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Ultimately, the only way to make the irritation go away was to reach for a blunt instrument or a bottle of pills.
Mavis' face set in the gargoyle snarl which always meant someone would suffer serious emotional or physical damage in the next episode.
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The Serial Murders
by Kim Newman

"Surely, this is common or garden crime," said Richard Jeperson, knuckle-tapping one-way glass, getting no reaction from the woman in the interrogation room. "The Diogenes Club doesn't do ordinary murders."

"Don't watch ordinary television either, do you?"

Inspector Euan Price had a strong Welsh accent: "you" came out with extra vowels, "yiouew."

"The odd nature documentary on BBC2," he admitted, wondering what the goggle-box had to do with the price of tea in China.

"And Doctor Who, sir," put in Fred Regent, Richard's liaison with Scotland Yard.

"Professional interest," explained Richard. "If you had Daleks, we'd do Daleks. Or Autons. That would be Diogenes Club material. We are the boys—and occasional girl—who cope with the extra-normal. This is so … so News of the World."

"'Jockey Ridden to Death by Top Model,'" said Vanessa, the "occasional girl" Richard had thought of. "Sport, crime, smut … just needs a randy vicar to tinkle all the bells."

Richard looked again at the murderess beyond the mirror. She wore jodhpurs and a scarlet huntswoman's jacket. Her hard riding hat was on the table, but her blond hair was still bunned up. He might assume the only creature Della Devyne wanted to see killed had a brushy tail, pointed ears, and a folkloric reputation for cunning. This was not a description of the corpse in the case. Della had calmed down and was waiting patiently for what came next—whether another cup of Ealing Police Station tea or a twenty-five-year stretch in Holloway.

Though the mirroring was on the other side of the glass, Richard saw the tinted ghost of his reflection superimposed over Della. He looked like a crash-dieting Charles II. His moustache alone required more barbering than a glam rock pop star's hair. Today, he wore a tight white-and-pink striped waistcoat over loose scarlet ruffle shirt, black matador britches tucked into oxblood buckle-boots, and a crimson cravatte noosed through a scrimshaw ring representing the Worm Orobouros. He did not match the olive-and-tobacco institutional décor.

Keenly attuned to unvoiced feelings, he could sense mental turmoil whenever a policeman saw him. Your basic bluebottle constantly had to fight a primal urge to yell "Get yer hair cut" at him. When a policeman saw Richard Jeperson, it was usually because his particular, peculiar services were urgently needed. A measure of tact—not to say begging and pleading—was required to secure his assistance.

"Which of you is going to tell him?" said Price to Fred and/or Vanessa.

Tact—indeed, begging and pleading - seemed not to be on offer today.

Richard had the unfamiliar impression that everyone else in the room knew more than he did. He was supposed to be the sensitive, who told people things they hadn't picked up on, then basked—just a little—in the glow of admiration.

Fred and Vanessa looked at each other furtively. His sensitivities prickled again. Neither wanted to own up … but to what? They had alibis, and this wasn't even a whodunit. Price had evidence and a confession. He should be turning Miss Guilty over to briefs, quacks, and the Old Bailey.

"Where have you heard this before?" began Price. "Discovering that her famous, Grand National-winning jockey boyfriend secretly hates horses and takes every chance to maim, injure, or abuse one of the blessed beasts, our lovely lass feels compelled—by a gold-maned nag which speaks to her in dreams—to saddle him up and gallop him around the practice track, with liberal applications of the whip and spurs, until he drops frothing dead?"

"Unique in the annals of crime and lunacy, I'll be bound," said Richard. "But still not a matter for us. Miss Della Devyne …"

"Née Gladys Gooch," put in Vanessa.

"… the former Miss Gladys Gooch is out of her tree, Inspector. That's why she rode Jamie Hepplethwaites to death. And don't try to say the dream horse nonsense makes this a paraphenomenon. Pack her off to Broadmoor and get on with your proper mysteries, like the Ministerial Disappearances or the City Throat-Cuttings."

"Unique, you say?"

"In my experience, which—as you know—is extensive, yes."

"It's not unique, though, look you? DS Regent, tell him."

Richard arched an eyebrow at Fred, who looked distinctly sheepish. Vanessa found something absorbing to examine in her paper cup, which couldn't be tea leaves.

"Zarana, my girlfriend," began Fred, "she follows it, and … you know … you watch a couple, and you need to keep on watching, just to find out what happens next. It's rubbish, of course. Real rubbish. But …"

He fell silent, as if he'd just delivered a speech which began, "My name is Frederick and I'm an alcoholic" to a circle of inadequates on primary school chairs.

"Miss Vanessa," prompted Price. "Could you enlighten our Mr. Jeperson?"

Vanessa crushed the cup and dropped it in a bin.

"We're talking about The Northern Barstows, Richard," she said. "A television programme. A soap opera."

"I've never heard of it."

"It's on the channel with adverts."

"Ah." Richard made a point of limiting his select viewing to the BBC. So far as he knew, the channel-changer on the front of his set only went up to "2."

"Richard believes commercial television was invented by Satan," Vanessa explained to Price.

Actually, Richard didn't believe that—he knew it for a fact.

"What about this 'soap opera'?" he asked.

"Last night, on the Barstows," said Vanessa, "'Delia Delyght' killed 'Jockie Gigglewhites' with exactly the same m.o. Whips, spurs, saddle, the lot. I didn't see that coming, and the storyline's been running for months."

Yesterday evening, Vanessa had cried off a visit to a reputedly haunted tube station, disused since the Blitz and blighted by spectral ARP wardens. Her story was that an unexpected aunt was in town and needed looking after. It seemed improbable to Richard that he hadn't sensed the dissembling, but Vanessa was too close. He didn't suspect his associates of leading secret, shameful lives. The "haunting" turned out to be down to rumbling drains and a rack of forgotten gas masks.

"Highest viewing figures since that documentary about the Queen eating cornflakes," said Fred. "Pubs empty when the show is on. People everywhere rabbitting nine to the dozen about Delia and Jockie. And you didn't notice."

"I imagine I was too busy re-reading Proust in the original," said Richard.

"I don't doubt it, guv," said Fred. Richard picked up his glum resentment. Now the secret was out, Fred would be in for some ribbing. Except ribbing usually came from Vanessa's direction, and she evidently shared his shameful addiction.

Richard raised an eyebrow at Price, who was lighting his pipe.

"Oh yes," he said, "me too. Never miss the Barstows. At the Yard, see, the lads have a portable set. If you want to rob the Bank of England, do it on Tuesday or Thursday between eight and eight-thirty. No one will show up to nick you 'til you're well away from Threadneedle Street with the loot and Max Bygraves is on."

