Murder at the Palace
An exclusive recording created for The Crime Hub.
Written by Gyles Brandreth
Narrated by Stephen Fry
When, a few years ago, I discovered that my literary hero, Oscar Wilde, had, in real life, been a friend of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, an idea suddenly came to me – create a series of Victorian murder mysteries featuring Wilde as my Holmes and Conan Doyle as his Dr Watson.
Wilde, I reckoned, was well placed to be an amateur detective because, as well as being a wit and a playwright, he was a poet and so could make those imaginative mental leaps necessary to unravel the knottiest mysteries.
He travelled widely – across the British Isles, across Europe, across America – and he knew everybody, from the Prince of Wales to common street prostitutes. And his circle of close friends included some remarkable characters, among them, for example, Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula, whose wife had once been Oscar’s sweetheart . . . The one rule I set myself was that everything in my stories should be historically accurate – apart from the murders. And some of them were real, too.
Happily, I know Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, so he keeps me straight on the facts.
Happily, I know Stephen Fry, too. He has played Wilde on screen, of course, and is probably the nearest we are going to get to Oscar in the twenty-first century, so I am thrilled that he is reading this short story for CrimeHub.
And it’s a Christmas story, naturally. I always feel Christmas is a time for murder, don’t you?
Gyles Brandreth has written nine mystery novels, seven of them featuring Oscar Wilde. He is the president of the Oscar Wilde Society.
His other books include biographies of the Victorian music hall star, Dan Leno, the actor John Gielgud, and Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. His most recent best-seller is book about spelling, punctuation and grammar, Have You Eaten Grandma? and he has just published a celebration of the power (and importance) of learning poetry by heart: Dancing by the Light of the Moon.
He is the founder of the Poetry Together project encouraging younger people and older people to get together to learn poetry by heart – and have tea! See www.poetrytogether.com
Gyles is former MP and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and now Chancellor of the University of Chester. As a broadcaster, he is a veteran of Countdown, QI, Have I Got News For You, and Celebrity Gogglebox, a reporter on The One Show on BBC1 and a regular on Just a Minute on Radio 4.
As a performer he has appeared in his own musical revue in the West End and, most recently, as Claudius and Polonius in Hamlet at the Park Theatre and as Lady Bracknell in a musical version of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Riverside Studios.
In 2020 he is touring the UK with his award-winning one-man show about the theatre, Break a Leg! A prolific journalist, he has a monthly column in The Oldie, and he cohosts a weekly podcast about words and language with his friend, the lexicographer Susie Dent, called Something Rhymes With Purple.
Stephen Fry is an English author, actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, broadcaster, podcaster and film director.
Whilst at university, Fry became involved with the Cambridge Footlights, where he met his long-time collaborator and friend Hugh Laurie. As half of the comic double act Fry and Laurie, he co-wrote and co-starred in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, and took the role of Jeeves (with Laurie playing Wooster) in Jeeves and Wooster.
Fry’s acting roles include an award-winning performance as Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film Wilde, Melchett in the BBC television series Blackadder, Peter Kingdom in the television series Kingdom, Gordon Deitrich in the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta, Mycroft Holmes in Warner Brothers’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Master of Laketown in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit.
He played a Georgian presidential candidate in HBO’s Veep and Roland in CBS’ series The Great Indoors. He has also written and presented several documentary series, including the Emmy Award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, and was the long-time host of the BBC television quiz show QI.
He played Prime Minister Alistair Davies in the 9th season of Fox TV’s 24: Live Another Day.
As a proudly out gay man, the award-winning Out There, documenting the lives of lesbian, bisexual gay and transgender people around the world is part of his thirty year advocacy of the rights of the LGBT community.
He has been President of Mind, Britain’s largest mental health charity, since 2011 and an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists for over ten years.
As well as his work in television, Fry has contributed columns and articles for newspapers and magazines, appears frequently on radio, reads for voice-overs and has written three volumes of autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot, The Fry Chronicles and his latest, More Fool Me.
Fry has written four novels, The Liar, The Hippopotamus (made in to a feature film in 2018), Making History and The Stars’ Tennis Balls. Translated into many languages, they have never been out of print.
He has won many prizes for his performances as an audiobook narrator – of his own works and most notably as the voice of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
His book on poetic form The Ode Less Travelled is widely used in schools and colleges as a guide to prosody.
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