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What Bloody Man is That? by Simon Brett
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What Bloody Man is That? (1987)

by Simon Brett

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No production of the Scottish Play would be complete without a bit of bad luck, it seems. In this particular production, Charles Paris, the man of many roles, has the misfortune of stumbling upon the corpse of the actor playing Duncan. The actor was not particularly well liked, but Charles, as the finder of the body and the only one in the theatre at the time of death, is the prime suspect. Can he conduct his own investigation and clear his name?

This ended up being way more fun than I thought -- so much so that I'm keeping it instead of giving it away. I am a sucker for stories about productions of Macbeth and this was very funny, with plenty of clever narrative asides, and Charles is a great main character who diesn't take himself too seriously. It may have helped that I pictured him as Bill Nighy, who has played him in some radio dramatizations. I did not appreciate the attitude of his friend John B. Murgatroyd toward the Lady Macbeth, but Charles did chastise him for his crudeness.

I would likely pick up other books in this series if I thought of it. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Sep 10, 2017 |
I would have given more stars if a horrible "joke" about rape was not countenanced as acceptable within the text. The depiction of the theatre is so accurate, even based on my limited experience (high school musical theatre, with me playing 3 parts, altering costumes, doing the choreography, setting the stage, greeting the guests, serving the food, cleaning up, and finally getting to eat and fall over at the end of it all--after the tables were all put away of course!). I really enjoyed the book mostly for those descriptions of the play and now it has me wanting to act again, which is really unfortunate because I live in the sticks. I guess the fact that this book was about Macbeth helped too...I have a great fondness for "the Scottish play" and still long to play Lady Macbeth someday.
The actual plot is pretty weak and unimaginative, but most of the characters are well drawn. ( )
  aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
Charles Paris is back, this time playing a selection of minor roles in a new production of Macbeth at the Pinero Theatre in Warminster which is being directed by his old friend, Gavin Scholes. Other members of the cast include: John B Murgatroyd, an itinerant actor whose career has been almost as devastatingly unsuccessful as Charles's; George Birkett, a man who despite possessing little more than journeyman ability has encountered considerable commercial success through having played pedestrian roles in a selection of mindless situation comedies; Felicia Chatterton, an alluring yet intense actress whose career has been almost exclusively served in the RSC and who has to devote hours to think herself into her role;, and Warnock Belvedere, an outrageous old ham who prides himself on being a theatrical "character" encompassing all the worst traits of old self-aggrandising stars without any compensatory talent.

Almost from the start Belvedere shows himself to be obnoxious, overriding the feelings of anyone else in the company and blatantly undermining the director. Within days of the company first coming together there is no-one whom he has not driven to utter fury. Consequently, there is an immense feeling of relief which politeness and propriety do little to hide, when he is found dead in the cellar of the theatre's bar, having seemingly fallen over and knocked himself out while simultaneously dislodging the CO2 hoses. Drunk and unconscious he succumbs to asphyxiation. This is put down as a dreadful accident, and just another manifestation of the dreadful luck that historically bedevils companies staging "the Scottish Play".

Predictably the body is discovered by Charles who, having overdone things in the bar earlier in the evening, had fallen asleep in his dressing room and found himself locked in the theatre. It is only gradually afterwards, as he struggles to reconstruct the events of the night, that Charles recognises vital clues that point to Belvedere's death as murder, and he also realises that the perpetrator must be another member of the theatre company.

Brett is always capable of weaving an intricate yet plausible plot, which he lightly peppers with humour. Charles Paris is always a sympathetic character - flawed (a virtual alcoholic and recalcitrant philanderer) yet essentially well-meaning, even to the point of frequent self-disgust. The conflicting ambitions and lifestyles of the different members of the theatrical company are also well constructed, and Brett clearly knows the theatrical milieu very well, and he is sufficiently conversant with the text and subtexts of Macbeth to throw in some convincing exegesis of the play's more obscure stretches.

Most entertaining on a number of levels! ( )
  Eyejaybee | Feb 20, 2014 |
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Book description
Charles Paris is on his way up again, career-wise. No longer resting and no longer just a corpse in a cupboard, he blossoms in the play dreaded by superstitious theatre folk, who will not even speak its name: the Scottish play Macbeth. Its only in the provincial rep, but you have to start (or re-start) somewhere. And his agent has promised that though whats offered is not much of a part, other good parts are in the offing. By which perhaps is not meant precisely what happens: that Charles finds himself doubling almost every role in the play that isnt held by the three principals. And as for the principals, they could hardly be more ill-sorted. Macbeth is played by George Birkitt, the TV game-show personality whom we met in Dead Giveaway. Lady Macbeth comes straight from Stratford: an intense young woman with Method in her madness. And Duncan is that notorious old ham, Warnock Belvedere, who feels that hes in the tradition of great acto-managers. With such a cast, sparks are bound to fly. Its not long before death strikes in the night. And Charles Paris takes on the role of private eye.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0595003494, Paperback)

Text for Author Bio: Simon Brett is a former radio and television comedy producer, who has been writing full-time for more than twenty years. Creator of the Charles Parks, Mrs. Pargeter and Feathering series of mysteries, his psychological thriller, A Shock to the System was filmed, starring Michael Caine. Married, with three children, he lives in an Agatha Christie-style village in West Sussex, England. Text for Book Description: Charles Paris is on his way up again, career-wise. No longer resting and no longer just a corpse in a cupboard, he blossoms in the play dreaded by superstitious theatre folk, who will not even speak its name: the Scottish play Macbeth. Its only in the provincial rep, but you have to start (or re-start) somewhere. And his agent has promised that though whats offered is not much of a part, other good parts are in the offing. By which perhaps is not meant precisely what happens: that Charles finds himself doubling almost every role in the play that isnt held by the three principals. And as for the principals, they could hardly be more ill-sorted. Macbeth is played by George Birkitt, the TV game-show personality whom we met in Dead Giveaway. Lady Macbeth comes straight from Stratford: an intense young woman with Method in her madness. And Duncan is that notorious old ham, Warnock Belvedere, who feels that hes in the tradition of great acto-managers. With such a cast, sparks are bound to fly. Its not long before death strikes in the night. And Charles Paris takes on the role of private eyeText for Review Box: "Stylish and literate fun." The Times Text for Review Box: "What counts in this series is Brett's marvelous comedic vision hilariously funny and sadly true of the wonderful world of showbusiness." The San Diego Union

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Charles Paris is on his way up again, career-wise. No longer 'resting', he finds himself doubling almost every role in a provincial production of the play dreaded by superstitious theatre folk: Macbeth. Yet when death strikes in the night, Charles finds himself playing an all-too familiar role: that of private eye.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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