Authors: Simon Brett
Table of Contents
CAST IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
SO MUCH BLOOD
AN AMATEUR CORPSE
A COMEDIAN DIES
THE DEAD SIDE OF THE MIKE
MURDER IN THE TITLE
NOT DEAD, ONLY RESTING
WHAT BLOODY MAN IS THAT
A SERIES OF MURDERS
A RECONSTRUCTED CORPSE
SICKEN AND SO DIE
DEAD ROOM FARCE
A DECENT INTERVAL *
THE BODY ON THE BEACH
DEATH ON THE DOWNS
THE TORSO IN THE TOWN
MURDER IN THE MUSEUM
THE HANGING IN THE HOTEL
THE WITNESS AT THE WEDDING
THE STABBING IN THE STABLES
DEATH UNDER THE DRYER
BLOOD AT THE BOOKIES
THE POISONING IN THE PUB
THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP
BONES UNDER THE BEACH HUT
GUNS IN THE GALLERY *
THE CORPSE ON THE COURT *
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eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
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Copyright Â© 2013 by Simon Brett.
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A decent interval. â (A Charles Paris mystery ; 18)
1. Paris, Charles (Fictitious character)âFiction.
2. ActorsâFiction. 3. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
HamletâFiction. 4. TheaterâFiction. 5. Detective and
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-044-7 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-539-8 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-412-6 (epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Ali and Tim,
who know about the theatre
t's been a while, thought Charles Paris. A while since I've been dressed as a Roundhead for a part. A while since I've had a part â any part, come to that.
Later in the day he would be dressed as a Cavalier. Because Charles Paris was fighting the Battle of Naseby. Alone. Still, it was work.
It had indeed been some time since he'd had any of that precious commodity, work, but then that wasn't unusual in what he laughingly called his âcareer'. Like most actors, when unemployed, Charles Paris went into a kind of half-life. Yes, he met up with friends in the business, he continued to drink Bell's whisky either with them or more often alone, but the animating spark that made him fully alive was missing. And he kept wondering, as members of his profession in their late fifties tend to, whether he had already received his last ever job offer. An actor's career does not have a retirement cut-off point like more regulated types of employment. No farewell parties, gifts of carriage clocks and private pensions kicking in (few actors even know what the word âpension' means). No, for them the end is a slow process of attenuation, six months of being offered no parts being followed by another six months of being offered no parts, and so on until the realization dawns that, yes, the moment of retirement did indeed occur, almost unnoticed, some years previously.
Charles Paris had therefore been extremely surprised to receive a call one Thursday morning in his studio flat in Hereford Road from the man who he supposed was still his agent, Maurice Skellern.
âCharles, how're things?'
âWhat things did you particularly have in mind?'
âOh, work, you know, that kind of thing.'
âMaurice, if I had any work you of all people ought to know about it. You are my agent, after all.'
âMaybe, but you do hear of artistes who take jobs without telling their agents.'
âAnd have I ever done that?'
âWell, not in my recollection, no. But you do hear of these things. I mean, you know Edgar, the very clever boy I represent who's just finished a stint at the National and is now off filming with Tom Cruiseâ'
âNo, I don't know him â and what's more I don't want to hear about him.' One of his agent's many annoying habits was going into excessive detail about the successes of his other clients while providing absolutely no work for Charles. âAnyway, Maurice, to what do I owe the pleasure of a call from you out of the blue after eight months of total silence?'
âEight months? Surely it hasn't beenâ?'
âEight months,' Charles confirmed implacably.
âWell, everything's been very quiet in the business recently.' How many times had Charles heard that from his agent? âTelevision budgets being cut back, the West End filling up with jukebox musicals or ones based on old movies. It's not a good time, you know. I mean if I hadn't got Edgar filming in the States and Adrian playing the name part in that cop series and Xanthe giving her Cleopatra at the RSC, I'dâ'
âAll right,' Charles interrupted. âThat's enough! I don't want to hear about your other clients. So once again I ask: to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?'
âAh, well, something's come up.'
