In GAD We Trust – Episode 6: Detective Fiction is Comedy [w’ Alasdair Beckett-King]

In GAD We Trust

It’s long been a tenet of mine that detective fiction and comedy have a great deal in common, and to pursue that this week via the medium of podcasting I’ve enlisted the help of comedian Alasdair Beckett-King.

In a conversation ostensibly about the parallels between detective fiction and stand-up comedy we also manage to cover magic tricks, video games, impossible crimes, and Jonathan Creek alongside such matters as what hecklers have in common with The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) by Anthony Berkeley, who my favourite living stand-up comedian is, and surprisingly decent-sounding Netflix drama about the 11 days in which Agatha Christie went missing.

All this and more awaits.  You can open it in your browser here, or listen below, or scroll to the bottom of this post for exciting podcast-access news.

Whichever path you choose, I hope you enjoy it.

You can find Alasdair’s Twitter feed and the original thread of Whodidit? here, and peruse the various speculations of those who played along, or you can watch the whole thing unfurl via the glory of YouTube below:

My thanks, of course, to Alasdair, to Jonny Berliner for the music, and to you for listening; hopefully all this continues to provide some distraction at a time when we could frankly use it.

And there’s always Noah’s Golden Age of Detection Drinking Game if you need it, too…


Finally, I have brought myself kicking and screaming (there was a lot of both in making it happen) into whatever century this is by attempting to upload this podcast onto Spotify and iTunes.  I believe you can find it at either by clicking below…

spotify-podcast-badge-blk-grn-165x40Apple button

20 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Episode 6: Detective Fiction is Comedy [w’ Alasdair Beckett-King]

  1. Another really entertaining episode with a welcome dose of laughter. I would certainly agree with the idea that timing and anticipation of the punchline are as important to mystery fiction as to comedy.


    • Thanks, Aidan, it’s always a relief when other people agree with my weird opinions 🙂 There was so much ground covered in this conversation that the out-takes could almost make another episode in itself (though, er, a slightly disjointed one) — it’s a seam I’ll no doubt return to at some point, because the more I dig into it the more I find to explore. So expect me to still be flogging this horse in a decade or two…


      • You are right that it is a rich topic for discussion!
        Oh, and I now look forward to seeing how Alfred Hitchcock will come up in whatever your next episode is on… 😁


        • Yeah, the next one is recorded, I just can’t remember if Hitch is in there or not. Would be a shame to break the streak at this point, so that’s something to remain excited about for the next fortnight…


          • I think it speaks to the versatility of the guy and the universality of his work that he has been applicable to so many different conversations.


            • Even though the one thing he definitely did not do was detection, and so his recurrence in my detective fiction podcast is frankly baffling… 🙂


  2. Excellent fun gentlemen. I must re-read Noah’s drinking game. There is also the Maigret drinking game where you just drink everything the good Inspector drinks during the course of a book that takes a couple of hours to read.

    On hecklers and omeIettes, I was reminded of accidentally spoiling a friend’s joke – actually a hoary old chestnut – by chipping in with knowledge from my specialist subject “The FA Cup Final 1946-1993” – he was not amused.

    And finally re: minute 43ish – we know that all dogs behave in exactly the same way, don’t we?!


    • There are Simenon books that take a couple of hours to read?! Who knew he had such long narratives in him? Also, that’s one hell of a long F.A. Cup final — didn’t the players get tired?

      As for dogs and their behaviour..’you’ll all have to wait a fortnight to expand upon this. But, yes, as we all know, they all definitely always do exactly the same thing in similar circumstances 😉


  3. This was great! The mention of Game Maker’s Toolkit was a very unexpected crossover between my two main spheres of interest and I was so happy to hear it. Plenty to think about here and lots of fun.
    Detective video games, which on the surface seem like a great fit until you play them and see where the ideas fight each other, are one of my favourite things to spend too long thinking about.
    Imagine if you’re reading an Ellery Queen and he turns round and delivers the challenge to the reader, and then refuses to go on with the story until you’ve written down the right answer.
    There have been a number of more successful detective type games recently, and imo they are partly more successful because they don’t force you to prove you got the answers right. Also, they’re all about solving things that happened way in the past, and so you can’t actually exert any of your interactive power on the stories.

    What was the game you were thinking of based on Orient Express, JJ? Could it have been The Last Express?

    I promise I also appreciated the parallels between comedy and detective fiction, but I can’t resist my specialist topic…


    • I was delighted by Alasdair turning the discussion to videogames, too, because he perfectly captured my problems with the examples I’d tried — the notion of actually deducing the conclusion without simply being given it as an option. TBH, this topic alone is something I’d be interested in discussing further at some point, because the various decision-making options around it seem fascinating to me. I have very little experience of detection games, but if it’s a fascination of yours and you’d be interested in talking about it, get in touch!

