Send for Paul Temple, the very first Paul Temple serial, is now available on CD, and I enjoyed listening to it in the car. It’s not the original version, which presumably has been lost, but rather a truncated version read (very well, I thought) by Anthony Head.
This story introduces Temple, who is at this point living in a country house near Evesham. He is a journalist turned best-selling detective novelist, who has made his name as a sleuth by solving a real-life crime. When a series of jewel robberies take place which baffle Scotland Yard, a media campaign demands that the police should send for Paul Temple to help them solve the mystery.
It turns out that this campaign has been orchestrated by a gorgeous young journalist called Steve Trent, who turns out to be Louise Harvey, the sister of a detective who is murdered in a mysterious inn, The Little General, shortly after talking to Temple. Louise disguised her identity because her brother was afraid that a villainous diamond thief, ‘the Knave of Diamonds’, whom he encountered in South Africa would murder him – and it seems that the Knave is now back in business in England. Soon it becomes clear that (somehow, I don’t know how) he has penetrated the highest ranks of the police.
The plot is, if viewed in the cold light of day, quite barmy. Durbridge was only 25 when he wrote the serial, and some elements of the story seem juvenile to the modern crime fan. And yet there is a zest about the story, with its dying messages, secret lift and passage, and brainless Chief Commissioner of Police and other detectives, that makes it lively entertainment. For me, the Paul Temple serials are something of a guilty pleasure, but for all the creakiness of the dialogue and plot devices, they certainly are a pleasure.