Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Very British Murder - BBC Four

A Very British Murder began on BBC Four last night and offered a fascinating parallel with a storyline in one of my own novels. BBC Four is a home for informative and engaging documentaries and is one of my favourite channels - I'm currently enjoying a terrific series presented by Neil Brand on the subject of movie soundtracks. Brand is an engaging character, and so is Lucy Worsley, the presenter here. I've not come across her previously, but she proved to be a confident and charismatic performer, and a quick internet research revealed that she is a historian, curator and experienced presenter and writer.

This documentary focused on a number of notable murder cases in the nineteenth century, and my attention was immediately grabbed by a familiar scene - Grasmere. Yep, it turned out that Lucy Worsley's starting point was Thomas De Quincey's thoughts on murder as a fine art - that is, exactly the same as Daniel Kind's starting point for his book The Hell Within, which features in The Serpent Pool. In my novel, Daniel is writing a history of murder much along the lines of Lucy Worsley's, and there's a connection with the murder plot in the novel.. Spooky...

Lucy Worsley, like Daniel Kind, is an Oxford-educated academic historian who like Daniel has made a name in television, but I think it's fair to say that she performs on screen with even more gusto than Daniel would be likely to manage, joining in bloodthirsty Victorian bar songs, and co-performing a melodrama on stage. She comes over as a fun person, as Neil Brand does when he plays piano and explains the secrets of John Barry's genius. And that feeling of empathy helps strengthen the appeal of a programme of this sort..

Her accounts of the murder cases  such as the Ratcliff Highway murders, the Red Barn murder, the Bermondsey Horror were sound if inevitably concise. The narrative was along the same lines as the approach of Judith Flanders in her very well-researched The Invention of Murder, so I wasn't surprised to see Judith Flanders named as a consultant when the credits rolled. All in all, an agreeable hour's viewing, with the added bonus for me of  a vivid realisation of what Daniel Kind might have made of his research for his fictional masterpiece. If only he had he not become disillusioned with telly and downshifted to the Lake District....

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