Richard Harris was the name of a famous Irish actor, and also of a contemporary of his, a very good TV writer, playwright and novelist. Perhaps because of the coincidence of names, the author Richard Harris is not quite as well-known as he deserves to be, given that his achievements are many and varied. Among other things, he was responsible for that excellent comedy play, later a TV series, Outside Edge. But it's his work in the crime field that I'm highlighting today.
Harris was closely involved with a wide range of excellent TV series, including Adam Adamant Lives!, Man in a Suitcase, and Shoestring, And back in 1981, he contributed a two-part mystery to the Sunday Night Thriller series. This was The Business of Murder, starring Martin Jarvis, Gareth Hunt, and Judy Loe. An excellent cast, and a story that still sticks in my mind.
I'm not quite sure which came first, the screenplay or the stage play, but The Business of Murder was first performed in Windsor in the same month that the TV version was screened, moving to London in April that year. Even though you might think the TV screening would have spoiled it for many fans, it became hugely successful, running for eight years. This was an era when thrillers did very well on the London stage, in the wake of Sleuth and Francis Durbridge's popular crime plays. Will the stage thriller ever regain such prominence in the West End? It doesn't seem likely right now, but as the revival of interest in crime classics in paperback shows, you never can tell.
I've never seen the stage version, but I've refreshed my mind about the storyline by reading the playscript. And it's certainly a clever piece of writing. Richard Harris has been a highly successful storyteller for many years, and this tale of a bitter man's ingenious revenge is surely one of his best. The play is still regularly performed in provincial theatres, and if I get a chance to see it in the north west sometime, I'll certainly grab it.