Just ahead of our audio Tale for Our Time, let me put in a word for our complementary afternoon entertainment: our Clubland Q&A live around the planet. It returns tomorrow Wednesday at 3pm North American Eastern/8pm GMT. I do hope you'll give it a listen.
Meanwhile, welcome to Episode Ten of our serialization of Agatha Christie's first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. On Veterans Day, Paul Cathey, a Steyn Clubber from Colorado, wrote to note the intersection of the detective genre and Armistice Day observances:
Mark, thank you for the richness you bring into every day, the Tales being only one aspect of that. For those of us who love language, and particularly English, with its beauty and infinite flexibility, hearing it spoken well, with all the variety of accent and local dialect, is one of life's ineffable pleasures. You must work hard at this, but it comes across as effortless.
On this Remembrance, Armistice, Veteran's Day I'm reminded of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers, where the very moment of silence and remembrance, observed nationwide in post WWI Great Britain, plays a key part in the plot. Thank you also for your own annual 'remembrances' on this day which are without equal.
Thank you, Paul, for reminding me of one of Miss Sayers' best, and with a pertinent poppy angle, too. We'll certainly put that one on the list.
In tonight's episode, the Styles St Mary chemist doffs his cap to the Hall, even when he's selling poison:
"Are you in the habit of selling strychnine indiscriminately over the counter?"
The wretched young man wilted visibly under the Coroner's frown.
"Oh, no, sir—of course not. But, seeing it was Mr. Inglethorp of the Hall, I thought there was no harm in it. He said it was to poison a dog."
Inwardly I sympathized. It was only human nature to endeavour to please "The Hall"—especially when it might result in custom being transferred from Coot's to the local establishment.
"Coot's Cash Chemist" appears to be Mrs Christie's version of "Boots Cash Chemist", as it was known a century ago - then as now the dominant pharmacy chain in the British Isles. Seeing the word Cash next to Coot's, my first careless thought was that Coutt's (the Queen's bank) had branched out into pharmaceuticals, as Tesco has branched out into financial services.
You can enjoy The Mysterious Affair at Styles episode by episode, night by night, twenty minutes before you lower your lamp. Or, alternatively, do feel free to binge-listen: you can find all the earlier instalments here.
If you've yet to hear any of our first fifty Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Or, if you need an extra-special present for someone, why not give your loved one a Gift Membership and start him or her off with over four dozen cracking yarns? And please join me tomorrow for another episode of The Mysterious Affair at Styles - a few hours after our Clubland Q&A.