All About Jill began as a magazine article back in the summer of 1999, a month or two after her murder when I was assigned by The Sunday Times
Magazine to write about the mystery of Jill's death. I remember thinking at the time that this mystery would be solved any minute and I might put in a lot of research for nothing. As time
went on and there was no arrest I felt sure that the answer was lying there in some hidden compartment of her life that the police had not yet uncovered. There seemed to be no other plausible explanation. By that time, of course, Barry George's name was already sitting inside the inquiry team's computer system. The police were still several months away from noticing him.
The research for the article culminated in an interview with Jill Dando's fiance, Alan Farthing. I recall being very nervous about talking to him, not wanting to intrude unnecessarily on his grief, vaguely worried of saying or doing the wrong thing. It was a very moving interview, quite ennervating, as interviews sometimes are, so that I was felt quite exhausted by the finish.
Afterwards I realised his grief had stayed with me, that Jill had stayed with me too. I had not thought about her very much, about who she was. I had not thought about her very much at all so far. She was a woman off the television who had been murdered. Now Alan's grief had made her real to me somehow and I felt a growing curiosity about who she was and a kind of certainty that she could not be the bland woman of public imagination. She was a good person, no doubt. But you could not write a book about good. Or
at least, you would struggle to make such a book interesting to readers. And anyway, no-one could be that good, every minute. Everyone was annoying or rude or went wild sometimes. She was ordinary, yes. But extraordinary things had happened to her before her death. Perhaps she was not so ordinary after
It became important to me that the book should be a biography and not a true crime book. It helped to focus on the direction of my narrative. A book about her life and not about her death. All about Jill. I became very possessive of my book and its subject. When my partner became pregnant with our fourth child, I conceived of my book as my baby. My competing baby. I couldn't exactly say I was giving re-birth to Jill. That would be a pretty weird way of looking at it. But there was no doubt that the book was my rival pregnancy. Mackenzie, our first son, was born late last autumn. I delivered the manuscript of All about Jill five weeks later. Both are doing well. I hope. David James Smith