"I didn't think it was possible to learn anything new at my age," said Richard, "but you've all surprised me. Congratulations."

Clearly, he was the only one whose brain wasn't fogged with "soap." He needed to deliver an incisive explanation, then go back to Albertine disparue. The rest of the populace could happily gorge their minds on rubbish twice a week without bothering him.

"This woman is another sad addict," he declared, pointing at Della-née-Gladys, "and has become a 'copycat.' Struck by the coincidences of names and professions in the fiction, she felt compelled to enact the television story in real life. An argument for severe regulation of such programming, no doubt. The answer to crimes like these is more nature documentaries. But this is a psychological curiosity, not a supernatural event."

"It's not so simple, Jeperson," said Price. "The Northern Barstows guard their future scripts better than MI5 guard our military secrets."

"Lots better," said Vanessa, from bitter experience.

"The point is to be surprising, see. The whole country had to wait to find out what Golden told Delia to do to Jockie. But last night, this woman, Della, did exactly the same thing to the real-life Jamie, at the same time as the programme was going out."

Richard thought about this.

"It's happened before, Jeperson. This case is the Ministerial Disappearances."

"On the Barstows, 'Sir Josiah Shelley' and 'Falmingworth' vanished from a locked cabinet room," said Vanessa. "Just as, in real life, Sir Joseph Keats and his secretary Farringwell disappeared, scuppering passage of the Factories Regulation Bill."

"And the City Throat-Cuttings," said Fred. "Prince Ali Hassan was assaulted by that fanatic on the floor of the stock exchange just when the same thing happened on telly to 'Prince Abu Khazzim.'"

Despite himself, Richard became interested.

· · · · · 


"The horse told me to do it," said Della Devyne.

"In your dreams?" prompted Richard.

"No, that was the horse on the telly. It wasn't exactly like that. Nothing was exactly the same. They changed it just enough to be different. 'Just enough not to be sued,' Jamie always says. Used to say. Oh dear, I'm sorry. That programme used to drive him mad."

"The Northern Barstows?"

Della nodded. She was being cooperative, going over the whole thing with Richard. He'd interviewed murderers before and knew the types. The professionals didn't talk at all, just shut up and took their medicine. The enthusiastic amateurs liked to brag and wanted to see their pictures in the papers. Della fell into a third category, the escapists. Before the big event, they'd been nagged and nagged about something, either by other people (not infrequently their victims-to-be), brute circumstances, or a persuasive inner voice. Ultimately, the only way to make the irritation go away was to reach for a blunt instrument or a bottle of pills. Such cases were as likely to kill themselves as anyone else: self-murder was an escape too.

Della was in a kind of did-I-really-do-that-oh-I-suppose-I-must-have daze. To Richard's certain knowledge, inner voices did occasionally turn out to be external entities, human or otherwise.

"You also watch this television series?"

Della shook her head. "Lately, Jamie stopped me, said it would upset me to see what they'd made us out to be. I always used to follow it though, used to love it, but when they brought in those characters … 'Jockie' and 'Delia'? Well, anyone could tell they were supposed to be us."

"You think the characters were based on you and Jamie?"

"No doubt, is there? They say 'any resemblance with persons living or dead is unintentional,' but they have to, don't they? By law. Jamie looked into having them up for libel … or is it slander? Slander's when it's said out loud and libel's written down."

"A tricky point," Richard conceded. "It would be written down in the script but said out loud by the cast. Who to sue, the writer or the actors?"

"It also has to be not true."

Della stopped. She had owned up to killing, but now wanted to hold back.

Richard took her hands and squeezed. He had the sense that in some way this woman was innocent and he needed to help her.

Price's instincts were good. This was a Diogenes Club case.

"Was it true?" he asked gently, fixing his gaze on her.

"You have lovely eyes," she said, which was nice but not really where he wanted this interview to go. He faintly heard Fred stifling laughter beyond the mirror.

"Yes," she went on, "it was all true. So far as I could make out, from what Jamie said and the questions people kept asking me. As I said, I haven't seen the Barstows in three months. With Jamie gone, I suppose I can watch again. That's something. They have telly in prison, now, don't they? Anyway, when Jockie and Delia came on, Jamie shut me out of the front room and watched on his own. He always came out furious. If you ask me, he was angrier after episodes when Jockie and Delia weren't in the story than when they were."

"Did he take any action? Against the programme?"

"He sacked a couple of grooms, some secretaries, and his manager. Swore up and down that someone must be talking. 'Leaking' he called it, like secrets. It was Watergate to him, you see. They were getting inside his circle, ferreting things out, then putting them on telly. One of the grooms was supposed to have sold some of our old clothes to the people who make the show, for the actors to wear. And not just clothes, but other things, personal things. Jamie kept being asked if he hated horses like Jockie. Every time he denied it, it seemed more like the truth. I know it didn't used to be true, but somehow it came true. I don't know how they did it. There were things only he knew about—things I didn't know—which went out on telly."

"For example …?"

"Do you remember Bright Boy, the horse that threw Jamie at Goodwood, that was kidnapped and never found? On the programme, a horse called 'Lively Lad' injured Jamie … I mean, Jockie. They showed him beating it to death with a cricket bat, then faking the kidnapping. Jamie would never come out and say so, but I think the telly had it right and his story to the papers was a lie. He showed me the ransom note and the ears and tail the kidnappers were supposed to have posted to him. The police took it seriously. They never caught the crooks, though. Jamie got rid of his golf clubs about the same time. Not in the rubbish—in the furnace. You don't burn your clubs if you give up golf, do you? And he didn't give up. He bought a new set. No, Jamie killed Bright Boy, just like Jockie killed Lively Lad. They knew, those clever telly people, they knew."

"Just like they knew about you? About what you did?"

Della's brow creased. Now she was gripping his hand. He felt strength in her—as well as modelling: she was a show-jumper. She knew how to hold the reins, apply the whip. The spurs were excessive, but they had come from Jamie's private tack room.

"I can remember it," she said. "I remember having the idea. I'm not mad. I know a horse doesn't speak inside my head. I know that I'm the horse, really. It's just … it really does seem like someone else was there. Someone who's not here any more. Does that make sense?"

"Almost nothing makes sense, Della."

He leaned in close and whispered, so Price couldn't overhear. "Say that Jamie forced you to ride him, begged you not to stop. It was a sexy game that went too far."

"But …"

"It wasn't exactly like that, I know. But it was something like that, and you should not suffer for this. Understand?"

There was a rattle at the door. Price coming in. Richard let Della's hands go and sat back.

"Inspector Price, how nice to see you? We've got to the bottom of this, I think. Has Miss Devyne been charged?"

