This 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 firstname.lastname@example.org