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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Discovering the Detectives: R. D. Wingfield

To most the name R. D . Wingfield will sum up images of Inspector Frost, his best known creation who was brought to screen by David Jason but that's only half the picture. In fact it's not even half the picture, a quarter maybe or even less because R. D. Wingfield was for around twenty years a prolific writer of radio drama for the BBC- in fact even Inspector Frost made his debut in a radio play.


The Inspector Frost novels are truly excellent but it is with the radio plays - most of which can be found easily on You Tube - that the author did his best work.  Between 1972 and 1988, Wingfield produced a steady stream of intelligent mystery plays with a built-in guarantee of enjoyment for the listener . In fact even when Wingfield fell out with the BBC he continued to sell them plays written under pen names including the name Arthur Jefferson, which was actually Stan Laurel's real name.


'I was radio's blue-eyed boy. Everything I wrote they bought. When I'd sold three plays I thought, I'm on to a winner here, and I slung up my job - I was a clerk in an oil company -and started writing radio plays full-time.' R. D. Wingfield.


In various interviews Wingfield stated that he considered himself a dramatist first, and a novelist second and even when the TV series based around Inspector Frost made him an household name, radio remained his first love.

';I don't watch the television Frost. Nothing against David Jason. I could watch him again and again in 'Only Fools and Horses', but he isn't my Frost, and my fear is that if I were to watch him, then my next Frost would become him.' R. D Wingfield talking to the Radio Times in 1996.

Leslie Sands: First Frost


Back when Frost was first being developed for Radio, Wingfield hoped Ronnie Barker would play the part but recording couldn't be worked in around his TV work and so Leslie Sands was cast - this Frost is actually closer to the character in the novels than the TV series and can be listened to HERE.

Wingfield was an intensely shy and private man, Wingfield lived anonymously at Basildon, Essex, where even his neighbours were unaware of who he was. When ITV bought the television rights to the Frost books in 1992, he continued to live modestly and eschewed the trappings of success; he avoided the hoopla of book launches and publishers' parties, turned down requests for television interviews and was rarely photographed. Nor did he enjoy writing the books, regarding them as a grinding chore and very much a bread-and-butter obligation; radio scripts, on the other hand, were a labour of love, and Wingfield produced a steady stream of some 40 mysteries over a 20-year period until a shrinking radio market and the success of the Frost novels in the early 1990s forced his hand.

These radio plays are all good, many of them are excellent. Check out A TEST TO DESTRUCTION, an early play in which an explosives expert, seemingly caught in a desperate trap, keeps his nerve and thinks ahead. THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY, from 1972, which cleverly resolves an unexplained murder ten years after its commission. Also the serial OUTBREAK OF FEAR (1982), which piles one horrific death onto another in a hair-raising play. And SATURDAY ROSTER from 1974 is the ultimate straight forward police procedural And one I only recently listened to was THE KILLING SEASON, a six part thriller from 1984, which is set during the Christmas period is an absolute classic of crime drama. These are just a few of the excellent Wingfield plays that can be found on You Tube.

The original Frost novels
Below is a list of the Wingfield radio plays together with dates of first broadcast. Source Nigel Deacon's Diversity Website.

As previously stated most of these plays can be found on You Tube - To give you an idea of how highly I regard these plays I'll just tell you that I've ripped them all as MP3 FILES and they have a permanent place on my iPod - they've entertained me on many a long drive.

Compensating Error (45') Aug 68 8.15 R4
Our West Ladyton Branch (60') 13-11-68 8.15 R2
Better never than late (60') Nov 69 2.00 R4
The night they deliver the money (60') 4-4-70 2.00 R4
Double Entry (45') 7-10-70 R4
Test to Destruction (45') 1970 R4
Slow fuse (45') 13-1-71 8.15 R4
Letter of the law (60') 28-4-71 3.05 R4
Cat and mouse game (45') May 71 8.15 R4
Adequate Reasons (45') 21-7-71 8.15 R4
The tenth anniversary (45') 9-2-72 8.15 R4
The Alternative Plan (45') 19-7-72 8.15 R4
A second class risk (45') Jan 73 8.15 R4
Sins of commission (45') 2-5-73 8.15 R4
Cleft stick (45') 19-12-73 8.15 R4
Balance brought forward (45') 27-2-74 8.15 R4
Murder locked out (45') 11-9-74 8.15 R4
Saturday Roster (45') 9-10-74 8.15 R4
Slow Fuse (30' version) May 76 R4
Smiling and beautiful death (45') May 76 3.05 R4
Death of the insured (45') 8-7-76 3.05 R4
Winner takes the Kitty (30') Oct 76 R4
Three days of Frost (90') 12-2-77 8.30 R4
Credit risk (45') 24-2-77 3.05 R4
Daylight robbery (45') 2-6-77 3.05 R4
The last escape (45') 7-7-77 3.05 R4
Blood money (60') 26-8-77 3.05 R4
Post Mortem Shock (45') 2-11-77 R4
Nightmare (15') 16-2-79 1145pm R4
The cellar (15') 7-4-79 1145pm R4
Second sight (60') May 81 3.02 R4
Innocent victim (60') 20-8-81 3.02 R4
A touch of Frost (90') 6-2-82 8.30 R4
Moveable assets (45') Apr 82 3.02 R4
Outbreak of Fear (5 x 30 mins) beginning 29-8-82 R4
The Killing Season (as Arthur Jefferson) (6 x 30 mins) Jan 84 R4
Cover-up (90') 5-1-85 8.30 R4
Hate Mail (as T. Smith) (45') c1985 R4
Deadfall (60') Dec 87 R4. Rebroadcast by ABC, c1995


Rodney David Wingfield, radio scriptwriter and crime novelist, June 6 1928; died July 31 2007

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