So, yeah, this was supposed to be my 600th post, but unfortunately my zeal to sign up for Bev’s latest 2018 reading challenge meant I forgot I was supposed to post this post first. Oops! So instead this is my HAPPY 601th POST (that still works right?)
Given the time of year I decided to look back over my reads this year, so far, and pick out a select few, which I enjoyed and enjoyed so much that I would love to see them adapted for TV or film.
First up is Anthony’s Gilbert’s The Spinster’s Secret (1946), which achieves a dark and unsettling atmosphere, without recourse to crude violence (which is no mean feat these days). The emotional engagement and psychological depth is brilliant and you really root for the elderly Janet Martin as she battles against those who try to prevent her from finding out what has really happened to a little girl named Pamela. The tricky question of course is, is to decide which actress should play Janet?
Over the past few years there has been an increased interest in golden age detective fiction, though when it comes to film and TV adaptations, creators still stick to the more well-known authors from this era. This is a shame really as there are scores of wonderful vintage reads which would make for a great program. R. C. Ashby’s Death on Tiptoe (1931), is one such programme and my primary reason for choosing this title is its atmospheric setting, which becomes incredibly chilling when a late night game of hide and seek at a castle goes horribly wrong…
Yet Ashby’s is not the only murder mystery set at an isolated country abode on my list, as Hilda Lawrence’s Blood Upon the Snow (1944) is another exhilarating read as the body count rises and the remaining characters are struggling to understand what is going on and who they can really trust.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of Delano Ames’ novels, in particular those from his Jane and Dagobert Brown series. I’ve read quite a few by Ames this year and in general I would love to see Jane and Dagobert adapted for TV, but the title I plumbed for in the end was Crime, Gentlemen, Please (1954), which has a wonderful sense of humour to it and also a rather good puzzle. Equally this title would work with the current trend to set all vintage programmes in the 1950s, being for once actually set in the 1950s.
Looking over my chosen titles I was quite surprised by the number of country house type mysteries I selected, as I would also love to see Yolanda Foldes’ Mind Your Own Murder (1948) and Christianna Brand’s Suddenly at his Residence (1947) adapted too. Foldes book has a great opening premise which I think would appeal to a TV or cinema audience, namely a family patriarch asking his sons to murder him by a certain point, (with each son being allotted one specific day to make their attempt), or lose out on their inheritance. This makes everything fairly awkward when he dies the next morning and the complicated relationships in the household make this a tense read.
However, not all my choices are UK bound, as I also chose Marion Mainwaring’s Murder in Pastiche (1955), simply to see what casting there would be for each of the fictional sleuths in pastiche. Equally, being a huge Juanita Sheridan fan, it would be great to see her fictional sleuth Lily Wu and her adventures adapted and this year’s read The Waikiki Widow (1953) would make for a great film with strong two female leads and its Hawaiian setting.
Humour is probably a common factor between many of my selections as I also chose Richard Hull’s Keep It Quiet (1935) and Anthony Berkeley’s Mr Priestley’s Problem (1927), the latter of which is a brilliant madcap series of escapades when a practical joke involving a fake murder goes horribly awry… Another Berkeley novel which would be in keeping with current vintage mystery adaptations would be The Piccadilly Murder (1929), though again its success would hang on the right casting for the wonderful character of Ambrose Chitterwick, who I much prefer to Roger Sheringham.
My final three picks are a random assortment: Firstly Cyril Hare’s With a Bare Bodkin (1946), which has a very unusual wartime setting. Secondly there’s Roald Dahl’s short stories in the collection: A Taste of the Unexpected (2005), which are equal parts sinister and darkly humorous. In the same way that some of Christie’s short stories were adapted for TV, I think Dahl’s tales would make great 20-30minute pieces. My last choice is Doris Miles Disney’s Family Skeleton (1949), which is almost Pamela Branch like in its tendency to leave characters in a sticky situation, with a dead body on their hands. I guess this type of story has been done already in Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), but I think this story has a better sting in its tale.
So there you go there are my 14 or so choices. Hopefully a screenwriter looking for ideas for their next mystery drama might come across this post and do one of the books selected. It is a given of course that if you do, do this, you better do it right! Or I will not be very impressed….