PAUL TEMPLE – The Tyler Mystery. Hodder, UK, hardcover, 1957. “Paul Temple” was a pseudonym of Francis Durbridge and Douglas Rutherford. Reprinted as by Francis Durbridge: Hodder, UK, pb, 1960


    A solid entry in the long running series about debonair British mystery writer Paul Temple (“By Timothy!”) and his wife and partner in solving crimes Steve (Stephanie), the former Steve Trent, a Fleet Street reporter. She and her husband solve crimes while enjoying the pleasures of the leisured upper middle class English lifestyle.

    Since they themselves were going to live in the flat they decorated it to their own taste. If George II had to rub shoulders with Louis XIV, then that was just too bad.

   The Temples are something of a cross between Nick and Nora Charles and the Lockridges’ Pam and Jerry North (though considerably more sober than either), with Paul himself a bit of an Ellery Queen figure (at least the radio or television versions) appearing in some fifteen books written with collaborators like Charles Hatton, John Thewes and Douglas Rutherford (appearing under the Paul Temple byline). A good deal of the charm of the series involves the byplay between the attractive husband and wife crime solvers.

   In addition to the books, there were ten radio plays and serials, movies, a television series, and a long running comic strip by Alfred Sindall and others (updated to reflect the 1969-1971 television series).

   When Betty Tyler is found stuffed in the boot of an abandoned Jaguar strangled with her own scarf on the Chipping Norton Road outside Oxford, Steve Temple, recently moved into their new Eaton Square flat with their Cockney servant Charlie, knows Sir Graham Forbes of the Yard is likely to show up at any time to ask her mystery writer husband’s help, interfering with her plans for a trip to Paris to celebrate Paul’s latest book deal.


   Sure enough, Forbes (“a splendid example of an Englishman”) shows up on their doorstep with Oxford Constabulary Inspector Vosper in tow.

   Paul and Steve agree to do a favor for Forbes, but still are intent on keeping out of the whole thing and making that Paris holiday — which Steve emphasizes by humming “I love Paris” at key times when Paul is tempted to defect, but after a suspicious near accident on the way to investigate Paul and Steve can no longer avoid involvement. Especially after a call from Jane Dallas — whom Paul finds strangled in the bedroom of her flat.

   She lay sprawled across the divan bed as if she had been flung there by violent hands. He face was turned upward to the light and it was not possible to tell is she had been plain or pretty. Without moving from where he was Temple was able to recognize the handiwork of the strangler. Though it was uncreased he never doubted that the girl had been killed with the silk picture scarf which lay near her on the divan.

   All the victims work for a chain of beauty salons owned by the mysterious fashionable Spaniard Mariano (“a drink like a prophet is never honoured in its own country”).

   Paul and Steve investigate and capture the strangler, but Paul knows the man with the scarves is only the front for the man behind the murders, and in true style throws a dinner party to gather the suspects and expose the killer with a flourish. There is even a bit of a surprise in the killer’s identity and of course a touch of drama in the capture.


    “I wish I didn’t have this odd feeling that something awful is going to happen,” Steve remarked suddenly. “Do you have to go through with it, Paul?”
    “It’s too late to change our minds now. This is a risk I’ve got to take.”

   There is nothing surprising about the Temple books. They are competently written, feature a bit of mystery, a bit of detection, and considering their radio serial origin, contain a good deal of action and suspense.

   Four movies featured Paul and Steve Temple, with Anthony Hulme and Joy Shelton in Send For Paul Temple (1946), and John Bentley (who also played John Creasey’s the Toff in two outings) and Dinah Sheridan in Calling Paul Temple (1948) Paul Temple’s Triumph (1950), and Paul Temple Returns (1952), all directed by Maclean Rogers, who directed the two Toff films as well. (In Returns, Patricia Dainton replaced Dinah Sheridan as Steve.)

   I’ve seen Calling Paul Temple, and it is an entertaining B picture with some nice location photography in Cambridge, some solid thrills, and builds to a good climax.

   Francis Matthews (Dracula, Prince of Darkness and the voice of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s “Captain Scarlet”) played Temple and Ros Drinkwater Steve in the 64 episode Temple series co-produced with Germany’s ZDF (1969-1971). In addition in the mid sixties several of the radio serials and books were done for British and German television. Eleven episodes of the color episodes of the Temple series are available on DVD as of 2009.


   Francis Durbridge (1912-1998) was the Levinson and Link of British television. His popular serials included The Teckman Biography, The World of Tim Frazer, Melanie, Operation Diplomat, Portrait of Alison, The Scarf, and others. Most were also books.

   In addition his non Temple serials inspired films such as The Teckman Mystery, Postmark to Danger (Portrait of Alison), and the The Vicious Circle. His other series character, Tim Fraser, is featured in three books.

   The original ten Paul Temple radio serials are available as CD’s (a pricey Omnibus edition of all ten serials is well worth the price for the sheer hours of entertainment). In addition, there have been new productions as late as 2006, making a total of some twenty-seven Temple radio productions from 1938 to date.

   Postmark to Danger and at least one of the Temple movies are available on DVD on the gray market. Of the films, Postmark to Danger stars Robert Beatty and Terry Moore, and The Vicious Circle (1957) with John Mills, Roland Culver, Lionel Jeffries, Derek Farr, and Mervyn Johns has showed up on TCM several times and is well worth catching.

   Douglas Rutherford, the best of the Durbridge collaborators, and the only one to write as Paul Temple, was a first class action-suspense novelist whose own books were compared to Dick Francis. The novels under his own name always feature a background of racing cars and motorcycles, though the plots varied from crime, to murder, to spy-jinks. Barzun and Taylor had a few nice things to say of them in Catalogue of Crime.


   The Paul Temple books may sometimes show their origins as radio drama, but they offer pleasant thrills with an attractive pair of sleuths, and a bit of well done suspense and often clever mysteries.

   All of Durbridge’s books are worth reading, and hopefully more of the television serials will be finding their way onto DVD sets. When a German comic revealed the name of the killer in the German airing of The World of Tim Fraser, there was a major uproar.

   A modern American audience may not get quite that involved, but skillfully done fare along the lines of Durbridge’s radio and television serials, series, movies, and books are not to be sneezed at. These are well worth discovering and enjoying.

Editorial Comment:  Prompting the immediate posting of this review which David just sent me was, of course, my preceding review of Melissa, one of Durbridge’s many story productions for BBC-TV. The availability of the Paul Temple TV shows on DVD just a few months ago has only strengthened myresolve to obtain a multi-region player. The set is Region 2 only.