Price's face fell. He saw his closed case opening like a parachute.

"The inquest will rule misadventure in embarrassing circumstances. We should let this young lady go. She's had a gruelling experience and needs to be with her friends and family."

Vanessa slipped in, past the Inspector.

"Come along with me, Della," she said. "We'll get you out the back. There are reporters out front."

"No," said Della. "I'd like to see reporters. I have to sometime. And I have something to say they'll want to hear. Before I go, I want to fix my face. May I?""Of course," purred Richard.

Price glared at him in a you've-created-a-monster manner.

Vanessa led Della away, to be presented to her public.

"She bloody did it, Jeperson," said Price, when Della was out of earshot. "You know she bloody did it!"

"Yes, but she didn't bloody mean it."

"What about the throat-cutter? Do we let him go too? He killed five people to get at the prince."

"Leave him be, for now."

"For now?"

Price would have to do a deal of fancy footwork to explain the handling of this case. In the end, it would be all right. If viewers felt the martyred Delia was more than justified in treating the odious Jockie the way she did, they would feel the same about Della. Besides, The Northern Barstows was officially fiction. If it couldn't be proved that what they showed on television had happened in real life, then Delia was off the hook.

"Look at it this way, Price—what with the TV tie-in, you'd never be able to get an unprejudiced jury. It'd be a show trial, run longer than the series, and we'd all end up looking like right plonkers. This way, she gets her own spin-off, and we can go after the real source of the problem."

"Which is …?"

"The Northern Barstows. I want to know more about how the programme is made and the people who make it. Don't worry, I've not forgotten your ordinary murder. It's just something extraordinary is mixed in."

Price shrugged. Richard saw through his gloom to dour Celtic triumph. The Inspector had been right to call the Diogenes Club. Now he could let them make the running.

Vanessa returned.

"How did she do?" Fred asked.

"Stunning … marvellous … saucy …," said Vanessa.

"So much for the Grauniad?" said Fred. "What would the News of the Screws say?"

"'My Kinky Sex Hell With Jammy Jamie: Top Model Tells All—Exclusive!' She called her agent and had him pass on a message to her lawyer. She knew just how much slap to put on for that tearful yet glamorous look."

"Bless," said Richard.

"Now what, guv?" asked Fred.

"You're going to follow up the police cases. Go over the Disappearances, the Throat-Cuttings, and Hepplethwaites. Plus anything else that turns up—my gut tells me there'll be more. Vanessa, doll yourself down to mere gorgeousness so you can pass for a struggling actress and have Della's agent get you an audition for this Barstows effort. Seems like they could do with a touch of metropolitan glamour. I will get up to speed on this apparently significant cultural phenomenon that has somehow managed to pass me by. It seems likely the programme is at least haunted and at worst cursed, so it behooves someone like us to investigate … oh, wait a mo, I've just remembered, there isn't anyone like us. We're the only hope for a happy outcome. Any questions?"

Price, Fred, and Vanessa were all about to speak.

"No, I thought not," Richard said hurriedly. "Let's get cracking. Mysteries don't solve themselves, chaps and chapesse."

· · · · · 


"When I were a lass, Brenda-girl," said Mavis Barstow, ever-accusing finger jabbing at her long-suffering daughter's eye, frosted perm shaking with indignant fury, "times were 'ard … bloody 'ard."

It was a familiar speech, delivered in an accent thick as a Yorkshire coal seam or a Lancashire piecrust without feeling bound to the specific vocal traits of any geographical county. The Barstows lived in Bleeds, an industrial stain on the misty moors of Northshire, a region impossible to locate on ordnance survey maps. In black and white, Mavis was resplendent in a sparkling jet beaded ensemble over a blinding silver blouse. Her diamonds kept flashing under the studio lights. Richard assumed the idea was a low-budget, North of England Joan Crawford. The frankly frumpy Brenda, victim of many a cutting remark, wore a grey swirly minidress and was self-conscious about her chubby knees.

"We 'ad none o' yer fancy edyecashun," continued Mavis, warming to a favourite subject, 'an' only a tart'd wear a frock like tha,' but we 'ad respect, Brenda-girl … bloody respect! I'll hear no more o' this tripe an' onions about you gettin' engaged to a sooty, cause ye're no' too grown-up to bare yer rump an' get a stripin' from yer Da's old miner's belt."

"But Mam," whined Brenda, who strangely had a Birmingham accent, "I'm with child!"

Mavis' face set in the gargoyle snarl which always meant someone would suffer serious emotional or physical damage in the next episode. The theme tune cut in, an unacknowledged collaboration between the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and the Pink Floyd. Credits slid across still photographs of slag-heaps, urchins, and strikers from the 1930s. The Barstows had come a long way since then, though you'd not know it from listening to Mavis the Matriarch.

Richard was once held captive for three weeks by a scorpion cult who were practiced in Black Acupuncture, the science of inflicting non-lethal but excruciating pain by applying venom-tipped needles to the nerve endings. On another occasion, he had found it necessary to crawl through three miles of clogged-up Victorian sewer filth in order to throw off a determined shapeshifter who was on his scent. Not to mention a childhood spell in a German labour camp, traumatic enough to blank out any memory of whoever he had been before Captain Geoffrey Jeperson found him in the ruins of Europe and adopted him. But nothing in his experience was quite as agonising as a fortnight in the basement screening room of Amalgamated Rediffusion Television's West London offices, watching episode after episode of The Northern Barstows. He would never hear that infernally memorable theme tune again without wincing.

Lady Damaris Gideon, MP, was on the ART Board of Directors and owed a favour to the Diogenes Club. In 1928, Edwin Winthrop—Richard's predecessor and sometime mentor—supervised a gruesome pest-control exercise at Gideon Towers, ridding caverns underneath the estate of a branch of the family who had practiced obscene rites in the sixteenth century and degenerated into nastily toothy mole-folk. Thirty-five years on, no longer the ingénue who'd required rescuing from her many-times-removed cousins' appalling larder, Lady Dee wore long sleeves to cover bite-marks and tinted contacts to conceal the pink, distinctive Gideon Eye. A tough-minded survivor of far more terrifying battles in business and politics, she was well up on the trouble in Northshire and was only too happy to dump the problem in someone else's lap.

"O'Dell-Squiers have their own fiefdom with that wretched programme," she had said, "and the Board would not be unhappy to see them taken down a peg, just so long as the unwashed keep watching the adverts."

Having now seen their O'D-S logo over two hundred times, Richard knew O'Dell-Squiers made The Northern Barstows on behalf of ART, who syndicated it through the Independent Television network. The production company was owned by June O'Dell, the actress who played Mavis Barstow, and her ex-husband, Marcus Squiers, the writer who had "created" the show.

