On the 3rd April 1943 the very first Saturday Night Theatre was broadcast featuring Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey
in "The Man With
Author : Dorothy L. Sayers
Play : The Man With No Face
|Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey is a fictional character in a series of detective 11 novels and numerous short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers, in which he solves murder mysteries.
Wimsey was born in 1890 and served in World War I. During the war he was injured and suffered a bad case of shell shock for several months afterwards. He eventually recovers, and hires his compatriot in the war, Sergeant Mervyn Bunter as his valet. Throughout the books Bunter always takes care to address Wimsey as "Your Lordship" nevertheless, he is obviously a friend as well as (or more than) a servant, and Wimsey again and again expresses amazement at Bunter's high efficiency and competence at virtually every sphere of life. Being a man of many talents himself, not least photography, Bunter often proves instrumental in Peter's investigations.
Lord Peter Wimsey's position leaves him financial well-to-do, and he lives primarily in a flat in London, where he collects rare books. At the beginning of the series he is a confirmed bachelor. He began investigating crime as a hobby sometime prior to the earliest published stories, and he's become known to the police as a competent sleuth, especially to his friend Detective-Inspector Parker.
Among Lord Peter's hobbies, apart from criminology, is collecting incunabula (very early printed books). He is an expert on matters of food (especially wine) and male fashion, as well as on classical music. He is quite good at playing Bach's works for keyboard instruments on a piano he even tends more carefully than his books, wines, and cars. One of Lord Peter's cars is a 12-cylinder ("double-six") 1927 Daimler four-seater, which he calls "Mrs. Merdle" after a character in Little Dorrit (by Charles Dickens).
In all Dorothy L. Sayers published 11 Lord Peter Wimsey novels:
Whose Body? (1923), Clouds of Witness (1926), Unnatural Death (1927), The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), Strong Poison (1931), Five Red Herrings (1931), Have His Carcase (1932), Murder Must Advertise (1933), The Nine Tailors (1934), Gaudy Night (1935) & Busman's Honeymoon (1937).
Lord Peter Wimsey also appeared in numerous short stories, significantly The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba which was published in 1929.
In Strong Poison Lord Peter meets Harriet Deborah Vane, a cerebral, Oxford-educated mystery writer and falls in love with her. Together they share many mysteries before eventually marrying in Sayers's final Wimsey novel: Busman's Honeymoon.
Film and TV actor Ian Carmichael (who had previously appeared as Wimsey in two very successful BBC TV series) starred as Wimsey in radio adaptations of all 11 novels. In the original series, which ran on BBC Radio 4 from 1973–1983, only 10 novels were dramatized, with no adaptation being made of the seminal Gaudy Night, perhaps because the leading character in this novel is Harriet Vale and not Peter.
It wasn't until 2005 (and after a gap of 22 years) that Ian Carmichael returned to the role for a specially recorded BBC release of Gaudy Night (for CD and never broadcast on radio - but included in this set here!)
All 11 of Carmichael's Wimseys were fabulous multi-part productions boasting excellent sound effects and strong narratives - in many ways his rendition of Wimsey was the best and he was to become forever identified with role (both on TV and on Radio)
In the 22 year period before Carmichael's 2005 appearance, Micheline Wandor produced The Nine Tailors & Whose Body? for BBC Radio with Gary Bond as Lord Peter. Simon Russell Beale took the role for Michael Bakewell's Strong Poison on 1999. These three adaptations were all one-off plays of between one and two hours each.
The one earlier (and first ever) appearance of Wimsey on radio was in a single Suspense episode from 1942: The Cave of Ali Baba which was taken from a Wimsey short story.
In 1999 Professor Jeffrey Richards fronted an excellent 30 minute BBC documentary about Lord Peter Wimsey on Radio titled "As My Whimsy Takes Me". This very informative program sets the scene for the radio dramatizations of Dorothy L. Sayers most famous sleuth.