      The Orient Express game is something Noah Stewart — he of the drinking game linked in the notes — told me about, including the various different solutions it’s possible to come to depending on the decisions made. I’ve not played that game, but it was, I believe, of a similar era to the ABC Murders game discussed in this episode which I did play, if only briefly, for the reasons discussed. So it’s possible I’m getting my memories confused…that does happen.


  4. Excellent as usual! The Birlstone gambit got me thinking about why I haven’t read more of the Nigel Strangeways books by Nicholas Blake. One of the books had a variation of the Birlstone gambit. I figured it out quite early in the book. I had hoped that I would be proven wrong but my guess turned out to be correct. It just made me lose interest in the series. Which is a pity since up to that point I had quite enjoyed the series.


    • I’ve read that recently and I thought it was quite open that Birlstone was a possibility so it was acknowledged early and then shifted between whether it was or wasn’t which I liked. Definitely carry on with Blake, especially if you haven’t read The Beast Must Die.


      • I’ve been known to give up on novels within the first few pages without a sniff of regret, but it seems to me that if this Blake story was good enough to finish then it’d be a shame to pack him in purely on the basis of one plot. However, there are a lot of tempting books out there, and sometimes we just need to clear the decks, so you do whatever makes you content and hopefully you’ll get repaid with some excellent reading in due course 🙂


        • I have trouble leaving books unfinished. That’s why I finished the book. Not necessarily because it was good. I guess what should have said was that the Birlstone gambit was ‘one’ of the reasons I lost interest in the series. I don’t hate the series or think it’s bad. I just didn’t feel like going on with it. Who knows, if I’m bored enough I may go back to it. 🙄


  5. The Birlstone gambit, identical twins, guys who return home after x years and might not really be them, etc. Are devices that work in novels that tackle the problem head-on. It’s only a letdown if the gambit or the twin is not acknowledged as a possibility, because you know what will happen in the last few pages of the novel. It’s a matter of probability if the device is acknowledged and a matter of inevitability if it isn’t.

    There are great mystery video games like the Phoenix Wright series and some DOS classics like the Laura Bow games. The second one is a closed circle mystery inside a museum. Of course there’s a serial killer amongst the guests. The cool thing is you can’t see the good ending without taking notes and searching everything. If you don’t answer every question correctly at the inquest, you are screwed. Great fun.


    • …because you know what will happen in the last few pages of the novel.

      This is why the GAD convention of discussing solutions early in the narrative is so delightful. That sense of the author reaching out to the reader and going “Okay, here’s proof that I’m not wasting your time…”. Lovely.

      Modern authors seem less keen on this; certainly, there’s one modern impossible crime on this very blog here the solutions dismissed as false and therefore not worthy of consideration at the, oh, halfway point of the book turns out to be the actual solution…which is a sort of Birlstone Birlstone (yes, I’ve written it twice on purpose) Gambit — or A Pile of Sh*t as I prefer to think of it 🙂

      Those videogames sound great, and I love the idea of there being a way to reward your rigour from early on. Crucial, in fact, in the pursuing of that type of narrative experienced in that way. Sounds awesome.


  6. My apologies, but I do confess to falling a little bit in love with Alasdair while listening to this. I also loved the video mystery he created.

    I think I want a do-over on our podcast!! On a good day, I can be a very funny person, and I am aware of the importance of both timing and surprise in both making a joke succeed and in sustaining the “suspense” of a good long comic set. If I could only do this with mystery-writing, you would ALL be my acolytes. (Mwahhh haaahhh haaaahh!)

    I’m also more grateful than anything else that I never pursued video games in general and mystery video games in particular. If I had – and I mean no offense to video game fans – I would no doubt weigh a full 40 stone by now, and you would have had to buy a special bed for when I come to visit.


  7. This analogy between comedy and detection fiction was surprising to me, and extremely interesting. Of course, having the conversation take place between two people who are not only knowledgeable but also entertaining and quick of mind made the whole thing even more enjoyable.


    • Thank-you on both fronts — I always wonder if the analogy seems a little forced to the outsider, but the fact that Alasdair and I agreed on so many points (without prompting or rehearsal!) encouraged me that maybe I’m not as wide of the mark as I feared.

      And, yes, I cannot state how much the quality of these episodes rests firmly on the shoulders of the other person being well-informed and entertaining. My co-respondents have the far harder job in these tete-a-tetes and it’s always been a joy to discuss with such an interesting and intelligent bunch. Hopefully that continues, eh? Otherwise you’ll all get stuck with just me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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