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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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