Alan Plater's books are always just on the verge of being a little too cute. The dialogue is occasionally too clever by half, but more often than not, it actually works. So I can understand if the Beiderbecke books are not to everyone's liking. On the other hand, I have read the Beiderbecke Affair at least five times since I bought a paperback copy in London in 1994. It is my favorite of the three Beiderbecke books (Beiderbecke Tapes and Beiderbecke Connection are the second and third of the series). We are introduced to Trevor and Jill, Big Al and Little Norm, the gang at school, and the mostly incompetent bunch at the police station. Why has a beautiful platinum blonde offered to sell jazz records to Trevor? What do Big Al and Little Norm have to hide? How are Jill's English students getting extra copies of Tess of the D'Urbervilles? And how does Bix Beiderbecke fit in? As you may guess, the mystery is secondary in these stories. The appeal is the interplay among the characters and the running gags. In the video version of these stories, the music is also a draw, with an excellent band playing the songs of Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, jazz musician of circa 1930, who died tragically young, and whose cornet playing inspires Trevor and occasionally other characters, but alas, never Jill. Best to start with the first in the series, as it is the best. Or see it on video and enjoy the music!
Take a Geordie woodwork teacher who bases his world around Jazz records and football, an English teacher with a burning desire to right the world, a policeman in search of good subjects for his PHD thesis, a pair of men with an unusual perspective on community aid and a conspiracy of monumental proportions, throw it all together with an ex-girlfriend and a shifty headmaster in 1980s Yorkshire with a hefty dose of humour, well crafted phrases and the occasional cosy interlude and there you have it. The book is never offensive and moves from startlingly funny to comfortably familiar as you re-read. I would love to talk to the author, I think he understands exactly what I want to read!