Lady Dee was the only person Richard had run into on this case who wasn't a Northern Barstows fan. In fact, the MP refused even to cast a cold, contemptuous Gideon Eye at anything broadcast by the company which paid her a fat salary plus dividends simply for gracing an annual meeting with her presence and a letterhead with her esteemed name. In what sounded like an uppercrust Mavis Barstow rant, she told him she loathed the wireless ("especially those ghastly transistors"), despised television on principle ("it's for being interviewed on, not watching"), was iffy about talking pictures, and none too sure if music halls should be allowed.

The most useful thing to come out of the meeting was that Lady Dee had put Richard in touch with Professor Barbara Corri, "this batty spinster from one of those plateglass pretend-universities." The professor was infamous for pestering ART with questions about The Northern Barstows. The programme was her field of study, and she taught a course around it at the University of Brighton.

"In my salad days at Shrewsbury," said Lady Dee, coming over Mavis again, "it was Greek and Latin, with a bare minimum of Shakespeare to satisfy the 'moderns.' None of this rot you read in the Sundays about degrees in plays full of swearing or pop records by the Bootles. But she knows her onions, this Barbara Corri. If you absolutely have to find out about this dreadful thing, she's your best bet. ART could scrape up a consultancy fee if needs be. We've an interest in settling this curse. Sir Joseph Keats was on the Board too. Is still, if he ever turns up alive."

Among Professor Corri's works was a paper in Television Monograph entitled " 'Women of A Certain Age': The Stereotyping of the Independent, Powerful Woman in British Television Serial Drama: Crossroads, The Northern Barstows, Coronation Street." Richard tracked it down and did his best to understand the argument before phoning her and offering to spring for train tickets and accommodation over an unspecified period if she would pitch in on what he vaguely defined as "a research project." The students were on vac, so she was available and had enthusiastically agreed to meet Richard at the ART offices.

He arrived first and waited in the company's reception area under a bank of photo-portraits of the company's in-favour stars. Pride of place was given to a positively Queen Motherly, four-times-the-size-of-the-rest June O'Dell. A workman was replacing a scowling young man with a grinning, quiffed comedian. Richard considered the discarded picture.

"That's Donald Shale," said a woman who'd come in while he was pondering the brevity of fame in an age of mass communications. "'Jockie Gigglewhites.' Written out and gone from our screens. Typecast as a sadistic shrimp. Not good for long-term career prospects."

Richard turned to meet Professor Corri, then mentally rebuked himself for subscribing to a stereotype of "women of a certain age" just as set in stone as anyone else's in "the dominant culture." Lady Dee called Barbara Corri a "spinster," which might technically be true in that she was past forty and unmarried. It wasn't the label Richard would have applied. He would have inclined to something like "stunner."

The professor's well-fit mustard and cream trouser suit emphasised her womanly shape. A double rope of pearls circled her admirably swanlike neck. Her face was sculptured and cool, with symmetrical smile lines. She raised Queen Bee sunglasses, using them as an alice band in her upswept auburn hair, and showed amused, sparkling light-hazel eyes. Male students with little interest in "Approaches to British Television Serial Drama" must sign up for her course just to sit at the front and watch her suit stretch tighter as she stood on tiptoes to chalk up a reading list.

"I really must thank you, Mr. Jeperson," she said, shaking his hand with a good grip. She wore violet chamois gloves. "I've been trying to get in here for ages. You obviously know the magic words which open up the vaults."

She offered him her arm, a curiously old-fashioned gesture, and proposed, "Shall we delve?"

Having spent two weeks in a darkened room steeped with Barbara Corri's fragrance, Richard wished the flickering twaddle on the screen hadn't been a distraction. However, without the waft of ylang-ylang and the delicate susurrus of the professor's rapider breath during "high-emotion" moments, he'd have been driven to gnaw off his own arm by June O'Dell's relentlessly strident Mavis, let alone the provincial stooges who came and went as the fortunes of the family rose and fell and rose and fell again.

Bleeds seemed bereft of a middle class. The characters—most related by blood, marriage, or liaison—were either disgustingly rich and vulgar or appallingly poor and noble, sometimes shifting from one end of the socio-economic spectrum to the other within a few episodes. The show featured a strange meld of cartoonish social stratification and fractured time-space continuum. The haves lived in the highly coloured present, where floating walls were adorned with pop-art prints and dolly birds strutted in hot-from-Carnaby-Street fashions. The have-nots were stuck in a black and white Depression of an earlier decade or even—in the cobbles, fog, and gaslight district—a bygone century.

After each episode, the lights came up and Professor Corri added footnotes while the desk-sized videotape player cooled down and an archivist rewound the magnetic tape and stowed the fanbelt-sized spool.

"'Brenda's Black Baby' is the big plotline of 1969 to '70," said the professor. "It divided the country, played out over two whole years. It's something only a soap can do, tackle story in real time. We see Brenda's affair with Kenny Boko, a jazz musician who works in one of Cousin Dodgy Morrie's nightclubs. She has to deal with a voodoo curse placed by Mama Cartouche, Kenny's former girlfriend …"

For a moment, Richard was interested. Voodoo curses were in his usual line.

"… then Mavis finds out, and is set against the relationship, as in the episode we've just seen. For a short time, Mavis becomes a pin-up for the National Front. They fight a Birmingham by-election using a Mavis quote, 'No Daughter of Mine Would Marry a Bloody Darky.' Their vote goes up, and for the first time in that constituency they don't lose their deposit. But, over the months, Mavis comes to accept the situation, and delivers Baby Drum herself on Guy Fawkes Night, with fireworks in the background. The 'Birth of Drum' episode was the first Barstows in colour. Sales of colour sets tripled in the weeks before the event."

"What happened to the baby? He's not in the recent shows we've seen."

"Lost in an Andean plane crash with Brenda, when Karen Finch, the actress, was written out overnight. She had a salary dispute with O'Dell-Squiers and got unceremoniously dumped. Aside from O'Dell, Finch was the longest-lasting member of the original cast. And she doesn't have a piece of the show. Rather a sad story, actually, Finch. Had a breakdown and went around saying she was 'Brenda Barstow,' soliciting donations for a mission to rescue Baby Drum from South American cannibals. There's a cruel instance of intertextuality on Barstows as Mavis is strung along by a con-woman who claims to be Brenda, her face different thanks to plastic surgery, also running a bogus charity scam. Of course, this is where we came in. The vexed relationship between reality and fiction. Romans-à-clef are nothing new in serial drama, back to Dickens and Eugéne Sue. People have been bringing suit or making complaint that this or that fictional character is a libellous version of themselves at least since Whistler forced George du Maurier to rewrite Trilby to take out some digs at him. Sometimes, it seems our reality is a disguised version of The Northern Barstows rather than the other way round. The bogus Brenda is arrested and imprisoned before Karen Finch is taken to a secure hospital."

