Alan Bennett has never, so far as I know, ventured into writing crime fiction. When I listened recently to the audio version of his acclaimed dramatic monologues, Talking Heads, however, I thought several times how well his skills would be suited to the genre, should he ever decide to give it a go.
Although Talking Heads dates back to the 1980s, I never saw the original TV version, and I have to admit that I’ve never paid much attention to Bennett’s work. What a treat I have been missing, if this is anything to go by. He has a gift for writing material that is both funny and poignant, and he has a knack of revealing character artfully, bit by bit, much as a crime writer may spring a sequence of surprises upon the reader.
Bennett was born in Armley, Leeds, and so was my late mother; as a result, I recognised many of the turns of phrase characteristic of Yorkshire people of a certain age that he uses to such good effect. Writing really good dialogue is a skill that is often under-estimated (and it’s a skill that I think is very important for any crime writer). Bennett has an absolute flair for dialogue.
A word about the actors who performed the monologues to such good effect. They were consistently excellent, but a special mention for Anna Massey as the alcoholic vicar’s wife, Julie Walters as the actress in a soft porn movie, and Thora Hird as the elderly Doris. Splendid performances which made the most of terrific scripts. Listening to these tapes really was a joy.