Simanaitis Says

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MY FAVORITE ENGLISH DETECTIVE

PAUL TEMPLE is my favorite fictional English detective—as opposed to the tantalizingly real Sherlock Holmes. We have Dr. John H. Watson to thank for chronicling Holmes’ exploits. We can thank author Francis Durbridge and BBC Radio for sharing Temple’s adventures.

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Francis Durbridge (1912 – 1998), English mystery writer, novelist and playwright. His Tim Frazer adventures are good fun as well.

Durbridge calls Paul Temple a “man-of-the-world novelist with an interest in criminology.” Paul’s wife, known as “Steve” after her Fleet Street pseudonym, contributes comfy banter, intuition and, occasionally, long-suffering understanding.

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Send for Paul Temple, read by Anthony Head, BBC Audio, 2 CDs. This tale is the first of the series, when Louise Harvey, aka journalist Steve Trent, meets Paul Temple.

The couple is urbane, well connected and well heeled. Sir Graham Forbes, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is a good friend. Their London flat is at 26A, Eaton Square, Belgravia; their country home, Bramley Lodge, near Evesham. And Charlie, their slightly scampy butler/valet, is always reaching for the light suitcase or mildly offending them with his occasional Americanisms.

Set in England with a 1950s ambience, dialects and accents are part of the fun. Plus, these help in keeping all the characters separate. The full-cast dramatized BBC productions are best in this regard; Anthony Head’s audiobook readings are effective too without being linguistic caricatures.

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Paul Temple and the Conrad Case, a BBC Radio full-cast dramatization, 2004. This one, with lots of action in Bavaria, is a favorite of mine with Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury as the Temples.

All told, there were more than 30 BBC Radio Paul Temple dramas, 12 of them translated into German, a BBC Television show, four feature films and several novels. Amazon.com and Audible.com are sources for CDs or downloads.

The BBC radio broadcasts ran originally from the 1930s into the 1960s. Several actors and actresses portrayed the Temples, with the best known being Peter Coke (pronounced “Cook”) and Marjorie Westbury. A BBC Documentary on the pair’s contribution can be downloaded in MP3 format at http://goo.gl/Y4yJ41.

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Peter Coke, 1913 – 2008, played the definitive Paul Temple. Marjorie Westbury, 1905 – 1989, was Louise Temple née Harvey, known affectionately as Steve.

The Coke/Westbury renditions reveal a wonderful chemistry of these two voices. Coke’s Temple is always protective of his wife (“No, Steve! Don’t look behind that desk!”), indeed, often in an overbearing way. Westbury’s Steve is elegant, tall and blonde; this, quite the opposite of Marjorie’s actual appearance.

The plots, with large casts of characters, are largely formulaic. Scotland Yard’s Forbes asks for Temple’s help with some nefarious doings. Steve reluctantly realizes, “Here we go again….” Paul doesn’t really deduce anything; rather, things happen to the Temples and events point to one or another culprit.

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Paul Temple and the Gregory Affair, BBC Radio full-cast dramatization, 2013. Its latter-day cast has Crawford Logan as Temple and Gerda Stevenson as Steve.

Red herrings and coincidences abound. There’s at least one car crash and something that blows up. Often, the villain is revealed when the Temples throw a cocktail party with everyone invited.

Invariably, the final scene is a debriefing of the Temples and Commissioner Forbes. “There’s one thing I don’t understand…,” says Steve.

Me neither.

Think Nick and Nora Charles, of The Thin Man fame, portrayed by William Powell and Myrna Loy—but replace their wise cracks with ever so proper British behavior. You can feel comfortable with the good manners and no foul language.

The German radio serials ran between 1949 and 1967, like their BBC equivalents, each segment ending with a cliffhanger. The programs were so popular in Germany that they became known as Strassenfeger (“street sweepers”) because their broadcasts left the streets practically deserted.

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Paul Temple und der Fall Jonathan, Der Audio Verlag GmbH, 2005. The German version of Paul Temple and the Jonathan Case, one of several full-cast versions in this language.

I’m tempted to add a German CD to my collection just to hear how they translate Temple’s trademark “By Timothy!” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014

3 comments on “MY FAVORITE ENGLISH DETECTIVE

  1. Peter Hoskins
    June 14, 2014

    Thanks for a very informative and affectionate article. I’ve been listening to the Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury re-broadcasts on Radio 4 Extra and I’m totally hooked. Great writing and great performances from both.

  2. Nobby
    March 1, 2019

    Thanks for these wonderfully informative pages.

    Unfortunately you will not hear the exclamation “by Timothy” in the German audiobooks. In all German translations it says “by Morpheus”.
    The audiobooks were all originally produced between 1949 and 1967. The reason for this strange other translation is not known and can probably not be clarified because of the long time.

    By the way, you call for Paul Temple’s London address “26A, Eaton Square, Belgravia”. In which sequence does this information appear?
    In the short story (print version) „Paul Temple and the colonel“ their London address is called “Half Moon Street”.

    Many greetings from Nuremberg
    Nobby

    • simanaitissays
      March 1, 2019

      Hello, Nobby,
      Agreed, Paul and Steve seem to have moved around a bit. Early on, when he was still single, he had the country home in Evesham. As I recall, in a sense, they courted there. There were at least two London digs, as I recall one story has them in early decorating of the second one (the Eaton Square one?). Yes, I also recall Half Moon Street (in the adventure involving the flight to Cairo). Last, they seem to have kept the Evesham country home, as in one story, nanny is there and looking after the little one. Little one!? By Morpheus! — ds

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