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One Day writer David Nicholls embraces the dark side with child abuse drama

Nicholls says his next project will not feature anyone saying "I love you" as he faces up to writing about the preoccupations of the middle-aged

Published: Tuesday, 5th November 2013 at 4:10 pm

David Nicholls, writer of the smash hit novel and screenplay One Day, is turning to the dark side for his next project.


The writer, whose work to date has mainly consisted of romantically-minded tales like the bestselling story of a love affair between two university friends – and Starter for Ten, about entanglements on a University Challenge Team – is adapting two novels charting sexual abuse by a father of his son.

Nicholls is dramatising the first two of the five Patrick Melrose novels, Never Mind and Bad News, by Edward St Aubyn. These two early books chronicle in stark and graphic detail the abuse suffered by the hero Melrose at the hands of his father and are loosely based on the author's own experiences.

The projects are for Channel 4 and come as Nicholls admits that they reflect his keenness to take on darker work and to move away from the softer side of drama with which he is popularly associated.

One Day was the biggest selling UK book of 2011 and was made into a hit film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, while Starter for Ten was aldo adapted for the big screen with a cast including James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch.

“In these [St Aubyn] books no one says I love you,” Nicholls told “It is much more cynical and dark. There is no romantic element to it.”

He said it was a conscious decision to make a “post watershed” project and reflected his changed interests and preoccupations as he grows older.

His next project to hit screens is two-part BBC1 drama The 7:39, a love story about two commuters played by David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith who meet on a train and, despite both already being involved in relationships, embark on an affair.

“A lot of my first novels were about twenty and thirty somethings going on dates in noisy bars but I can’t do that any more. I have two kids now," said Nicholls.

“Love stories don’t end at 34. It is something that will come into my next novel.


“Love stories get a bad press. Men are not allowed to watch it. It think meeting someone and falling in love is much more common than meeting a serial killer.”


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