Episode 6 - The Scottish Retreat
Written by Grant Allen
Narrated by Martin Jarvis
The cleverest detective in England is on the track of the wily Clay. An arrest is imminent. But who, actually, is likely to be collared?
Who is Colonel Clay – Master of Disguise
This extraordinary character was invented by the brilliantly original Victorian writer Grant Allen – a great friend and contemporary of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Allen’s stories are remarkable thrillers of pure crime, deception, dazzling trickery and misdirection. Prepare to be fooled.
So what happens?
A master of crime, known as Colonel Clay, sets out to fleece morally dubious millionaire Sir Charles Vandrift. Time and again.
These adventurous episodes are now here as fourteen fascinating podcasts.
Colonel Clay is probably the first great thief of modern detective fiction. The stories, constructed like a series of conjuror’s cabinets, first sparkled in The Strand Magazine in 1896. The sequence of tales, thrillingly told in these podcasts, is uniquely entertaining. A series of crimes, scams, cons, robberies, characterisations and deceptions – all by the same master-criminal and targeting the same victim!
Clay (actually one of his many aliases) relies on his own natural cunning, innate criminality, mastery of disguise and mimicry – plus the assistance of a charming female accomplice. ‘Clay’ stalks his quarry, not wholly trustworthy millionaire Sir Charles Vandrift, with a bagful of audacious schemes – each one more daring, sensational, more lucrative than the last. He’s also devilishly attractive, this wily, highly intelligent con-man.
But who actually is he? He stars in all the stories. But which character is he? Can we spot him? Sometimes we think we’ve got him, only to find we’re barking up the wrong tree.
This master-impersonator, supreme actor, stalks his prey in some intriguing locations. He follows Vandrift, his family and his secretary (dodgy Wentworth who is our story-teller), from England, sometimes to Scotland, to Switzerland, Paris and The Riviera. And New York. It even seems that playwright and wit Oscar Wilde gets involved. Could Oscar be the Colonel?
What is so compelling is that these dramatic echoes from the past resonate today. Now modern-day conmen tend to be faceless – on phones and computers. Back then, confidence tricksters had a different kind of guile and cunning, even charm because they had to work, as did the disguised Clay, face to face.
The world of crime has changed – modern methods, complex conspiracies. But the basic ingredients of human nature – greed, dishonesty, hypocrisy, need – will always provide a platform for the criminal.
And, as Oscar himself tells us: ‘The truth is rarely pure and never simple.’
Narrated by Martin Jarvis, The Crime Hub is proud to find a place online for this exciting writer from a bygone age and introduce Grant Allen to a new audience.
Martin Jarvis OBE
British actor/director Martin Jarvis recently starred (along with Rosalind Ayres) in the acclaimed West End revival of The Importance of Being Earnest; and in the political series Election Spy for BBC One.
Received the Theatre World Award for his performance as ‘Jeeves’ on Broadway. He’s an award-winning director of audio including BBC’s A View from the Bridge starring Alfred Molina.
Martin has the doubtful distinction of appearing in the highest grossing movie of all time: Titanic, and the lowest: United Passions. Other films include Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Phil Spector, Wreck-It Ralph, Kid With the X-Ray Eyes, Buster, Taste the Blood of Dracula. Countless TV appearances: from Law & Order, Doctor Who, David Copperfield and EastEnders to Funny or Die, Stargate Atlantis, Walker Texas Ranger, The Bunker (Emmy Award) and The Bill.
Plus numerous thriller series: Endeavour, Poirot, Marple, Murder She Wrote, A Touch of Frost, Inspector Morse and Numb3rs. For Warner Bros video games he is ‘Alfred’ in Batman, and ‘Finn McMissile’ in Cars for Disney. His Just William and P.G Wodehouse recordings are legendary. He just directed his ninth all-star James Bond adventure for BBC Radio, The Man With the Golden Gun.