had bought only one copy now wanted twenty,” Gascoigne writes. “Williams' treasure hunt had immediately captured the public's imagination.”
Before publication day was over, Maschler had ordered a second print run of 50,000 copies. He'd have liked to make it more, but the Italian printer Cape was using simply didn't have the paper available for a bigger order. Instead, Maschler arranged for duplicate film to be shipped back to England, where he ordered yet another 50,000 copies to be printed. By Tuesday, September 25 - just four shopping days after publication - the whole of the first print run was sold and Maschler added another 50,000 copies to Masquerade's total. By Christmas that year, there were 210,000 copies circulating in Britain alone, and Masquerade had dislodged Frederick Forsyth's novel The Devil's Alternative from the top of UK best-seller lists.
Sales in Britain and the Commonwealth eventually climbed to 600,000 copies, with another 400,000 sold in America, 80,000 in Japan, 30,000 in Germany, 20,000 in Italy, 10,000 in the Netherlands and 5,000 in France. Each nation brought it's own unique approach to the book, as Williams explained when interviewed by BBC Four. “The American attitude was, they would read it - ‘Oh, fantastic’ - and then start guessing,” he said. “‘Underneath Nelson's Column,’ and things like this. [...] It was always guessing. Whereas, the Japanese saw it as a book of philosophy.”
All the foreign-language markets but one accepted that the book's painted text and the structure of its solution could not be translated from English. Only the Italians troubled to remake the puzzle completely for their own market. Liliana Denon and Joan Arnold liked the British edition enough to get Williams' permission for this, and persuaded the Italian rights-holder to co-operate. They made their own authorised duplicate of the Masquerade hare, lodged it with a Milan attorney, and buried a note giving his name and contact details under the heel of the giant Neptune statue at Monterosso al Mare in an area of Italy called La Cinque Terre. The statue is perched on the wall of a cliff at the sea's edge, making the climb to its heel a dangerous one, but the two women were undaunted.

Argent musical: continued

together, and it ends with the last few lines of the Sun singing I'm Looking for a Friend Today.
      The first handful of Argent's songs for the show were premiered at Lloyd Webber's own Hampshire arts festival in July 1981. “I've found the original programme here,” Argent said, shuffling through the papers on his coffee table.
      “Performed by Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone and Stephanie Lawrence. Accompanied by John Heisman, John Mole and Barbara Thompson.” He was too modest to say so, but that gave the band two ex-Zombies, a star of West End musicals, two former members of jazz-rockers Coliseum and a highly-respected saxophonist - not bad for a private event that then drew fewer than 100 people.
      Somewhere in that audience was the singer Marti Webb, who was then working on a new album with Lloyd Webber as her producer.
      “Andrew said he'd like to use the song Masquerade on her album,” Argent explained. “And that was the only one which actually found its way on to a record.”
      Appearing as the penultimate track on Webb's 1981 album Won't Change Places, Argent's Masquerade lyrics draw heavily on Williams' imagery.
      “What I'd do is take sentences from the text as much as possible, and weave them into the songs,” he explained. “I tried to incorporate some of the things that people are saying in the riddles. I wanted to reflect the book even though we, of necessity, had to make the story very different from this loose, riddly fairy tale.”
      Williams' paintings were a big part of Argent's inspiration too. He turned to his copy of the book again, and pointed to the hare sat bolt upright on a tree-

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