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Another voice of my childhood silenced
One by one they pass away, the invisible voices that kept me company in my childhood.
The latest radio star to bite the dust is Peter Coke (say it Cook) who played Francis Durbridge's private eye Paul Temple. Several things fascinated me about those Paul Temple crime series.
Paul Temple earned a handsome living from writing crime fiction. In between books he solved crimes. He drove a sports car, lived in a posh flat in Mayfair with his wife Steve, played by Marjorie Westbury, and had a man-servant called Charlie.
Our family was poor but we didn't begrudge anyone doing well for themselves, especially if they had an exciting life. I used to listen "with three ears" to the wireless every time that excitingly rhythmic signature tune - Coronation Scot by Vivien Ellis - got up a head of steam.
The plots were impenetrable. Each weekly episode usually ended with Paul Temple saying, "Steve, watch out, he's got a gun!" Or Steve saying, "Paul, Oh Paul, do be careful!" The superfluous "do" signified their classy status. And Steve, was that a typical name for a woman in Mayfair? Not that I had a clue where Mayfair was, but Charlie was always popping out to fetch the car round.
Then there was Sir Graham Forbes, the Chief Commissioner at Scotland Yard. He was always nipping round to the Temples with a dark and dastardly mystery that needed solving. "Whiskey and soda Sir Graham?" Paul Temple used to say. "Oh alright Temple, just a small one," Sir Graham would reply. I was fascinated that one friend addressed another by his surname.
When the going got tough or the lightbulb of revelation pinged on in Paul Temple's brain he would declare: "By Timothy!"
If the actor Simon Lack was in it you could safely bet that he would turn out to be the dastardly villain. He had a charming, cultivated voice, but the velvet edge often concealed a razor.
The Paul Temple stories were usually designated as affairs or mysteries. This immediately attracted my undivided attention. An Affair or Mystery guaranteed at least several dastardly murders.
Those Paul Temple thrillers were to radio what Edgar Wallace's crime stories were to the cinema. In those days going to the pictures meant a main feature, a black and white 'b' picture which might be an Edgar Wallace mystery, cartoons, trailers and a newsreel. Edgar Wallace always appeared wraithed by cigarette smoke at the start of the film to set the tone, which was inevitably eerie. Alfred Hitchcock later emulated this style on his television series of thrillers and mysteries.
Francis Durbridge, however, remained a man of mystery in his own right. Yet his stories were listened to by millions. David Hockney told me that on car journeys from London to Bridlington he loves listening to tapes of Paul Temple.
Just as there was only one Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson - Carlton Hobbes and Norman Shelley - there was only one Paul Temple - Peter Coke.