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2 August 2012
paperback published Methuen, 1985.
back in the 1980s this appeared on NZ TV as a series. It was very funny in a laidback sort of way, warm, witty, and featuring very ‘ordinary people’. A few years later I found a copy of the book in a secondhand-books shop and pounced. I’ve just read it for around the 5th or 6th time and enjoyed it as much as ever. And there’s a very high number of books about which I can’t say that. (Last week I found a copy of the sequel, The Beiderbecke Tapes, and there was no question but that it too has gone onto my ‘books permanently kept’ shelves.)
These books are what I call ‘crime inconsequential.’ In other words, yes, there are often crimes involved, but they are mostly the mcguffin, what counts are the characters and the story about them. In Affair you have Trevor Chaplin and Jill Swinborne, both teachers at a local high school in the Leeds area of England. They each have their own home but for much of the previous two years they’ve been having an affair based initially on Trevor providing Jill’s transport to and from school, and later on mutual tolerance of each other’s oddnesses. Trevor is a rabid jazz fan and when a gorgeous platinum blonde shows up on his doorstep, he’s fascinated by the rare jazz records she offers at a very low price. He isn’t at all pleased to find that when they arrive, they’re not jazz records. And when one of the other teachers complains to Trevor that the same gorgeous blonde sold him a faulty hedge trimmer, Trevor and Jill set out to track down the blonde, the missing jazz records, and a replacement hedge trimmer.
In the process they find Big Al, and his occasional brother, Little Norm. A ubiquitous man and his dog, Jason, crop up often, a couple of genuine brothers wander in and out of the narrative – with their brotherhood being the only genuine thing about them – and then there’s the Oxford-educated policeman who hasn’t yet got the hang of the locals – and isn’t sure that he wants to because he finds them all extremely weird. They are. But they make me chuckle every time I read the book. And the TV series – which starred the brilliant James Bolam and Barbara Flynn – was almost as good as the book. This is the first in what appeared on TV as The Beiderbecke Trilogy, comprising The Beiderbecke Affair, The Beiderbecke Tapes, and The Beiderbecke Connection.
At the time I purchased the first book I wondered if this was a book of the play, or if the TV series had been made from the book. After unearthing the second book (Tapes) at a bookarama last weekend I became more interested and started trawling websites to see what I could find on this. It seems that with Affair, the play was written first, and the book was written after that. With Tapes. it was the other way around. That was written as a novel then later done as the TV series, as was the third, Connection. And as a result the second and third books may differ a little from the TV series. However the three stories have been very popular hence you can buy all three TV series singly on DVD, (or as a boxed set of the three, both ordinary and special edition) in print as books, and, as they were broadcast on radio they may be available in audio format as well. In any incarnation I would recommend them. They have certainly always made me laugh. And if anyone has a spare or unwanted book copy of The Beiderbecke Connection I’d be interested…
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