âFor me?' Maurice Skellern was quite capable of ringing Charles simply to crow about the fabulous contract one of his other clients had just netted.
âOf course for you, Charles.'
âWhat is it?'
âIt's a television â¦'
ââ¦ directed by Tibor Pincus.'
Even better. Tibor Pincus was one of the legendary television directors. Having escaped from Budapest when the Soviet tanks moved in in 1956, he had quickly risen through the ranks of British television drama. He'd directed a play for ABC's
, before joining the BBC and working on
The Wednesday Play
, a series which transmuted in 1970 into the
Play for Today
strand. Tibor Pincus had been at the top of his game at a time when the one-off play was one of the nation's glories, when it made headlines and prompted furious debate about the issues of the day.
Charles had had a tiny part in one of Tibor Pincus's productions in the early 1980s. He couldn't remember what the play was called, but it was one of the proudest entries on his CV â unlike his performance as Sir Benjamin Backbite at the Bristol Old Vic. (âIn this Restoration comedy Charles Paris himself looked in need of restoration.' â
Western Daily Press.
Charles was touched that someone of the stature of Tibor Pincus should have remembered him (and surely there could be no other reason for this unexpected summons). He was also slightly surprised that the acclaimed director was still alive and working.
But most of all, he was extremely cheered and encouraged. The demise of the one-off television play had been much lamented over the years. Its time-slots had been taken over by endlessly recycling soaps and indistinguishable series set in hospitals, police stations or forensic pathology labs. Or, even worse, reality shows. Like most actors, Charles Paris had a deep-seated resentment for that form of entertainment. Pointing a camera at members of the public and waiting for them to make fools of themselves was not the highest form of art. But it was cheap, and television executives didn't care that such programmes put out of work a lot of actors and writers who might actually have produced well-crafted drama.
So the fact that a director of the stature of Tibor Pincus was back in business might herald the return of the single television play. That would be really good news.
âWhat is it?' asked Charles.
âWhat's what?' asked Maurice.
âThe play, the part Tibor Pincus is offering me?'
âAh, well there isn't actually a script.'
This was even better news for Charles. One of Tibor Pincus's great triumphs of the late 1960s, long before Mike Leigh hijacked the form, had been a play called
, built up by the actors through improvisation. It was still hailed as one of the landmarks of television drama.
If he was going to feature in a new improvised play by Tibor Pincus, then Charles Paris's acting career was about to take a very definite turn for the better.
Disillusionment had started to set in when Maurice Skellern told him that he was only required for one day's filming near Newlands Corner in Surrey. And that he was required to be there the next day, which was Friday. Dreams of Charles Paris being part of a long-planned masterwork by the great Tibor Pincus began to melt away.
It was a six a.m. call for costume and make-up. The car arrived in Hereford Road at four in the morning to pick up a somewhat frail Charles Paris. The excitement of having some work, combined with nervous uncertainty about what the work was, had led him to hit the Bell's whisky rather hard the night before.
He'd ended up slumped in front of the television, watching what was apparently some programme about the Wars of the Roses. It was the style of historical documentary which had become popular over recent years, in which modern-day footage was intercut by ancient documents and images, together with a minimal amount of costumed reconstruction, to produce a half-hour programme padded out to an hour which would have worked better on the radio.
The show was presented by a quite dishy woman with large breasts. Charles had read somewhere that she was a Professor of something at some university â and a feminist historian. She had written a book on changing attitudes to menstruation through the centuries, called
The Bleeding Obvious
, and appeared on
whenever a feminist guru was needed to pontificate on anything.
Knowing that she was a feminist made Charles feel guilty about being so aware of her breasts. For someone of his generation gender politics were a minefield. He had discovered the hard way that it was now all right to fancy women, but not to âobjectify' them. And being overly aware of the large breasts of a television presenter he'd never met was dangerously close to objectification. He wasn't quite sure of the politically correct approach for a man to a feminist with big breasts. Probably to pretend not to notice them, that'd be safest. Certainly not to look at them. God, it was sometimes difficult being a man.