I have a funny story to tell. Not so funny if you happen to be me. But being as I’m me and you’re you, you may find this story of mine slightly amusing.
Firstly, I must say I downloaded the audio book of Clouds of Witness on a whim. I didn’t read the description. It said it was murder mystery, period and over three hours long. Sold. I love a good, long audio book. So, I had no idea who Dorothy L Sayers was / is or that this was the second of a long line of stories to feature the amateur detective, Lord Peter Whimsy.
But that’s not the funny story.
This three hour audio book was downloaded as one long mp3. And the version I listened to had the opening and end titles lopped off or truncated. Presumably designed for listening to the whole three hours in one sitting, this nonetheless caused a few problems for me.
I tend to listen to audio books either when driving or before bed. If listening before bed, chances are I will start to feel sleepy, if not actually asleep, thus requiring a few moments the following night to rewind a bit and figure out at which point I dozed off. Had the titles been present and in tact they may well have been enough to jolt me awake. It’s quite hard when the titles aren’t there to act as markers, chapter points if you will. And finding the precise point is so difficult when it’s a big file. I think I’ve listened to the first three episodes of Clouds of Witness – by somebody I didn’t know, featuring a detective I’d never heard of – seven times. In total, including the occasions when I spent five minutes listening until something happened I very clearly remembered hearing before, and went on.
The truncated titles also meant that I didn’t know who was in the play.
I’m pretty good – freakish actually – at recognising actors by their voices. I could hear Patricia Routledge playing a character (Lord Peter’s mother, the dowager Duchess), so I tried to look it up online. I hate to sound like a whinging old fart but finding the information you want online has become incredibly difficult, but eventually I found the character was played by Miriam Margoyles. I won’t name the two sources that I read this from because I’ve no wish to embarrass them, but when I found another version of this story – split into half-hour episodes with end credits – my suspicious were confirmed that it was indeed Pat Routlidge playing the Dowager Duchess.
Seven times. Maybe more. Those first three episodes are indelibly etched into my memory. As you’d expect. Funny story? Or just me, going funny?
Ian Carmichael is one of those actors I seem to recognise but actually I don’t. Going by his IMDB (and other minor research) Lord Peter is a more, erm, whimsical character than his famed for playing.
The other regular character is Whimsy’s butler, Bunter. Played by Peter Jones (whose acting credits on television, radio and film are too numerous to mention here, except to say he was the original ‘Voice of the Book’ in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy). Both leads have a firm grasp on their respective parts, and play magnificently well off each other.
Lord Peter is another British detective in the mold of Paul Temple, The Saint, Campion and The Toff. Upper-class gets with an appetite for a mystery. The appeal of Dorothy Sayers’ sleuth is the gradual reveal of his motivation. For example, we learn Bunter and Whimsy were Lieutenant and Sergeant together in the First World War, and that Whimsy occasionally struggles with PTSD.
I have listened to the first collection of Peter Whimsy stories in completely the wrong order.
I started with Clouds of Witness but, as the single three-hour file was not working for me, I downloaded a version split into 30-minute episodes. No doubt conditioned through a form of hypnosis, I had by this time grown to enjoy the company of Whimsy and Bunter. Certainly enough to download the whole of the first collection of stories featuring Lord Peter Whimsy (comprising three serials, of varying length) and dramatised by the BBC. Clouds of Witness is the second story in the collection.
With all the back-and forth shenanigans and semi-conscious remembering of episodes 1-3, I had made myself kind of confused and fed up with it. Now in possession of the whole first collection, I decided I would loop back round to Clouds via the first story in the collection.
The first story in the collection, Whose Body? was certainly enjoyable enough for me to want to press on with Clouds shortly after.
The business of amateur sleuthing becomes personal for Peter Whimsy, when his brother is accused of murdering his sister’s fiancé. It’s a well paced, if slightly rambling, story, the central mystery is maintained throughout, propped up by some enjoyable and timely set-prices, such as when Bunter and Whimsy narrowly escape being sucked beneath the surface of a concealed mire.
Lord Peter is a genial gent. Affable, approachable and not at all aloof. Bunter is the archetypal stalwart, loyal but with a twinkle. As with the first story in the collection, Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances, Hettie Weinthroppe Instigates) turns up now and again to provide good value as the dowager Duchess. There are a lot of characters in the play, but they are all brought quite vividly to life but a well-assembled cast.
There’s much to enjoy to Dorothy Sayers’ story and this adaptation by BBC radio for Radio 4 does it justice.
I recommend Clouds of Witness, but if you choose to get it from Audible, You Tube or anywhere else, I recommend the 30-minute installments over the single three hour file – unless you’re going to listen to it in one sitting. And you only need to listen to the first three episodes once. Not seven times.
Martin Gregory 26 March 2023
Read more on audio book reviews on No Script For Life.com
THE TALL TALES OF ANGLESEY HERMAN by Martin Gregory
Regular visitors to my website will know Anglesey Herman and some of his mercurial adventures. Now they have all been collected together in one amazing volume, with some new brand new tales.
Includes classic escapades involving bizarre phobias, a stomach that howls like a wolf and the time Herman ended up impaled on a swordfish. There are new tales too. Read how Anglesey Herman’s immense fence-building prowess was curtailed, thanks to a viscous rumor about a tortoise. And find out why Herman ended up on remand for criminal damage.
Available to pre-order now (opens another window)
Brain Box Jukebox: Welcome Home by Coheed and Cambria
Revisiting Past Posts #2 Judd Trump Wins the Masters (Again)
Prince Harry – A Mummy’s Boy Without a Mummy
Writing a Story in the Post-‘Spy Cops’ Scandal Present
Archive (every post going back to 2018)
THE OFF GRID LIFE by Martin Gregory
One couple’s attempt to start an off-grid life from scratch without any transferable skills and modest savings.
The successes, the failures and the embarrassments! An intimate ‘warts-all’ account of starting an off-grid life. One mistake at a time.
MORRISON’S GHOST by Martin Gregory
Jim’s life goes to hell when he steps in to help his best friend. But no good deed ever goes unpunished, as Jim finds out when he is drawn into the dark side of environmental activism. Soon he is forced to stay one step ahead of the police, private detectives, mercenaries, undercover agents and celebrity activists – just to protect a scientist and an incredible discovery.
Morrison’s Ghost is the story of what happens when miraculous invention and environmental activism clash with the highest powers in the land.
TALES FROM THE LOST GATEWAY TO ANNWN by Martin Gregory
Heavy with a great burden, King Arthur ponders the future of his kingdom and the potency of his legacy. When Merlin speaks of realms beyond, of Annwn and portals to Otherworlds, the King spies the chance of lasting notoriety.
This new chapter of the Legend, told through prose and poems is the true story of Arthur’s demise, and is far stranger and more frightening than anyone – even Merlin – could possibly have foretold.
NO-SCRIPT-FOR-LIFE.COM is editorially independent. The website is hosted by WordPress but not affiliated with any other sites or entities. Everything is free to enjoy and everything has been written by a human being.
You can find out more about No-Script-For-Life here (link will take you to noscriptforlife.com)
Copyright Martin Gregory 2023