Programming note: Steyn's Song of the Week can now be heard weekly on Serenade Radio, every Sunday at 5.30pm Greenwich Mean Time. If you missed today's show, you can hear the repeat at 5.30am Monday UK time - that's 9.30pm Pacific Sunday evening on the West Coast of North America, or Monday lunchtime in Australia.
If that doesn't suit, Serenade has added a second repeat on Thursdays at 9pm GMT - that's 4pm Eastern.
Meanwhile, welcome along to the fifty-first audio adventure in our series Tales for Our Time - and to our first proper detective mystery: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by the world's bestselling author, Agatha Christie. As I explain in my introduction, we chose it not so much for its whodunnit qualities but because it has, for Dame Agatha, an unusually strong sense of time and place - the Great War and the social disruptions it set in motion.
Our first episode opens with a war-wounded Captain Hastings at something of a loose end:
I had been invalided home from the Front; and, after spending some months in a rather depressing Convalescent Home, was given a month's sick leave. Having no near relations or friends, I was trying to make up my mind what to do, when I ran across John Cavendish. I had seen very little of him for some years. Indeed, I had never known him particularly well. He was a good fifteen years my senior, for one thing, though he hardly looked his forty-five years. As a boy, though, I had often stayed at Styles, his mother's place in Essex...
"Your mother keeps well?" I asked.
"Oh, yes. I suppose you know that she has married again?"
John noticed my surprise at the news of his mother's remarriage and smiled rather ruefully.
"Rotten little bounder too!" he said savagely... "The fellow must be at least twenty years younger than she is! It's simply bare-faced fortune hunting; but there you are—she is her own mistress, and she's married him."
"It must be a difficult situation for you all."
"Difficult! It's damnable!"
Thus it came about that, three days later, I descended from the train at Styles St Mary, an absurd little station, with no apparent reason for existence...
To hear me read the first part of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Mark Steyn Club members should please click here and log-in.
Thank you, Mark, for this edition of Tales for Our Time. I never would have encountered Austen in print without your reading of Northanger Abbey. Although the plot of this novel was not of much interest to me, I found Austen's writing style, wit, and humor most impressive and enjoyable. No surprise why she has endured.
Thank you, Tom. A Virginia Steyn Clubber, Nancy Hawkes, agrees:
Thank you Mark. I thoroughly enjoyed this rendition of what I had always been told was a 'dark' story. I now see that it was quite tongue-in-cheek, thanks to your lively interpretation. Did you ever consider being an actor? Your interpretation of each character is unique and gives great insight to someone like me who cannot always interpret the written word well (I am a numbers person).
In that case, Nancy, don't miss today's Song of the Week, because it's one of my favorite numbers. As to my acting, it's semi-credible in short bursts and amusing cameos, but you really wouldn't want to see me do King Lear.
We have all kinds of tales in our archives, from the leisurely comedy of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat to P G Wodehouse with a social conscience in Psmith, Journalist - oh, and some fusty notions of honor and duty in a certain other fellow's The Prisoner of Windsor. Tales for Our Time in all its variety is both highly relevant and a welcome detox from the madness of the hour: over four years' worth of my audio adaptations of classic fiction starting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking tale of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners in The Tragedy of the Korosko. To access them all, please see our easy-to-navigate Netflix-style Tales for Our Time home page. We've introduced a similar tile format for my Sunday Poems and also for our Hundred Years Ago Show.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club over four-and-a-half years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who've signed up to be a part of it - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Cook County to the Cook Islands, West Virginia to the West Midlands. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone.
That said, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including our monthly audio adventures by Dickens, Conrad, Kafka, Gogol, Louisa May Alcott, H G Wells, George Orwell, Baroness Orczy, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Louis Stevenson - plus a couple of pieces of non-classic fiction by yours truly. You can find them all here. We're very pleased by the response to our Tales - and we even do them live occasionally, and sometimes with special guests.
I'm truly thrilled that one of the most popular of our Steyn Club extras these last four-plus years has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed them and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The chance to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly, such as this Wednesday's;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry;
~Booking for special members-only events, such as The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, assuming such events are ever again lawful;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming "live appearances" become a thing once more;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to The Mysterious Affair at Styles but to all the other yarns gathered together at the Tales for Our Time home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you think my take on an enduring classic is as bumbling as Hastings, feel free to have at it.
And do join us tomorrow evening for Part Two of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and every night circa 2am Greenwich Mean Time thereafter.