FRANCIS DURBRIDGE: A CENTENARY APPRECIATION by Melvyn Barnes

Barnes_DurbridgeThis is a celebration of the work of Francis (Henry) Durbridge, the British mystery author who for decades kept tens of millions of fans in suspense with his cliffhanging thrillers for radio, TV, the stage and in print. He made his breakthrough on BBC Radio in 1938 with the creation of crime writer and amateur sleuth Paul Temple. Together with his journalist wife, always referred to as ‘Steve’ after her print nom de guerre but whose real name was actually Louise, they were featured in some 20 serials over a period of three decades. But Durbridge was remarkably prolific and one of the charms of this very thorough volume is the light it shines on the vast amount he produced besides the classic Temple adventures.

The book provides a neat summary of Durbridge’s life (1912 – 1998) and a mass of detail about his work. The real eye opener for most readers I would venture is the sheer amount of radio Durbridge wrote before creating Paul Temple. Barnes provides us with details of some 70 works, originally produced under a variety of pseudonyms, so that it is quite possible that there is yet more work yet to be unearthed. I was also amazed to discover that not only was there a Paul Temple comic strip, but that it ran for 20 years! There are also several Temple serials that Durbridge wrote for publication in newspapers that have apparently never appeared in book form – surely some enterprising editor can do something about this …

The book is broken down into sections devoted to Durbridge’s novels (nearly 40), radio works (over 130), television (17 original plays and serials, with additional and very welcome details on many of productions mounted for television companies in France, Holland, Germany and Italy etc.) and the dozen or so stage plays and movie adaptations too (I reviewed one of then, the 1955 Portrait of Alison here). Barnes also clears up a number of misconceptions relating to apparently missing titles in the already packed credits. Like John Mortimer, Durbridge often repurposed the same material, with a radio serials often later being novelised and adapted for the stage and TV nto to mention frequent remakes. Barnes does a great job of making all this activity much clearer and easy to understand. Clearly a true labour of love, this study is packed with much fascinating detail following years of painstaking research. I personally also derived a real satisfaction from having it confirm that Durbridge was in fact a big Edgar Wallace fan, something I had long suspected!

Barnes discusses the genesis of the book over at Martin Gilbert’s indispensable blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name? If you watched TV or listened to radio in the 50s, 60s and 70s then this book is for you – Durbridge was a household name and can still provide plenty of delicious thrills. I tip my hat to Mr Barnes for a job well done – impeccably so, in fact, by Timothy!

To order a signed copy of this 140-page paperback, with postage and packaging included (UK only), send a cheque for £10.99 (payable to Melvyn Barnes) to: 7 Netherhall Close, Old Newton, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 4RP. And for overseas orders, information can be obtained by emailing melvyn.barnes@oldnewton.com

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16 Responses to FRANCIS DURBRIDGE: A CENTENARY APPRECIATION by Melvyn Barnes

  1. Oh, Sergio, this sounds like a very nicely done look at Durbridge’s life and work! And so often, we don’t get those careful and thoroughly researched stories that are also readable and enjoyable. Very enticing!

    • It is always a pleasure to read books that were clearly written for the love of it but which are also authoritative and well put together – ell worth getting if you have the least interest in the subject.

  2. tracybham says:

    I confess to ignorance about this author, except for your previous entry on Portrait of Alison. This sounds like a wonderful resource. I love this type of reference book.

    • Thanks Tracy – I certainly look forward to dipping in and out of it over the years. Durbridge was a huge name in Europe but never made much of a splash across the pond (sic).

  3. Colin says:

    I’m familiar with the name of Durbridge without being all that familiar with a lot of his work. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen or read anything to do with Paul Temple, for example. This sounds like a very well researched volume though.

    • It’s a really solid, no frills sort of work – the kind all we professional fans should aspire to 🙂 Have you seen the John Mills mystery, The Vicious Circle? That’s from a Durbridge …
      mills

  4. Melvyn Barnes says:

    Thank you for your very kind comments, Sergio. Although Durbridge might be considered “old-fashioned” by some mystery fans, he remains enormously popular. His radio serials are still regularly broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra, and new productions of several of his “lost” serials have been broadcast on Radio Four (and will surely find their way to Radio Four Extra). Many printed books, e-books, CDs and DVDs are available, and every so often a new release appears on the market – so for those previously unacquainted with this master of the cliff-hanger, there’s plenty out there for you to try! Once again, many thanks.

    • Thanks for putting in all those hours Melvyn – well worth the effort. I was just checking your entry oon The Vicious Cuircle last night. It turns out it ais also available on DVD in germany (of course) as Interpol ruft Berlin
      Interpol ruft Berlin

  5. Such a man of his time, Francis Durbridge – as I always say, very much for my parents’ generation. I think he represented their idea of the high life, with the nightclubs and drinks trays and smart brittle women with jangling bracelets. Good for nostalgia.

    • Thanks for that Moira and hard to disagree – What always amuses me as it was the certainly same for my folks, only reproduced in Italy because they made their own versions of the serials, albeit often still set in the UK! For example, here is the Italian version of Melisa:

  6. Sergio, thanks for this introduction and review of Francis Durbridge’s life and work. He was versatile and prolific in spite of which his name had completely escaped me until now.

    • Thanks very much Prashant – well, he was very big in Europe maybe parts of the Commonwealth but I’m not sure his work travelled very far beyond that – it is very, very British, especially in its claim to certain middle class standards of glamour and refinement. His radio work is the easiest to get hold of along with his novels (very few movies were made and most of the TV work is not commercially available currently).

  7. richmonde says:

    Listening to a Paul Temple ATM:

    Sir Felix will see you now. I’m sure he won’t keep you waiting…. long!

    And they say Pinter invented the pause!

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