A novel approach to the Edinburgh Festival

A Scots writer is marking this year’s Edinburgh Festival with a new novel.

Natasha Gerson, who lives in Glasgow, was written Festival of Darkness, which is based on the cult television series The Omega Factor, which was created and written by her late father, Jack Gerson.

Originally produced by BBC Scotland and aired on BBC One in 1979, The Omega Factor scared viewers and attracted criticism from famed moralist Mary Whitehouse for its sheer levels of terror.

A covert branch of British Intelligence is assigned to investigate the strange, the supernatural, the…’Omega Factor’. Journalist Tom Crane, who possesses psychic powers, joins Department 7, the secret government organisation which investigates paranormal phenomena.

Set in Edinburgh, The Omega Factor television series starred Louise Jameson as Anne Reynolds and the late James Hazeldine as Tom Crane.

The series was revived on audio in 2015 by Big Finish Productions, who made three box sets, each containing four stories, set in the modern day with Louise reprising the role of Anne (now a doctor), and actor John Dorney playing Adam Crane, the son of Tom. Natasha’s new work is available as an audiobook, read by Louise – also known for her roles in Doctor Who, Tenko and EastEnders.

Natasha Gerson (front, second from left) and Louise Jameson (third from right) with the team at the recording of Omega Factor audio stories (Photo: Big Finish)

Natasha said: ‘We did three audio box sets with Big Finish, and then I was asked if I could write another story set where the story ended up, and what was going to happen next.

‘“When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I was lucky enough to take part in shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. One was a student production of the ballet I mention in the story. At that time, the city and the Festival were atmospheric and thrilling and also – to me, my father’s daughter – really spooky!

‘It’s all about the festival – things back back to me when I was writing it, like going to Henderson’s for vegetarian food – wee things like that.

‘Some of this story was based on my own experiences, so the descriptions come from there, when I came through with my pals at Trinity. There’s a pretty strong character who’s based on a friend of man, who was an actress and dancer. She looked as if she had something of the supernatural about her – she had a very striking look and you could have believed she was into black magic. She’s sadly no longer with us, but I’ve named her Imogen, after my friend. All the time I was writing this, I was thinking of her.’

Natasha, who has previously written short stories and scripts, and a previous full-cast Omega Factor audio tale, found the challenge of writing a full-length novel something of a challenge.

She explained: ‘I’d never written anything so long before – they asked for 60,000 words – which was the opposite of a script, which was about 10,000 words. There were times when I would get stuck, but I felt that my dad was there to help me. We always believed in the supernatural and the unexplained.

‘In the end, I woun’t say it wrote itself, but I felt there was a bit of supernatural help along the way. I would look things up in books, and when I was looking up Aleister Crowley and black magic, I found out about another character, who fitting in perfectly with what I wanted to do.’

Natasha Gerson has written Festival of Darkness, now available as an audiobook (Image: Big Finish)

The Omega Factor was recorded at the old BBC Scotland studios in Glasgow, and also on location in the capital.

Natasha added: ‘When we did some OB filming in Edinburgh for The Omega Factor, it reinforced these feelings of the unusual. With those thoughts and memories in mind and the later development of the Big Finish audio series, I had my starting point for the novel.

‘Tom is supposed to be taking a break from the paranormal, but a plea from Anne draws him unwillingly back. Something is happening to a group of performers at the Edinburgh Festival – preternaturally talented children working closely with Department 7 – and even the usually unflappable Martindale is spooked. ‘

Festival of Darkness is available as a downloadable audiobook HERE from Big Finish, priced £9.99.