Though Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber gave up on the idea of doing a sequel to his musical, The Phantom of the Opera, back in August, the concept stayed strong with his collaborator. Novelist Frederick Forsyth, best known for his spy thrillers "Day of the Jackal" and "Icon," has finished a 177-page novella, titled "The Phantom of Manhattan." The book is available from Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press.
A St. Martin's Press spokesperson told Playbill On-Line the hard-bound book would go on sale Nov. 23.
Associated Press reported in April 1998 that Forsyth was creating a storyline for a musical on which "Phantom II" would be based. Lloyd Webber finished at least one song for the proposed sequel -- "The Heart is Slow to Learn" -- which made its debut via Kiri Te Kanawa at a televised 50th birthday party for the composer.
At the time, Lloyd Webber spokesperson Peter Brown denied that Forsyth would publish a novella prior to the production. "We have to get a story first," said Brown at the time. "And Forsyth is writing it alone but in consultation with Lloyd Webber." Brown also stressed that any second Phantom would be a "continuation," rather than a sequel. Brown was out of the office Nov. 16 and could not be reached at press time regarding the publication of "Manhattan." A St. Martin's spokesperson said the Forsyth book was always meant to be just a book and not part of any musical project.
Press materials for the book include a quote from Lloyd Webber: "Frederick Forsyth not only captures the spirit and style of Gaston Leroux's original novel but also the romance and thrills that make the Phantom such an alluring character." Among Forsyth's other works: "The Day of the Jackal," "The Deceiver," "The Dogs of War," "The Fist of God" and "The Fourth Protocol," nearly all involving spies and/or assassination plots. According to the Times, the new novel is set in 1906 New York and told from several points of view, including a New York reporter, a hashish-hooked aide and the Phantom himself.
Forsyth told Times writer Alan Cowell he was getting jaded and worried that his work was becoming "samey." Nevertheless, in trying a new kind of book, Forsyth fretted over whether his usual readership would follow. "It could be jeered at or it could be accepted," he said. "There are no silenced automatics. So they may think they have picked up the wrong book. I think everybody accepts that this is a question mark. The arbiter is Joe Public."
As for Lord Lloyd Webber, most recently has turned his attention to a new project: The Beautiful Game, a serious, soccer-oriented musical set in politically-troubled Northern Ireland. Ben Elton, comedian, playwright (Popcorn) and television scribe ("BlackAdder") is the collaborator. A February 2000 workshop is planned.