Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Murder for Pleasure - An interview with the King

I drove my Bentley up the long graveled drive, the house loomed like a monster waiting to feed and the distance beat of a jive band played melodically. I had been invited to stay with Sir Frederick Worthington-Bogmoor for the weekend and a grand party and I was late, so would have to quickly make my excuses and change in my room. I had just returned from a shooting weekend in the Lake District where the groundskeeper had been shot. It turned out he was having a salacious affair with the mistress of the house, so I’d had to stay an extra day and solve the crime.

Looking down, I suddenly noticed my foot beginning to tap. I couldn't help myself. I parked my car in front of the house and felt the music draw me in like the Pied Piper’s enchantment.

I entered the great hall and was greeted by a tall man in a dark suit and white gloves. "My name is Chapman, madam," he spoke in a monotone drawl, "May I take your bags?" I gave him my luggage, and then enquired as to where that incredible beat was coming from; my foot was still tapping and now I found my hips began joining in too. "That, madam, is your entertainment for the evening, that is King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys." He spoke with an air of pride, this band must be a big deal I thought.

I elected to miss seeing my room and headed straight to the ballroom where the band were playing. My tweed, pearls and dried blood weren't exactly the perfect choice for the jive, but they would have to do. My head joined my feet and hips now, I was ready to dance my nylons off.

As I entered, I saw them. A six-piece band, dressed up to the nines in zoot suits, with slicked back hair and twinkles in their eyes. The lead singer was a man who gave me a thrill that I hadn’t felt for years. His voice made me want to kick of my sensible leather brogues, let down my tightly pinned bun and get shimmying. They were hypnotic. The song finished, I waited for another, the band started playing while the King excused himself to wet his whistle, I didn't blame him, and the way he belted out those tunes and blew that sax.

I was happily swaying to the beat, taking in those smooth tunes, when suddenly…


A blood-curdling scream came from upstairs. The music stopped, conversation was interrupted, and someone dropped a glass.

We heard a slam, then a rush of heavy footsteps clumsily descending the staircase. We all listened intently, frozen in fear, as the footsteps continued down the hall. Suddenly the doors to the ballroom were flung open and Lily, the young day maid burst into the room.

"It's the madam!" she shouted, "She's been m..m...m..m...murdered!"

There was confusion and panic. Ladies swooned, gentlemen sucked furiously on their pipes, but I was in my element. Quick as a flash I jumped up on stage and cleared my throat.

"Ahhhem! Please can everyone calm down," I started, when I suddenly aware of a hand clinging on to my arm. It was King Pleasure. I couldn't believe it, and I’ll have to admit a tingle I had long since forgotten resurfaced, and my cheeks flushed.

I continued with my speech.

"Please, let's just hear what this young lady has to say, shall we?“

"She's fainted," came a call from the door, "But we have smelling salts"  

After she had come around, Lily started talking. She had just taken Lady Worthington-Bogmoor’s tea to her boudoir, but as she entered, she had noticed her Ladyship on the bed… a knife in her back!

"We must go up and see," I said, The King was still holding on tight, I looked at him and with my biggest doe-eyes I said, "Would you come with me, King. May I call you King?”

“My dear, please. Call me Your Majesty!” he replied.

As we walked down the hall and ascended the long staircase, I thought it was time to get to know this King Pleasure man and his music, so I decided to ask him some questions.

“Are you really a king? The king of swing?”
“Singer, swinger, saxophonist, showman and side splitter. A King of cool, that likes to play the fool.”

His words were alien to my ears, but I liked them! What a side splitter even was, I had no idea but I wanted to know. I continued with my questioning. So, you’re one of the original swing bands and one of the best! How did you get started? 
“Busking back in the early 80’s on the streets of Walsall. We then entered a Birmingham Markets Busking competition and won. One of the judges had his own record company, Big Bear Records and he started getting us gigs in local bars and colleges. It just took off from there, with the gigs getting further and further afield until we were playing festivals all over the world.”

