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Mark Steyn

Tales for Our Time

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Welcome to the eighteenth of our monthly audio adventures in Tales for Our Time. This latest radio serial, read by yours truly, is perhaps more pertinent than it ought to be at a time when the mob roams the streets demanding the heads of television hosts. Two European powers saw revolution at the end of the eighteenth century - England in its American colonies and France in the heart of the metropolis. The latter set about destroying and remaking everything - which makes it more relevant to the spirit of our age, of statue-toppling and book-banning and renaming, than George Washington & Co. For our revolutionaries, too, wish to live in Year Zero:

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Metamorphosis

Welcome to the seventeenth of our monthly audio adventures in Tales for Our Time. This latest radio serial, read by yours truly, is not inappropriate as we approach the season of Halloween - because sometimes you don't need to go out and get a scary costume; sometimes you just wake up one day and find you're wearing it:

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

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Greenmantle

Welcome to the sixteenth of our radio serials, Greenmantle by John Buchan. To get to it, we had to start earlier this year with the first of Buchan's adventures to star Richard Hannay - The Thirty-Nine Steps, made even more famous in a film by Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, Hitchcock was even more enthusiastic about filming Greenmantle but could never secure the rights. So, instead of Hitch and cool blondes and painted backcloths, you'll have to make do with my one-man version. This full-length serialization to kick off our second collection of monthly audio thrills features the return of Richard Hannay. Don't worry if you missed The Thirty-Nine Steps; this is an entirely stand-alone adventure that takes place the following year, in a world at war.

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His Last Bow

Welcome to the launch of the second season of our monthly audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. This is the fifteenth of our radio serials, and we're starting year two with the author who kicked off this series last May: Arthur Conan Doyle.

Download the entire serialization in one mp3 file here. To hear each of the 2 parts individually, click on any part in the list below.

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The Man Who Would Be King

Our latest tale is an encore appearance by Rudyard Kipling, who has hitherto only appeared in this series as a Halloween bonus short story. In this case, we're presenting one of the author's very earliest successes - first published by the Indian Railway Library in 1888. It begins when a local journalist (more or less Kipling himself) finds himself in an Intermediate train carriage:

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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Welcome to the thirteenth in our series Tales for Our Time. Our latest tale is a famous story by a famous author - Robert Louis Stevenson, of Treasure Island and Kidnapped fame. They're both rip-roaring yarns, but this one belongs in another category. Written quickly in desperate need of a hit and then re-written in a more coolly allegorical vein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in 1886, was an instant smash, and has never stopped being a smash in the century and a third since. Yet, as I discuss in my introduction, it seems even more relevant in an age of identity politics and the self-created self: in Stevenson's day, what Dr Jekyll did was audacious and terrifying; today, in an age of "gender fluidity" and "transitioning", the experts have decreed that all men are free to do as Jekyll did, and determine which aspects of their identity they wish to emphasize, wish to diminish, and wish to re-sculpt. Written at the dawn of the age of psychological analysis, it is just as timely in an age of physiological reconstruction and biological self-definition.

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The Thirty-Nine Steps

Welcome to the twelfth in our series Tales for Our Time, and, as I say in my introduction, this one's a corker. Our latest tale is The Thirty-Nine Steps, written by John Buchan and first published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1915. It is not just a good book, but an immensely influential one, on many writers of thrillers - or "shockers", as its author preferred to categorize his literary efforts.

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The Overcoat

Welcome to the eleventh in our series of audio adventures that we call Tales for Our Time: Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat. Written in 1842, it is no more or less than what it says: the tale of a coat, and its impact on the nondescript clerk in the St Petersburg bureaucracy who scrimps and saves in order to own it.

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To Build a Fire

Welcome to the tenth in our series of audio adventures that we call Tales for Our Time: Jack London's classic To Build a Fire. In view of the winter chill with which my corner of the world greeted the New Year, I thought we'd offer a double-bill of exceptionally frosty fiction from opposite ends of the northern hemisphere, both of them dealing with cold and its consequences.

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Plum Duff

For the ninth of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads Plum Duff. To listen, simply click the audio players below.

Download the entire serialization in one mp3 file here. To hear each of the 2 parts individually, click on any part in the list below.

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A Christmas Carol

For the eighth of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, published in 1843. To listen, simply click the audio players below. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses the part that Dickens - and the 1840s - played in the creation of the modern Christmas.

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The Rubber Check

For the seventh of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads the second of a Scott Fitzgerald double-bill, The Rubber Check, published in 1932. To listen, simply click the audio players below. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses Fitzgerald and the essence of all effective storytelling.

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The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

For the sixth of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads the first of a Scott Fitzgerald double-bill, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, published in 1922. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses Fitzgerald and the point at which lavish wealth becomes absurd.

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The Cat That Walked By Himself

For the fifth of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads "The Cat That Walked By Himself", from Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, published in 1902. To listen, simply click on the audio player below. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses this tale - and the little girl who liked her stories "just so".

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The Prisoner of Zenda

For the fourth of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads The Prisoner of Zenda, written by Anthony Hope in 1894. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses why, in an age of very different storytelling, he thinks this yarn still has relevance.

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The Secret Agent

For the third of our series Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads The Secret Agent, written by Joseph Conrad in 1907. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses the relevance of Conrad's "simple tale of the 19th century" to terrorism in the 21st century.

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The Time Machine

For the second of our new series Tales for Our Time, Mark reads The Time Machine, written by H G Wells for serialization in The New Review in 1895. It's prefaced with an introduction by Mark in which he discusses the relevance of Wells' vision of the world 800,000 years hence to our own age.

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The Tragedy of the Korosko

For the first of our Tales for Our Time, Steyn reads Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1898 novel The Tragedy of the Korosko.

Download the entire serialization in one mp3 file here. To hear each of the 15 parts individually, click on any part in the list below.

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