"Just like Delia and Della?"

"That seems to be near-simultaneous, which goes beyond my idea of credible. Still, Marcus Squiers says every time he dreams up a storyline the rest of the writing staff pooh-pooh as beyond belief, he reads in the newspapers that the exact same thing is happening somewhere."

"An assassin in full Omar Sharif gear riding a camel into the stock exchange and slashing about himself with a scimitar?"

"That's one of the more extreme incidents."

"But there are more?"

"Dozens. In the early days, when Barstows is squarely in the British realist tradition, it doesn't happen much or at all. Mavis and the rest are metaphorically, and occasionally literally, incestuous. Storylines concentrate on the family and their dependents. Then Barstow & Company become a power corporation and Mavis goes high society and mixes with government ministers, pop stars, sports celebrities, and gangsters. Slightly disguised caricatures of well-known people are a major ingredient in the formula. Clive James says you're not really famous until you've been misrepresented on The Northern Barstows, but of course they've never done him, so that might be sour grapes. Then, as we know, Bleeds bleeds. Things happen on Barstows which then happen in real life. It's a problem for me. My interest is in soap as representation, but it seems Barstows has stopped representing and started being. I'm not sure what discipline covers the situation now. Yours, probably."

"Mine, definitely."

Barbara Corri had looked him up too and had a fair idea of his discipline. The University of Brighton had its own two-man School of Parapsychology, where student volunteers took carefully measured doses of hallucinogen to open their third eyes and played with Rhine cards or tried to make hamster wheels spin with the power of their minds. She had asked about Richard there, and her colleagues were impressed—not to mention murderously envious as only an underfunded academic could be—that she was being seconded by the legendary Diogenes Club.

"Shall we press on and look at the next episode?"

Two weeks ago, they had started with the original six-part drama from 1964, in which self-made rag trade millionairess Mavis Barstow coped with the sudden loss of her husband ("Da") and recriminations around the funeral led to an irreversible break-up of her extended family. The serial proved so popular that ART commissioned an ongoing series from O'Dell-Squiers, which meant the irreversible break-up turned out to be reversible after all. Richard had sampled episodes from different periods of the show. After looking at the recent storylines which paralleled the Hepplethwaites, Keats, and Hassan cases, they had dipped back into the archive to view representative or significant episodes selected by Professor Corri to give a sense of the "evolving totality of Barstows."

He put his hand on the professor's warm knee and shook his head.

"I think I've seen enough. My eyes have gone square, and I can't get Mavis' voice out of my head when I try to sleep. This phase of the project is concluded."

"Where do you want to go from here, Richard?"

It was the first time she had used his first name. He had an impulse to take things from here in a direction entirely unconnected with the mystery. He recalled his duty and took back his hand, hoping he could sense in the professor a response that should be filed away and dealt with later.

"Barbara,' he said, savouring the syllables, "I believe there is only one logical place to go. Bleeds, in Northshire."

Her eyes were startled a moment. Then she smiled, shocked to giggles."Can I come too?"

"I insist on it."

"What fun. I'm on sabbatical, so I'm yours for as long as you need me."

He could not resist putting his hand back on Barbara's knee.

"Excellent," he said. "I'm sure you'll come in handy. You can be my native guide in the jungles of … television."

· · · · · 


"Northshire" was confined to Haslemere Studios, deep in the Home Counties. As a boy, Richard had assumed there was a connection between the Home Counties and the BBC's Home Service. The cut-glass accent he had grown up speaking issued from both.

"Semiologically, Surrey is more 'Southern' than Brighton," observed Barbara as they drove past a road sign indicating the turnoff for the studios. "The South Coast is Southerly in a mere geographic sense. Haslemere is what Northerners mean when they talk about 'the South.'"

Professor Corri was from Leicester, originally—which was neither up nor down. Like Richard, she spoke with an accent learned from the wireless and films with Celia Johnson. It struck him that in thirty years' time everyone in the United Kingdom might speak like The Northern Barstows. He felt a chill in his bones.

"To a world of bad faith and inauthenticity," he pronounced.

His gloomy toast sounded odd in the leather-upholstered interior of the Rolls Royce Silver Shark. After all, his own "natural" voice was a legacy of listening to the clipped, posh urgency of Dick Barton Special Agent and Journey Into Space. Still, he dreaded the idea of newsreaders, cabinet ministers, and Harley Street specialists who sounded like Mavis Barstow.

The car slid down a narrow lane, with tall hedgerows to either side, and a tree canopy that gave the road ahead a jungle dappling. He remembered Barbara was supposed to be his "native guide."

They were waved past a barrier by a uniformed guard who didn't check the authorisation Lady Damaris had provided. Anyone in a Rolls was entitled onto the lot. After they had passed, the boom came down on a carpenter's van, and the guard executed a thorough inspection of a load of lumber some production designer was probably fretting about.

A young man with hair past the coat-hanger-shaped collar of his tight-waisted lemon-and-orange shirt was waiting in the car park. He carried a clipboard and a shoulder-slung hold-all that could only be called a handbag.

"Lionel Dilkes," said the professor. "PR. An old enemy."

For an old enemy, Lionel was demonstratively huggy and kissy when Barbara got out of the Silver Shark. He looked at everything sidelong, tilting his head one way or the other and peering through or over aviator shades. Richard estimated that he was envious of Barbara's plunging crepe de chine blouse and pearl choker.

"This is Richard Jeperson," she said.

Lionel tried looking at him with and without the tint and from several angles.

"The Ghost-Hunter?"

"Think of me as a plumber. You have a funny smell coming from somewhere and damp patches all over the living room ceiling. I'm here to find out what the trouble is and put a stop to it."

Lionel shrugged, flouncing his collar-points.

"Make my job easier, luv," he said. "All the rags want to write up is the bloody curse. Can't give away pics of Ben Barstow's new bit on the side. And she's a lovely girl. She'll show her tits. She says she won't now, that she's an 'actress,' but a flash of green and it'll wear off. No worries at all on that score. You'd think she was a natural for the Comet or Knight. But no, all the pissy reptiles care about is the sodding curse. They're all running girlie shots of that horsey cow Della Devyne! All she's ever done is kill someone, and not in an original way. I voted to sue her for plagiarism. It's getting to be a complete embarrassment. And guess who Mavis Upstairs blames?"

Lionel thumbed at his own chest.

