May 16

Carry on Sleuthing – The Inside Poop

Douglas Skelton is back to join me on his ‘not a blog tour’ tour. We are absolutely not talking about his new book Open Wounds (the one I scored 5/5 in the review that you could read if you click on that wee link).

Instead Douglas is sharing the inside scoop (as I am sure that title is meant to read) on the truly amazing spectacle that was Carry on Sleuthing.

Over to Mr Skelton:


author author
Author, Author

‘Madness….madness. Madness.’

The final lines of ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’ spring instantly to mind when talking about ‘Carry on Sleuthing.’

If you didn’t see it, let me fill you in.

In other words, for all those sitting on the couch, here’s the story sofa…

Last year I was asked to write a mystery play to be performed by staff at Ayr’s Carnegie Library. I’m not known for writing whodunits but I thought, hell, I’ll try anything once. Maybe not sushi. Real Glaswegian don’t eat anything that’s not deep fried.

The magic of mystery is in misdirection. So I chose to make my play a comedy. Wacky humour would be my misdirection.

Carry on Sleuthing was born.

In it, spinster sleuth Lavinia Luvibod investigates the murder of a reviled lawyer on board an ocean liner.

Michael J Malone
Michael J Malone

There were eight characters. Fellow author Michael J. Malone took two of them, I played three, the library staff everybody else.

It was a success, I think.

So much so that I thought it could stand a big city run (for one night only).

Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone and Theresa Talbot
Caro Ramsay, Michael J Malone and Theresa Talbot

Waterstones in Argyle Street said they were up for it. Bestselling authors Caro Ramsay and Theresa Talbot agreed to lend their talents.

We rehearsed it one and a half times. We only got halfway the second time because we already knew who did it and were bored.

The version seen in Glasgow was different from the one seen in Ayr, where it was very much done as written. For the Glasgow show, the cast members brought their own material.

If you saw it and laughed, then that would be a bit they added.

Among Caro’s contribution were some bits of business (ooh, I’ve got all the thespian polari). There were cards with characters’ pictures on them. There was a boat on a stick. There was an intermission card. For a bestselling author and professional buttock squeezer she has a lot of time on her hands. And a lot of buttocks. (She’s an osteopath, by the way).

We tried to get Michael to go round the audience during the break with a tray of Kia Ora but he refused. Prima donna.

Product Placement! Theresa is 'casually' clutching a copy of her novel Penance.
Product Placement! Theresa is ‘casually’ clutching a copy of her novel Penance.

They all really got into the spirit of it and any success is down to them. Although, Theresa – can I have some mayo with that ham?

The approach was that of a radio play, so there were no lines to learn. Thankfully.

There were costumes, though, which caused some tension backstage (in reality a screen Caro brought from home). Both Theresa and I had quick changes to perform. Don’t worry, there was no nudity. And no Janet Jackson costume mishaps. Although my surgical stockings did prove troublesome.

There was an actual mystery to solve, and not just why the hell we were doing it. The clues are all there in the script. The audience just had to find them among the double – and single – entendres (that’s your actual French), puns, ad-libs, one-liners and rejects from ‘Round the Horne’.

(NOTE – For those of tender years, Round the Horne was a seminal radio show in the 1960s. I loved it then, I love it now. The word polari above and the phrase ‘’that’s your actual French come from there.)

Welcome back. For those of you sitting in palm trees, here’s the story up to date…

A crime author was asked to write a whodunit for a library. The show was later taken on the road. Well, to one other venue. Top named authors took part. Was it a success? Did the audience laugh? Did anyone solve the mystery? Does anyone care? Did little Jimmy get out of the well? Why am I asking these damn silly questions? Why can’t I stop? What the hell’s going on here?

That last question was asked on the night. It was asked A LOT.


It was a bit chaotic but I think we pulled it off. We shouldn’t have given it such a hard tug.

One or two people solved at least half of the mystery. No-one got it completely right. That pleased me. On the other hand, I think everyone was so confused, including the cast.

Would we do it again? Speaking for myself, yes. The script needs a bit of work. (For “a bit”, read “considerable”). We need to rehearse more. We need more bits of business. We need to rehearse those bits of business.

We are, however, available for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs.

Here’s some STOP PRESS: Largs Players may well be presenting Carry on Sleuthing during July. Good luck to them.

They’ll need it.


Carry On Sleuthing was brought to you by Douglas Skelton, Michael J Malone, Theresa Talbot and Caro Ramsay.  By the clicking of your thumbs (or by clicking on their names) you can peruse their books on a well known online bookstore.

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Posted May 16, 2016 by Gordon in category "Guests