Flipping through old British mystery and courtroom drama shows this weekend, my attention was hooked when the lead character, a gruff, cigar-smoking barrister, starts off the first show by quoting my favorite poem by my favorite poet, Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, by William Wordsworth.
"Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy," the barrister intones, "but he beholds the light and whence it flows, he sees it in his joy."
By now, you may have guessed which garrulous curmudgeon of TV and literary fame I'm referring to. Yes, it's Horace Rumpole himself -- the beloved character created by John Mortimer, inspired by his own father. This series is one of those odd hybrids where the TV series and novel series kind of developed side by side. Mortimer's first compilation, the 1978 classic, Rumpole of the Bailey, was actually an adaptation of the scripts from the six shows in the first season of the TV series.
One of the fun things about the Madison County Public Library is that if you have an interest in something like this, we have available for checkout with your trusty library card many of the parts that make up the whole experience.
For example, we have many of the Rumpole books available in a variety of formats. But you can also check out the TV series on DVD. And just recently, we added a new digital service that allows you to stream a number of British shows through Acorn TV. The information is on our website, www.madisonlibrary.org in the section at the bottom of the page called "Online Services." You will need your library card number and PIN to set up an account.
So this week's book list offers a few British novel series that have also found their way to the small screen.
Rumpole of the Bailey, by John Mortimer
"Horace Rumpole -- dishevelled barrister at law, drinker of claret and smoker of cigars, inveterate quoter of Wordsworth and eternal defender of the underdog - is one of the greatest English comic characters ever created. This is the original volume of Rumpole stories, introducing us to the legal triumphs that first made the Old Bailey Hack's name, along with a host of choice villains, frequent forays to Pommeroy's wine bar and, of course, his formidable, magisterial wife Hilda, She Who Must Be Obeyed." From the cover
Available in eAudio format, DVD, and seven seasons of the show available to stream with Acorn TV
The Devil: A Jack Taylor Novel, by Ken Bruen
"America -- the land of opportunity, a place where economic prosperity beckons -- but not for PI Jack Taylor, who's just been refused entry.
"Disappointed and bitter, he thinks that an encounter with an over-friendly stranger in an airport bar is the least of his problems. Except that this stranger seems to know rather more than he should about Jack.
"Jack thinks no more of their meeting and resumes his old life in Galway. But when he's called to investigate a student murder -- connected to an elusive Mr K -- he remembers the man from the airport.
"Is the stranger really is who he says he is? With the help of the Jameson, Jack struggles to make sense of it all.
"After several more murders and too many coincidental encounters, Jack believes he may have met his nemesis. But why has he been chosen? And could he really have taken on the devil himself?" From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond; three seasons of the show Jack Taylor available to stream through Acorn TV
The Dead Ringer: An Agatha Raisin Mystery, by M.C. Beaton
"The team of bells at St. Ethelred church is the pride and glory of the idyllic Cotswolds village of Thirk Magna, together with the most dedicated bell ringers in the whole of England: the twins Mavis and Millicent Dupin.
"As the village gets ready for the Bishop's visit, the twins get overly-excited at the prospect of ringing the special peal of bells created for the occasion and start bullying the other bell ringers, forcing them to rehearse and rehearse . . . so much so that Joseph Kennell, a retired lawyer, yells at the sisters that he 'felt like killing them'!
"When the twins' home is broken into one night and Millicent is found dead, struck from a hammer blow, suspicion falls onto the lawyer.
"Will Agatha unmask the real killer and clear Joseph's name?" From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond and Berea; 2 seasons of the show, Agatha Raisin, available for streaming with Acorn TV
Hidden Depths: A Vera Stanhope Mystery, by Ann Cleeves
"A hot summer on the Northumberland coast, and Julie Armstrong arrives home from a night out to find her son murdered. Luke has been strangled, laid out in a bath of water and covered with wild flowers. This stylized murder scene has Inspector Vera Stanhope and her team intrigued." From GoodReads.com
Available in print in Richmond and Berea; Seven seasons of the show, Vera, available for streaming with Acorn TV