"Mavis Upstairs?"

"June O'Dell, luv. Round here, she's Mavis Upstairs. You can't get near her, I should warn you now. She's leading artiste and is always in her own head-space. When she's not on set, she's in her 'trailer'—that's a bloody caravan to you, luv—surrounded by joss sticks, chocolate assortments, and botty totty."

"I will need 'access all areas' if I'm to do any good."

"You can need all you want, sunshine. I'm just telling you Mavis Upstairs isn't covered by the law of the land. She's a National Institution, though some round here who say she ought to be in one. Ooops, pardon, slip of the tongue, naughty me."

Lionel extended a wrist, limp enough to count as a stereotype all of its own, and slapped himself.

"Lionel mustn't let his tongue flap like that. Slappy slap slap!"

Richard raised an eyebrow.

"You'll get used to it, luv," said Lionel. "We're all indiscreet round here. You don't get appointed to a job on The Northern Barstards, you get sentenced to one. No time off for good behaviour, so don't expect to find any."

Lionel turned and walked away. His Day-Glo green velvet trousers were too taut at the hip to allow circulation to the legs but flared so widely at the ankle that he could only progress with a peculiar wading motion.

"Come on," he said, looking back over his shoulder, lowering his shades, "meet the Barstards …"

· · · · · 


Lionel took Richard and Barbara up to what looked like a zeppelin hangar and touched a black plastic lozenge to a pad beside a regular-sized door, which sprung open for thirty seconds to let them in then slammed shut and refastened like an air lock. The PR led them up a rickety staircase to an ill-lit nest of desks and couches, where people were shouting at each other while talking on telephones to (presumably) other people elsewhere.

"Welcome to the Bad Vibes Zone," said Lionel.

"Interesting expression," commented Richard.

"Came up with it on my own, luv. Now, don't take this wrong, but walk this way."

He flounced—deliberately—into a labyrinth of partitions, leading Richard and Barbara along a twisting path, hurrying them past perhaps-interesting individuals in their own cubicles.

"We need more space," admitted Lionel. "ART like to keep O'D-S in a tiny box. Stops us getting to big for our boots. In theory. Guess what? Theory don't work. They don't make boots ginormous enough for how big this lot think they are."

They came to an area where a small, bald, damp-cheeked middle-aged man in a cheesecloth sarong sat cross-legged on a giant mauve cushion with appliqué sunflowers. The Buddha-like figure was surrounded by long-haired youths of both sexes who were waving long strips of yellow paper like Taoist prayers. On the strips were scrawled arcane symbols in biro.

"This is a script conference," whispered Lionel. "Hush hush, genius at work. That's Mucus Squiers. It's his fault."

"For creating the programme?" asked Richard.

"For not throttling Mavis Upstairs in her sleep when he had the chance. They used to be married, though that's not a picture anyone should have in their head, luv."

Richard looked again at Squiers. The writer-producer would be happier in a bowler hat, collar, and tie, carrying a rolled-up umbrella. The guru look was the only way he could get respect from his staff writers. For a moment, Richard thought the man was holding a blue security blanket—but it was a large handkerchief which he was using to mop his freely perspiring brow.

Two girls with beehive hairdos, whose general look was ten years out of date rather than the normal-round-here five, took shorthand dictation on big pads, like courtroom stenographers. Squiers was assembling a script by taking suggestions from the circle, rejecting a dozen for every one he took. Whenever he let a line or a bit of business through, the originator glowed with momentary pride and the rest of the pack looked at him or her with undisguised hatred even as they agreed that the contribution was a work of genius. The genius in question belonged to Marcus Squiers for making the selection, not to any of the acolytes for chattering forth stream of consciousness material, tossing out notions to burn and die in the sunlight, in the hope that one or two might grow up to be concepts, then get a thick enough carapace to become actual ideas.

"Next, after the ad-break …?" asked Squiers.

"We've not seen Cousin Dodgy Morrie for two weeks," put in a girl with glasses that covered four-fifths of her face. "His plots are still dangling."

"Uh-uh, Mavis won't have it. She's in a sulk with Morrie since he got that good notice in the Financial Times."

"He could have an 'accident,'" pressed someone, seeing an opportunity.

Squiers shook his head. "We still need CDM. It's poor bloody Sydney who got the review."

"Sydney Liddle plays Cousin Dodgy Morrie," whispered Barbara.

"Could we 'Darrin'?" asked a smart-suited Pakistani man.

Squiers blotted droplets from his temples. "We've used up our 'Darrin' this year, with the Bogus Brenda."

"To 'Darrin' is the practice of replacing an actor in a continuing role with another," said Barbara. "It comes from the American sitcom Bewitched."

"The BB wasn't a full 'Darrin'," said the girl with the glasses. "That was a 'Who.'"

"A 'Who' is a modified 'Darrin,'" said Barbara, "from …"

"Doctor Who?"

Barbara patted him on the shoulder. "You're learning to speak TV, good. A 'Who' is when you do a 'Darrin' but have an excuse, like the Doctor regenerating from one star to another, or plastic surgery, which is what they did with the Bogus Brenda, who …"

"… returned, having had the face-change she had previously only claimed to have had, intent on getting revenge on Mavis Barstow for cutting her inside man, Mavis' nephew Ben, out of the family business."

"You're a fan!"

"No, I just paid attention in the last two weeks."

Squiers looked up and fixed them with watery eyes.

"Who are these people, Lionel, and do we pay them to mutter during script time?"

"This is the … um, plumber."

Lionel made all sorts of eye-rolls and contortions. Squiers squinted blankly.

"He's come about the … you know … thing we do not mention … the c-word?"

The penny dropped. At least with Squiers, who took another look at Richard. The writer-producer was in the loop on the investigation, but the rest of the pack were best kept in the dark. If this was where the ideas came from, this was the likely source of the problem.

"Fair enough," said Squiers. "Sit comfortably at the back and don't speak up unless you've got a better idea than any of these serfs. Which, on their recent record, isn't unlikely."

There were only large scatter-cushions available. Richard settled on one, achieving perfect lotus. Barbara managed sidesaddle. Lionel leant against a wrought-iron lamppost that happened to have sprouted in the middle of the office, and cocked his hip as if the fleet were in.

"Now, CDM is out until the Moo cools down …"

Barbara mouthed the words, so Richard could lip-read. "M.U. Mavis Upstairs. The Moo."

"Besides, we've got other patches to water."

"D-Delia D-Delyght is about to go to t-trial," stuttered a fat fellow who wore a school cap with a prefect's tassel.

"Last month's story, Porko," sneered Squiers. "You lose the cap."

He snatched it away.

"B-b-but …," b-began Porko.