His music had flowed like hot soup on a cold evening, and I was hungry for it. I had only a small taste so wanted to know more, so I asked him if he could describe his band and its music.
“We are a six piece jump band. Playing a mixture of early R&B, Blues, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Jazz and good ol’ Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

The detective in me started working, “Do I detect a midlands accent?” I enquired.
“Ah yes, the Black Country accent. A hard working world of faggots and peas and Staffordshire bull terriers!”
I recalled a murder I had heard about in Birmingham, A woman had poisoned her husband’s faggots, I suppose disguising the taste of the poison wasn’t hard to do. The case was solved by a mentor of mine, which got me thinking. “So, I find you inspiring your majesty, but who inspires you?” 
“My family and friends. It’s them I write songs about. I’ve just finished writing a new album, which we are now starting to rehearse and have written four songs for a Christmas EP. I’m also an oil painter, which makes me take a second look at everything. I look everywhere for inspiration and find it everywhere. The world is such an awe inspiring, amazing place.”

Before I knew it, we were by the door to the mistress of the house’s room. It was shut, that must have been the slam we heard, and my suspicions grew. Why would someone shut the door after fleeing a room in blind panic? I turned the handle, and nervously entered.

His majesty and I looked toward the bed and there she was: splayed out, face first like a drunken dinner date, but with a large kitchen knife sticking out of her back. One thing was certain, she was most certainly dead. I shut the door again to catch my thoughts, I needed idle chit-chat to steady myself, so I carried on with my questioning.

“So, When did you first realise that you had made it?”

“I think if you get to do what you’ve always dreamt of doing and get paid for it, then you are truly fortunate and have made it in the best possible sense.”

“I bet you've had a crazy career, what has the highlight been?”

“To travel the world seeing so many wonderful places and meeting so many wonderful people. To meet and play with many of my musical heroes such as Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and B.B. King.”

“Wow!” I started, but before I could continue, Sir Frederick interrupted with a loud “Ahem! I thought we were here to find out about my murdered wife!" He spoke with a pipe in his mouth and a calm demeanor. Suspicious I thought, but politeness prevailed. I apologised and re-entered the room.

What had happened in here? I surveyed the evidence, it was a nice room, beautifully decorated, silk bedding, large windows, framed by heavy, decorative curtains, there was a beautifully crafted glass chandelier above the bed, and by the dressing table sat an old gramophone; the familiar crack, crack, crack of vinyl still turning but at an end. I removed the needle from the record, and placed it back in its holder.

I needed tea and perhaps something a little stronger, I couldn’t gather any more evidence from the scene, the windows were tightly shut and nothing else disturbed, it was time to start asking questions to some of the others, rather than just to King Pleasure. Although, maybe we would have time for one or two more…

I’d noticed that there had been a recent surge of jive and swing bands of late, I wondered if he found it suffocating? And was he proud that they are still considered one of the best?
“There are many great bands around and many that come and go. We have worked hard to stay together and stay on top of our game.”

“One of the guests let slip that you've been through one or two band members. Have they always left happy? Or have you any juicy stories to tell?” 

“Nearly all past band members have left on great terms, simply wishing to settle down or follow a new musical direction. There have been one or two sackings and walk-outs and three punch ups in nearly 30 years. Not bad!”

Not bad either I thought, I had gone through 15 assistants in the past 6 years, mostly because they kept on being murdered, or arrested for murder, but still…

 Go on…tell us your best showbiz story? I prodded.

“I once wrestled Oliver Reed in a Maltese bar after a fourteen hour drinkathon!”

He was an interesting man, I could have talked for hours but we had a job to do. I gathered everyone back in the ballroom.

One thing was for sure, at that time of the murder only four people had been absent from the room. The maid Lily, Chapman the butler, his Lordship Sir Frederick and of course the victim. So who was the murderer? Answers were needed.

