Sunday, January 6, 2019

Paul Temple and the Kelby Affair - Francis Durbridge

My work schedule is back to normal, and last night I said a reluctant farewell to the Christmas tree (I really loved the tree this Christmas,, it was quite sad to see it go) and I've actually finished some books. The new year has started.

I read this one just after Christmas, choosing it because it was short and I couldn't settle in anything any longer. It's not a good book however you want to look at it, and is heading straight for a charity shop. It probably came in a goody bag from one of the Bodies in the Library event where most people would be familiar with Durbridge and Temple (I've heard a few radio plays which were fun, so I'm not entirely put off). But this one is strictly for fans and completists.

It was first published in 1970 at which point Paul Temple had been around for 32 years (he'd been detecting since 1938). The setting is contemporary but the overall impression is that Paul and Steve (now a designer of record and book covers) are still somewhere in their 40's.

Steve seems to dim to have survived as many adventures as she's supposed to have done, the plot doesn't make a great deal of sense, people behave in the strangest ways, and the whole thing is a mess. The biggest problem for me though was the attitude towards women generally.

Any woman who gets described is young, pretty, sounds like something off a Bond poster, and is instantly evaluated in sexual terms. It's revolting. In this case it sounds like a man in late middle age describing his seedy fantasies in an attempt to sound modern. Jilly Cooper is guilty of the same kind of thing.

A foreword says that Durbridge's last book was published posthumously in 1998, and that he was working as a stage writer until 1991, so I'm guessing that this one is something of an aberration, but I can't think of a single good thing to say about it (unless 'it's quite short' counts). It's all middle aged men chasing underage girls, domestic violence treated as a perfectly normal thing, and thoroughly dislikable characters. It doesn't raise any nostalgia for the 1970's at all.


  1. Well, you've saved me from a bad reading experience! Like you, I thought the Paul Temple radio plays were fun, so I'd vaguely considered trying the books. This sounds grim.

  2. I'd avoid this one, I have another written in 1939 which I will read. I'm more interested in it now than ever. Although if it's rubbish I'm done with him!