Squiers waved the cap about by its tassel.

"Who wants the thinking cap this week? Come on, you fellows. Pitch in. There's all to play for. Yaroo. What about Ben's new bit?"

"Lovely Legs," said someone, approving.

"That's right. The lovely Lovely Legs. The bogus Brenda, of whom we just spoke, people! More formally, Miss Priscilla Hopkins. Granddaughter of … come on, anyone, it wasn't that long ago? I know you were all in nappies when the series started. Come on …"

Blank looks all around.

"Barnaby Hopkins," said Barbara. "Da Barstow's original partner, whom Mavis cheated out of his share of the business."

Squiers nodded approval.

"Thank you, whoever you are. It goes to show we do better with strangers off the street … I beg your pardon, madam, but I'm making a point … than with you bright new graduates and ashram drop-outs. With my producer's hat on, I have to wonder why we pay you all so much."

Faces fell in shame.

"Yes, Priscilla Hot-pins," emphasised Squiers, "away being Eliza Doolittled to extreme poshness, not to mention tending and caring for her remarkably glamorous gams, and now back for … what?"

"Revenge," suggested Glasses Girl, tentative.

"One of your basic plot motors, yes. But what else? Is she cracking a bit? Learning to love the enemy? Has Ben's crooked smile and sans-gorm charm worked a spell on her? Who knows? I don't. But let's get them together a bit more and find out, eh?"

The business of putting a scene together seemed a lot like Cluedo—Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Poison. This was Priscilla in the Barstow Boardroom with the Suspender Belt. About the first thing Richard had noticed about The Northern Barstows was that every other scene involved sex. The writing pack got excited as they frothed up the seduction of Mavis' nephew. With the Bogus Brenda back as a new face, a whole spiral of story possibilities fell into place. It was another Barstows standard procedure: over the years, especially since the Bona Fide Brenda was written out, several other women had been brought in as antagonists for Mavis, built up either as villains or martyrs, and eventually ejected in some cataclysmic plot event, such as the murder which had just removed Delia Delyght from the screen. Richard wondered if these women tended to depart soon after the actresses started to get as much fan mail or column inches as June O'Dell.

He tuned out what was being said and tried to get a feel for the room, for the way the meeting worked. Squiers was in control, but barely. He tossed the prefect's cap to whoever was in favour at the moment, and other rituals established a tribal pecking order, and ways to jostle for position, claim or forfeit advantage, or be expelled from the light. At times, Squiers was like a preacher, at others like an orchestra conductor. The stenos kept taking it down in shorthand, and yellow strips were waved, spindled, or shredded in the writers' fingers.

"The Moo tells Ben that Priscilla is the Bogus Brenda, that she has always known this, that—in fact—she was responsible for getting her out of jail and bringing her to Bleeds with a new face," said Squiers. "Ben stunned, as usual. Close on Junie's Number Two Expression: Smug Triumph. In with the oompah-and-custard music, and we're done 'til next Tuesday. And God bless us every one. Now scatter and make babies."

He waved, and the writers moved away. Porko's face was wet with tears. Glasses Girl, who had proposed Mavis be behind the Bogus Brenda's return, looked flushed under the prefect's cap, as if experiencing the aftershocks of the best orgasm of her life.

Squiers discarded the now-soaked handkerchief in a receptacle and slumped on his raised couch. Then he noticed Richard and Barbara were still in the circle.

"Not writers, luv," explained Lionel. "They don't vanish when you clap your hands."

Squiers looked at them again, as if this was all new to him. Richard realised the writer-producer's brain had to contain all "the evolving totality" of The Northern Barstows. He was like a medium, a conduit for all the voices of Bleeds. Whatever was going on here was transmitted through the mind of Marcus Squiers. Unlike some people Richard had dealt with, he did not have invisible, evil entities perched on his shoulder. He might well be mad, but it seemed that most folks in his business were.

"Just so long as they don't rattle the Moo cage."

· · · · · 


1. BBC2. At the time of this story, British television had only three channels. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) channels BBC1 and BBC2 were, and remain, free of commercial interruption, supported by the TV license fee; BBC1 is fairly populist, while BBC2 purportedly caters to more select interests. The third channel was ITV (Independent Television), not so much a network as a loose grid of franchise-holding local broadcasters (e.g., Thames Television in the South-East, Westward in the South-West) who carried a great deal of programming in common but with many regional variations. ITV shows might air on different days of the week and in different timeslots in diverse parts of the country. This author remembers manually retuning the family set to catch the blurry, distant signal of HTV Wales to watch Hammer Films not being shown in our area.

2. Doctor Who. UK TV programme (1963-89, 1996, 2005- ) about a time-travelling adventurer, the Doctor (originally William Hartnell).

3. Scotland Yard. The original Scotland Yard, so called because before the union of the crowns of Scotland and England it was a London residence for the Kings of Scotland, was headquarters of the Metropolitan Police from 1820 until 1890, when they moved to New Scotland Yard on the Victoria Embankment. From 1967, the Met has been headquartered in a new New Scotland Yard, which is the place with the revolving sign out front.

4. Daleks. Doctor Who's most persistent foes, introduced in "The Dead Planet" (1963)—machine-encased evil mutants from the Planet Skaro, with distinctive croaking voices ("Ex-ter-min-ate!"). Beneficiaries of a major merchandising blitz in the 1960s—you could even bake Dalek cakes.

5. Autons. Lesser-known alien villains from Doctor Who, introduced in "Spearhead From Space" (1970). They returned in "Terror of the Autons" (1971) and, after a long absence, "Rose" (2005). Plastic entities resembling shop window mannequins.

6. News of the World. British Sunday newspaper, a sensationalist tabloid—known in the 1970s for crime and scandal. In common with other British newspapers now owned by Rupert Murdoch, it has recently become associated with the brand of celebrity muckraking pioneered by US magazines like Confidential—or, in James Ellroy's world, Hush-Hush—in the early '50s.

7. Ealing. A London borough (post-codes W5 and W13). Associated with the now-defunct Ealing Studios, where many famous post-war British films—including the police drama The Blue Lamp (1950)—were shot. The police station is at 67-69 Uxbridge Road.

8. Holloway. A women's prison, located in North London.

9. Bluebottle. Slang—police constable. The expression comes from the distinctive British police helmet, which also gives rise to ruder synonyms.

10. Get yer hair cut. From 1945 onward, the moaning battle cry of middle-aged, balding or short-back-and-sides conservatives at the sight of a man or especially youth with long or even long-ish hair. It has fallen into disuse since kids began to opt for shaven heads or elaborate but cropped hairstyles, but isolated incidences persist. As the generations who endured mandatory military haircuts die off, the shout—which tends to betoken a lack of basic manners on the part of the shouter rather than the usually unassuming shouted-at—will fade away completely.

