Unusually for my posts this isn’t going to be a review. Instead the intention for this is to offer a brief introduction to those unfortunate people out there who have never heard of Paul Temple. Paul Temple is the primary character of a radio drama by Francis Durbridge that aired on the BBC on and off between 1938 and 1968. Temple was a suave author and amateur sleuth who, with his chic wife Steve (named after her pen name “Steve Trent”), solved crimes on the radio. When they were originally aired they attracted huge audiences and became one of the BBC’s most popular radio thrillers. Paul and Steve’s adventures thrilled audiences for many years and, thanks to the survival of a number of episodes, Radio 4 Extra have regularly re-aired them. It is through these that I, like many others, were introduced to the fabulous world of Paul Temple.
But what attracts me and others to these adventure, after all were they not made some 55 years ago? It is the immense cosiness of the world. The feeling that, despite the high octane thrills that undoubtedly spill from the mouths of Peter Coke, Marjorie Westbury and others, everything will work out perfectly fine. This is a world where politeness and common decency are in command, one far removed from the world we live in today.
Another contributor to the show’s success are the main characters. Paul Temple is the archetypal vintage detective; charming, suave and sophisticated with a sharp crime solving mind. His wife, Steve is his perfect companion. With her feminine charm, “good old intuition” and feisty bravery she complements her husband and, on more than one occasion, is instrumental in foiling whatever dastardly plot the villain has planned. Alongside them are the dependable men of Scotland yard, the suspect no.1 who never has committed the crime, the blackmailed woman, the array of suspicious supporting characters and the ultimate villain, that one no one suspects until Temple manages to outfox him. They all add to the instantaneous appeal of the Paul Temple series.
Another factor that just makes the series, the music. The theme tune, Coronation Scot, instantly makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, for, when you hear those familiar notes the adventure has begun and soon Paul and Steve would be solving some case of murder or blackmail.
And finally the narrative deserves a mention. Durbridge established a superb and repeatable series of events that he could fit seamlessly into any plot. The highlight and finale always being the grand conclusion at the cocktail party organised by Temple at which the villain would always be revealed. Cue screams of “He’s got a gun” as the villain tries to make his final escape….
In all what you get is, in my opinion, the best radio thriller ever made. One that creates a world of cocktail parties, excitement and above all an immense feeling of old age cosiness that just can’t be replicated by modern day thrillers. By Timothy……!