Writers and Places [Significant Handcorrected Typescripts]. P. D. James, Phyllis Dorothy.
Writers and Places [Significant Handcorrected Typescripts]
Writers and Places [Significant Handcorrected Typescripts]

Two PD James Typescripts about the Detective Novel

Writers and Places [Significant Handcorrected Typescripts]

Notes: Two versions of the teleplay for a half-hour BBC documentary about P.D. James's use of place in her fiction, both with manuscript changes and both differing from the program that eventually aired. These scripts, written and edited by James, are significantly longer than the final program and offer insight into James' thinking about the detective novel that is otherwise unavailable. Some of the longest passages that were cut are about James's influences, including Arthur Conan Doyle, W. H. Auden, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Dick Francis, and Leo Tolstoy. These scripts offer exceptional insight into James's thinking about the detective novel and the inspiration she drew from the places her books were set. Twenty-five years after writing these scripts, James published a book-length survey of the detective genre, Talking About Detective Fiction (2009), which combined literary criticism with personal reflection on her writing.

At the time this television program was written James was in her early sixties and starting her third decade as a writer of detective novels. She had already received critical acclaim for modernizing the British detective novel, and the BBC was about to begin a long-running string of mini-series featuring her detective Adam Dalgliesh, which would push her subsequent books onto the bestseller list in the US and the UK.

Present here are two drafts, the earliest one with 29 pages and a later 25-page script reflecting the changes marked on the earlier draft along with further revisions James undoubtedly made while retyping the teleplay from her marked up copy. The earlier script has markings on almost every page, with long passages crossed out and new paragraphs written in the margins.

I found a video of this rather odd TV program on a Russian social media site. The show is rather stiff, perhaps because the script is better read than recited. James's rather stiff delivery—a male actor reads some excerpts from Dalgliesh novels; otherwise the entire show is James speaking to the camera or recorded in voice-over—may be the reason that the humor on the page lands flat on TV. One example:

"The library has passed into the folklore of detective fiction together with the plan of the Grange, the railway timetable, the mysterious butler, and the sealed room. It represented that potent amalgam of blood and snobbery which was so typical of the nineteen thirties' golden age with its assumption that only the murder of a victim who could afford a library was worth bothering about."

Edition + Condition: Both scripts are photocopied typescripts with manuscript changes. The earlier script is stapled at the top left corner. The later script is loose sheets fastened with a modern binderclip. Very good or better.

Publication: (N.-pl.): Adam Low, [1983].

Item No: #307600

Price: $1,850