11. Briefs. Slang, lawyers.

12. The Old Bailey. London's Central Criminal Court.

13. Grand National. A horse race, run annually at Aintree racecourse, near Liverpool. It's a steeplechase, over four-and-a-half miles, with thirty fences, including Becher's Brook (famously dangerous). It was first run in 1836.

14. Broadmoor. Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane—now, Broadmoor Hospital—in Berkshire. The largest secure psychiatric facility in the United Kingdom. Past and present inmates include Daniel M'Naghten, would-be assassin of Prime Minister Robert Peel, Richard Dadd, the artist, June and Jennifer Gibbons, "the Silent Twins," and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

15. DS. Detective Sergeant.

16. Zarana. See "Soho Golem,"

17. Primary school. Grade school.

18. Tube. London Underground Railway, i.e., subway or metro.

19. ARP. Air Raid Police, active during World War Two. Catch-phrase: "Put that light out!"

20. That documentary about the Queen eating cornflakes. The Royal Family, telecast on BBC1 on June 21, 1969. Sixty-eight percent of the British population watched the (excruciatingly dull) two-hour programme. There was much comment about the hitherto-unrevealed details of the Windsors' dietary habits.

21. Guv. Governor (abbr.), boss, chief.

22. Threadneedle Street. The London address of the Bank of England.

23. Max Bygraves. Born 1922, popular crooner and comedian, top-liner of a string of ITV programmes, including Singalongamax and the quiz show Family Fortunes. Specialised in sentimental novelty songs like "You Need Hands" and "Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzanellen Bogen by the Sea." Had UK hits with covers of "Mister Sandman," "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," and that monologue "Deck of Cards."

24. Albertine disparue. The sixth volume of Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu.

25. MI5. The branch of the British Secret Service concerned with internal security, i.e., counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism.

26. Goodwood. A British racecourse.

27. Make the running. A racing expression—to take the lead or set the pace.

28. The Grauniad. The Guardian, the UK newspaper, often chided for its misprints. The nickname comes from the satirical periodical Private Eye.

29. News of the Screws. Popular nickname for the News of the World.

30. Slap. Slang, makeup.

31. Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. Founded 1881, they had a chart success in 1977, holding the UK number two spot (Paul McCartney kept them from number one) with "The Floral Dance."

32. The Pink Floyd. Well-spoken people, like Richard Jeperson and Michael Moorcock, always use the definite article.

33. Shrewsbury. A women's college at Oxford University. Among Lady Damaris' contemporaries was the crime writer Harriet Vane.

34. Television Monograph. Published by the British Film Institute.

35. Crossroads. ITV soap opera, set in a motel outside Birmingham (and about as exciting as that sounds). It ran from 1964 to 1988 and was briefly revived as an afternoon show in the early 2000s.

36. Coronation Street. The UK's longest-running TV soap (The Archers, on the radio, has been going longer), first broadcast in 1960, set in the fictional Weatherfield, which seems a lot like the real Salford. The present author has never watched a single episode. Just minutes after finishing the story, I saw a story ("CORRIE CALL IN GHOST BUSTER") in the tabloid Daily Star about an alleged haunting on the set of the show which parallels the events of "The Serial Murders." Spooky.

37. Ylang-ylang. Perfume derived from the flower of the cananga (or custard-apple) tree.

38. The National Front. A far-right (oh, all right, fascist) British political party; in the 1970s, openly racist and noisy with it. Currently, the BNP (British National Party).

39. Lose their deposit. To stand in a parliamentary election, a candidate must post a sum of money which is forfeit if they poll less than an eighth of the popular vote. From 1918 to 1985, the deposit was £150; now, it's £500. Though fringe parties of the right, left, and satirical (e.g., The Monster Raving Loony Party) traditionally lose their deposits and aren't fussed about it, any candidate of a major party who suffers this fate is greatly humiliated.

40. Guy Fawkes Night. November the fifth. Aka Bonfire Night. So named for a Catholic plotter who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and is still burned in effigy ("the guy") on bonfires. Associated with fireworks displays. In Lewes, Sussex, they symbolically burn the Pope.

41. Eugène Sue. Author (1804-57) of Les mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris, 1842-3) and Le juif errant (The Wandering Jew, 1845).

42. Whistler forced George du Maurier to rewrite Trilby to take out some digs at him. The artist Joseph Whistler objected to a caricature of him as "Joe Sibley" in the serial version of du Maurier's novel—which he rewrote for book publication to omit the offending material. The original version has been restored in modern editions.

43. Clive James. Australian-born cultural commentator, long resident in Britain. He was the TV critic of The Observer from 1972 to 1982; his columns are collected in Visions Before Midnight and The Crystal Bucket.

44. Rhine cards. Devised by Dr. Karl Zener and J.B. Rhine at Duke University in the 1920s, used to test telepathy, clairvoyance or precognition. Each pack has twenty-five cards; each card shows one of five symbols (square, circle, wavy lines, star, cross).

45. Rag trade. Garment industry.

46. Haslemere. Mid-sized town in Surrey.

47. The Home Counties. The counties which border London: definitively Surrey, Kent, Middlesex, Essex; arguably Berkshire, Hertfordshire, and Buckinghamshire. The stereotypical haunt of the upper middle-classes. Conservative candidates rarely lose their deposits in Home Counties elections.

48. The Home Service. One of three BBC radio channels—the others being the Light Programme and the Third Programme—from 1939 to 1970; it was replaced by Radio 4, which is still on the air.

49. Celia Johnson. Star of Brief Encounter, famous for her clipped, "cut-glass" English accent.

50. Dick Barton, Special Agent. BBC radio adventure serial on the Light Programme, from 1946 to 1951. At the height of its popularity, fifteen million listeners followed the adventures of ex-commando Dick and his pals Jock (a Scotsman) and Snowy (a cockney) as they defied foreign baddies. There were three Dick Barton films in the early '50s.

51. Journey into Space. A series of BBC radio science-fiction serials, broadcast on the Light Programme, beginning with "Operation Luna" in 1953. The hero was well-spoken Captain Jet Morgan.

52. PR. Public Relations.

53. Comet. The Daily Comet, a tabloid owned by media baron Derek Leech.

54. Knight. A girlie magazine.

55. Reptiles. Derogatory slang, yellow-press reporters or paparazzi. The term is often used by people in the PR business.

56. Ginormous. Large.

57. Financial Times. UK equivalent of the Wall Street Journal. Published on pink paper.

58. Cluedo. UK tradename for the board game known in the US as Clue.
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