Canon Sidney Chambers had never intended to become a detective. Indeed, it came about quite by chance, after a funeral, when a handsome woman of indeterminate age voiced her suspicion that the recent death of a Cambridge solicitor was not suicide, as had been widely reported, but murder.
One cold Thursday morning, in February 1964, a man walked into the church in Grantchester and would not leave. He had fled from his Cambridge hotel after waking to discover that his wife had been stabbed to death. He had been sleeping beside her, the door and windows were locked on the inside and a knife was on the bedside table. The man could remember nothing. Now he was claiming sanctuary.
Orlando Richards had never imagined that he would be killed by a piano falling on to his head.
It was just after midday in late July. The Cambridge students were away on their long vacation, it was early closing, and a summer laziness eased its way across a town whose inhabitants sensed that it was far too hot to do any serious work. They should have been on the river, by the seaside, or enjoying one of the new package holidays abroad.
A London Street. Midsummer, 1746.
A barmaid and a customer charge through the audience, mid argument. They are throwing oranges at each other.
Skulking buck fitch
Bacon-faced hell-cat looby
Dr Johnson takes to the stage, observes.
Gammoning blubber cheeks
Squelch gutted dandiprat
Our language is, at present, in a state of anarchy and hitherto, perhaps, it may not always have been the worse for it.
I'll dowse your dog-vane you skulking duck-fucker
Stubble it, you cork-brained bitch booby
Then met Christian a man whose name was Hopeful.
For a long time I took delight of those things which were sold at Vanity Fair; things which, I believe now, would have drowned me in perdition and destruction.
What things are they?
All the treasures and riches of the world. But I found at last, by hearing and considering of things that are divine that the end of these things is death
The Flamingo Club.
As the audience enters Claudette Johnson, a cigarette girl, shows people to their seats, waves and says hello to her friends. Gloria Dee is talking to the barman as he fixes her a drink. Claudette gives Gloria Dee a package that may or may not contain drugs. Gloria goes backstage to get ready for her show.
Sam Morris tries to speak to Claudette and is warned off by Tommy Jackson.
Tommy Jackson has a word with Claudette
Claudette then goes to the bar, and flirts with the barman before taking up a position front of house.
The show begins. Spot on Gloria Dee singing 'All of Me'
A girl screams, her voice piercing the treble line of the music. Suddenly the house lights come back on. The mike goes off. The music stops.
What the hell?
James's play, The Great Passion, based on Bach's St Matthew Passion, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Easter Saturday, 15th April at 2.30 p.m - it will then be available for a month on the BBC Radio IPlayer.
This is the age of hectic anxiety. For those who live in the global bazaar of capitalism, where products are instantly available and individual data is a commodity to be traded, the commercial assault on our senses is so relentless that it has become boring. Everything no matter how private or personal, has a price. Most things, whether we know it or not, are up for sale.
It is, of course, an irony to speak about silence. As soon as you start talking the peace is broken – the word silence is as problematic as the word suddenly – before you finish the word it no longer means what it says –- or future – the first syllable is in the past before you get to the end of the word. Similarly the word “silence” spoken aloud, contradicts its meaning. It is only defined by loss, by its absence.
Like many writers and readers I have often tried to think hard about the nature of the imagination; it used to be called fancy, and often involves unbidden thoughts- ideas that steal up on us when fancy roams, surprising us with their hidden charge; and in many ways the act of writing is an attempt to come to terms with the imagination, to take hold of it, define it, and pin it down lest it escape – it is not dissimilar to the act of trying to remember a dream.
In the eighteenth century David Hume despaired that clever people were becoming isolated in their ivory towers, working on increasingly self-indulgent claptrap, while the rump of humanity contented themselves with the cheap thrill of the easily available: frivolity, trashy entertainment, and shopping.
Does this sound at all familiar to you?