"Where were you at the time of the murder?” I asked his Lordship

"I was in my room, tying my bow tie, I always have trouble with them," he said, shifting his eyes suspiciously. I noted his clip-on tie, hmmm…

"Where were you at the time of the murder?" I asked Chapman

"I was in your room, delivering your luggage and straightening the bed linen," he spoke with the tone of a man lying to save himself. Why would he need to straighten a bed that hadn’t even been slept in, I thought? Hmmm…

"Where were you at the time of the murder?" I asked the maid.

"I was in the kitchen, making tea! I didn't do it, honest I didn't! Tell her Frederick! If you truly love me! Tell her, for the sake of the baby!" she screamed, cradling her belly and staring wide-eyed at Sir Frederick.

So, the maid and his Lordship. Now there was a motive.

"You stupid girl" cried Chapman, "Now they know everything!"

"You knew!?" exclaimed Lily.

"Yes, he knew," confessed his Lordship  "And he's been blackmailing me for months! He said he would tell her Ladyship if I didn't pay him."

"She already knew," Chapman spoke with disdain, "She's known for months, but I couldn't let you know that, or I would never have got paid."

This was all very interesting, but I had to continue with my questioning.

I turned to King Pleasure. I knew it was an odd line of questioning, but I just had to ask.

"Do you like any 'modern' music, your majesty?" I asked.

I always hear things I like. I recently bought the album ‘See’ by Pete Williams of Dexy’s fame. Absolutely brilliant.

"I hardly see how this is relevant," came a comment from the crowd.

"I know what I'm doing!” I spoke sternly. “So your majesty, just one more thing. It seems that a lot of contemporary musicians - Amy Winehouse, Plan B - are using stylistic influences from the past in their music, how do you feel about this cross-era style? Love it? Or are you a purist?"

“I used to be such a purist, but now love the fact that such influences can be heard heavily in so much contemporary music. Caro Emerald and Richard Hawley are great favourites.”

That was fun, and very interesting, but for now I had to establish a motive and solve this murder. I hadn't eaten since lunch and the game-hen on the menu did sound delicious.

"So, why would anyone want to murder her Ladyship?" I asked to myself. They could have all have done it, and they all had motives to get rid of her. So who did?

I mulled it over. As much as I hated to admit it, there was only one person who had a real motive for this particular murder, and I gathered everyone around.

"I know who the murderer was. There is one person in this room who had both opportunity and motive. It was... It was..."

I paused for dramatic effect. Everyone leant forward in anticipation.

"The murderer…was King Pleasure!"

The crowd gasped, "But why? How?"

"During the song ‘Blues From The Booze’, The King disappeared offstage, claiming to be in need of a glass of water. It was then that he slipped silently upstairs. Covered by the sound of the music, he entered Lady Worthington-Bogmoor’s room and stabbed her! My suspicions arose when he returned and clutched my sleeve in the exact spot where my jacket was already bloody, thus rubbing any evidence off, and onto me."

"But why?" asked his Lordship. "Why would you do this? What possible motive would you have?"

"Now that conundrum was answered when I entered the room of the deceased and found this!!" I held up the undisputable evidence, the evidence that would see The King go down for a long time.

A Spandau Ballet album!

Everyone in the room gasped. Women fainted once again, but this time the gentlemen’s pipe-sucking was joined by a chorus of moustache twisting and harrumphs.

"I couldn't let her do it... I just couldn't!" King Pleasure pleaded, "They're… They’re…New Romantic!!"

I approached The King. "Just one more question," I said. "If you could create your ultimate band, who would you have - dead or alive?"

He answered with an air of calm.

“As much as I’d love to gig with Elvis etc. I’d really just like to put on a gig with everyone who’s ever been a Biscuit Boy. A big band of all the members, past and present. It would be one hell of a party afterwards!”

There were a lot of unanswered questions: the door, his Lordship’s clip-on tie, Chapman’s excuses, maybe they were relevant, then again, maybe not. My thoughts were interrupted by the familiar wail of police sirens coming up the drive. King Pleasure was a brilliant man and an incredible musician, and I would never forget our encounter, however murderous it had been.... 


  1. Another excellent interview, and I love the way you frame them into a wider story.