It's happening: the TV series of the book of the blog of the oldest profession. Channel Four is to dramatise Belle De Jour. Belle, the purported London call girl, thus becomes holder of a unique title: while many bloggers and webmasters have parlayed their efforts into books, she is the first to wrangle a small-screen deal. All this because she stumbled across the unique marketing tactic that writing about sex might be popular.
So, what are we to expect? Bridget Jones' Diary with better pants? Ally McBeal with less lawyering and more laying? The charm of Belle's writing was always its neat little character portraits of madams and punters, and the sublime little mundanities and snippets of dialogue that arose from the business of, ahem, entertaining gentlemen. In fact, it seemed made for telly.
That is, however, part of the problem. Although all this might sound like a lovely story that ends with everyone involved going to bed happy and rich, there remain some niggling questions. For a start, how's the series going to end? With a book deal, like the blog? With a Mr Darcy? Or should it be a whodunnit? After all, we still have no clue as to who Belle is, and whether or not she made the whole thing up. Infamous madam Cynthia Payne has called the whole thing twaddle, and there was something suspiciously polished about the whole business. The blog was abruptly dropped after the book deal was in the bag. Belle has a distinctly businesslike tone, and has demonstrated considerable savviness at marketing, although this may be par for the course for those who sell themselves for a living. And since (anonymous) fame and fortune have knocked at the door of the demi-monde, she's sounded a bit disdainful of the whole blogging thing. Is she, as some have suggested, a whore of the media variety, not of the strumpet variety?
Belle has made a stab at quelling these rumours, and has shown herself to be a master of the New Labour school of non-explanation. She told the Telegraph:
"What would be simpler - that I am who I say I am, and write about, or that I am a famous author living a double life, unable to tell anyone and having a joke at the expense of my agent, publisher and readers?"
"Of course, it's so simple! No, wait, it's needlessly complicated" as Homer Simpson once said when he was blogging under an assumed name. For a start, no one suggested Belle might be Martin Amis in disguise. They suggested she might be Rowan Pelling, or Sarah Champion, who don't really fall under the category "famous author". And although her justifications for anonymity are reasonable enough, considering her apparent line of work, some of her denials that she made it all up are flatly contradictory.
"A bored journalist could probably fake this blog but I'm not that clever," she told the BBC. But back in that Telegraph column, she wrote: "What does bother me is the presumption that a person's occupation is a reflection of their intelligence or value to society: I have known plumbers who were geniuses."
Which is it, then? Unnecessary self-deprecation, or reasonable accusation of snobbery? It may be unfair to trawl back through every little thing Belle has written or said, looking for inconsistencies and contradictions - after all, Londonist is capable of contradicting itself in a single sentence, but would never contradict itself. But the mystery is there, and the really big questions hang unanswered.
For a start, Belle's profession involves rather a lot of "meeting the public" - she would come into contact with many, many men who might not want their leisure activities publicised. It is not unreasonable to expect that gentlemen who enjoy that sort of recreation, upon hearing that a London call girl was writing a kiss-and-tell online diary, would race to the nearest computer and check it wasn't them being mentioned. If they did find themselves up online, they might be keen to keep it quiet, but so far not a single one of them has endorsed the account? It's easy to imagine that the temptation to make a quick buck out of a quick **** would be overwhelming. But so far, not a peep. Not a single libel threat, not one "I knew Belle" headline.
But who is Londonist to talk? Everyone goes to bed rich and happy, and that's the important thing, questions begone. If it emerged tomorrow that Belle is in fact Bill, a 52-year-old spot welder from Middlesbrough, would that make the blog and book any less amusing, or the TV series less likely to be the roaring success it probably will be? Of course not. Besides, Londonist is just jealous because "Londonist: The Musical on Ice" never got off the ground.