PAUL TEMPLE

Paul Temple appeared in novels and a series of popular radio serials by Francis Durbridge decades ago. In some respects they seemed like the ideal marriage of the kind of breezily sophisticated manor house mystery, ala Lord Peter Wimsey and the like, with a more pulpy, action flavour ala, say, Bulldog Drummond, the stories involving a little more shooting and cliff hangers than the simple arm chair detective mystery.

Paul Temple and his wife Steve are the usual upper middle class sophisticates (with a butler, yet!) — he writes mystery novels, but also acts as a consulting detective and is friends with the Police Commissioner. Many of the old serials are still rerun on BBC Radio and available on CD (with various actors essaying the role, though Paul Coke is often regarded as the definitive Paul). As well, in 2007-2009, the BBC decided to re-do some old serials for which the original recordings were lost. So they used the old scripts, but with new actors (and apparently, even restricting themselves to technology that would’ve been available at the time) with Crawford Logan as Paul and Gerda Stevenson as Steve.

I’ve listened to a few (both the old and the modern-era recreations) and they’ve all been eminently enjoyable, well produced and well acted. Usually eight half hour episodes per mystery, they’re full of twists and turns, mysterious clues and red herrings, that’ll keep you interested (though sometimes off-puttingly violent with them finding the bodies of people beaten to death!) — mixing, as I say, Agatha Christie whodunits with more of a gritty, pulp fiction aspect (there’s often some mysterious master criminal or gangster lurking behind the crimes, as opposed to the crimes being motivated by passion or personal larceny). Granted, they do tend to blend into each other, the stories recycling similar themes and formulas (often involving an early clue being a name scrawled in a diary, or on a memo, that no one can account for, and the search for some mysterious gang lord whose identity is revealed in the end) — but that maybe makes them better for repeated listens since you‘re unlikely to remember how the story plays out because you’re probably muddling it with the others! The constant twists and revelations (or revelations that the previous revelation was a lie!) mean that it can be a bit silly…but that’s part of the fun.

I have a particular fondness for Paul Temple and the Madison Mystery, but that may simply be because it was the first one I ever heard — but I also liked the atypical idea (for a crime story) that the initial death is entirely natural. A man dies of a heart attack on a cruise…but his death triggers a chain of criminal events.

There are also audio books of some of the novels (as opposed to full cast serials) but that’s less of my focus — I’m not sure if there’s much overlap (ie: a full cast serial and an audio book of the same story). The series overall is definitely highly recommended.

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