Poets and policemen, at their best, are observers.
They parse their words, delay their judgments. For Adam Dalgleish – a poetry-writing police detective – it’s a long delay.
Now Dalgliesh (shown here) is back in our TV sets, with movies streaming on the first three Mondays of November.
He’s been there before: Roy Marsden played him in at least 10 films (from 1983-98),which often reached PBS; Martin Shaw did two more, in 2003-4. Now it’s Bertie Carvel’s turn.
Don’t expect stories with a lot of twists and gimmicks. Carvel, at a virtual press conference with the Television Critics Association, quoted Jimmy McGovern, creator of the “Cracker” series: “Good drama should be narratively simple and emotionally complex.”
The emotions in these three stories – all at www.acorn.tv and all previously dome by Marsden – are very complicated and very British. We go to a hospital nursing school (“Shroud for a Nightingale,” Nov. 1), a cult complex (“The Black Tower,” Nov. 8), an old church and then a family’s mansion (“A Taste for Death,” Nov. 15).
The buildings seem dark and cold; so do many of the people. Dalgliesh often observes them quietly.
He’s the creation of P.D. James, who came to this gradually.
She was born Phyllis Dorothy James and had to quit school at 16, because her father didn’t believe in advanced education for girls. She held administrative jobs, married and had two daughters. After her husband returned from World War II, he spent much of his time in mental hospitals.
James was in her early 40s when her first book came out (two years before her husband died) and had passed 90 when her 19th and final one came out.
Her stories were grabbed by filmmakers. “Death Comes to Pemberley” (a Jane Austen sequel) became a PBS three-parter …. “An Unsuitable Job For a Woman” became a PBS series … “Children of Men” became a praised, dystopian movie by Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma,” “Gravity”).
But mostly, she wrote books about Dalgliesh. A deputy chief inspector (and, later, commander), he lost his wife and child during childbirth. He’s a quiet cop who’s had several books of poetry published.
“We don’t know what kind of poet he is,” Carvel said. That “hints at a kind of hinterland …. I think his pen has been dry since the death of his wife.”
His voice is also dry, his words are scarce, his face is impassive. He’s observing. Eventually, a murder (several of them, usually) will be solved and some complex emotions will be explored.