Friday, January 7, 2022

A Crime Adaptation Wishlist

After reading 'Murder on a Winter's Night', just finishing 'Murder After Christmas' from the British Library Crime Classics series, and reading Cross Examining Crimes new years day post I've been thinking about things I'd really like to see on television instead of another version of an Agatha Christie (much as I love Agatha Christie). 

I'd also like to take a moment to wonder (not for the first time) why on earth the brilliant Dorothy L. Sayers adaptations with Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter from the late 1980s (1987?) were never repeated and are so hard to find to watch now. I honestly can't imagine better casting for Lord Peter and Harriet than that pair, no remake is needed. There was a brilliant adaptation of Josephine Tey's 'The Franchise Affair' from around the same time which I've never seen since too. 

Josephine Pullein-Thompson's 'Gin and Murder' might not be the best mystery, but it does a lot of other things really well. I'd watch this for the late 50s glamour of the county set and the emotional situation Pullein-Thompson underpins her story with which packs a genuine punch.

It's not necessarily the best mysteries which would make the best viewing, and there's a double truth with that when it comes to Georgette Heyer - her crime novels are generally considered as sort of second-best compared to her romances. I have mixed feelings about this, I think the mysteries are mostly under-rated, but I'm also less attached to them and think there's less chance that anybody filming them would annoy every Heyer fan ever by producing something we would all hate. 'Behold, Here's Poison' is pleasingly twisty, would provide some lovely sets and costumes, and be an excellent opportunity to unleash one of Heyer's queer coded characters on the public.

The British Library has released a couple of Margot Bennett titles, and both have a pleasingly visual element to them which makes me think they'd be great on screen. I've gone with 'The Man Who Didn't Fly' because it came to hand first. I enjoyed reading this, but I'd really love to watch it.

It's possible that there have been adaptations of Gypsy Rose Lee's books - I'm half afraid to look. She wrote 2 murder mysteries and they are brilliant. 'The G-String Murders' and 'Mother Finds a Body' are both worth seeking out - they're affordable on kindle, but out of print and expensive in paper. Who doesn't want to watch murders against a background of 1940's burlesque with brilliant noir wisecracks and one-liners?

To be honest, I'd happily watch a good adaptation of almost all of the British Library Crime Classics series - there's a lot of good stuff in there to choose from. I've picked on 'The Chianti Flask' by Marie Belloc Lowndes because the characters and their moral dilemmas are so richly drawn. The murder part is almost incidental compared to the character studies and a good cast could have a ball with this.

I'd just like to see Vera Caspary get a revival. 'Laura' is a great novel and one of the great film noirs, she also worked on Hollywood classics like Fritz Lang's 'The Blue Gardenia'. I adored the high camp of 'Bedelia' but think 'The Man Who Loved His Wife' would be great on screen. It's twisty with plenty of suspense, and again, characters you can really get your teeth into. 

Micheal Gilbert has been one of my favourite discoveries from the British Library series. He's really good, and 'Death has Deep Roots' is a book I regularly recommend at work. I like the way the action shifts between wartime France and post-war London and the thoughtful plot. If you like classic crime at all Gilbert is worth seeking out. 

Margaret Miller is another happy find, mostly due to Pushkin's Vertigo series. I'd like to see more of her work back in print and again would very much enjoy watching her work. 'Vanish in an Instant' is full of atmosphere and seedy characters - perfect. 

Carol Carnac's 'Crossed Skis' is a fun alpine mystery written in 1952 when Britain, and Europe were still distinctly post-war. Stuck in a grey, Omicron shadowed, midlands January the idea of escaping to the alps is desperately appealing even if I don't ski. After decades of taking travel opportunities somewhat for granted the difficulties of crossing Europe in the 1950s have taken on a new resonance since 2020. This mystery where a largish party of relative strangers (lots of friends of friends) has accumulated and then realise one of their number isn't what they claim - but which one - could provide the perfect mix of escapism and suspense.

Finally, it's about time the increasingly ridiculous Father Brown was canned, and John Dickson Carr gets a look in. I've chosen The Case of the Constant Suicides' only because it was the first one I read. Carr does over the top drama brilliantly, would provide lots of excellent new characters, and keep anybody (me) who likes to watch utter nonsense as long as it's entertaining very happy indeed. I principally love Carr for the gothic flourishes and appreciate that these aren't everybody's cup of tea, but not everything needs to be serious, and the set designs would be something to marvel at in a good Carr adaptation.


  1. I would love to see Georgette Heyer's crime novels televised as I enjoy them all. Did I read somewhere that she did not want her books televised after a one that was not done well?

    1. There is an awful adaptation of The Reluctant Widow, but I don't know if it put her off the idea of ready money. They'd make great television wouldn't they!

  2. I've just finished Freeman Willis Crofts, first novel, The Cask, which, in my view, was a very assured first novel. I thought it would work really well in an adaptation, although as it is set before First World War, it might be costly to stage, but the plot could be adapted to a more modern era. I agree that many of the British Library Crime novels would work well. I'd also like to seen some of Val McDermid's other books adapted for television. Many have two timelines that could work very well on television.

  3. There's such a wealth of things out there that it's really a shame to see the same few authors/books get adapted all the time

  4. I discovered DLS through the Harriet Walter, Edward Petherbridge adaptations and I've often wished the BBC would repeat them. However I found Strong Poison, Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night on You Tube. It's difficult to say if they've stood the test of time but if nothing else you will certainly recall the theme tune.