As promised earlier, Vicky Pearce’s account from the ‘Murder Deferred’ programme outlining her quest in search of the mysterious Stuart Ready:
“This page in the Matchbox programme is pretty much exclusively reserved for a potted biography of the playwright in question, details of whom are often generously provided by Wikipedia. As it fell to me, on this occasion, actually to write the piece – not just to set the thing and try to fit it into the allotted space, as I always do – I set about trying to get hold of some information about the writer of Murder Deferred, Stuart Ready. And that was when I realised that I had a bit of a problem.
In the first place, my search revealed an enormous number of hits – pages and pages of them, almost all of which had absolutely nothing to do with my intended target (anyone who has ever tried to do a Google search for someone whose surname is an actual word in everyday use will have run up against the same problem). Even the case-sensitive, advanced search option offered no solution; Google doesn’t seem to understand the term ‘exact phrase’,even though it purports to.
It was during the second phase of my investigation: meticulously sifting through each irrelevant entry, like an old-time prospector searching for a tiny gold nugget in a tray of sand and silt, that the true nature of my problem became apparent – there is no trace of the man anywhere. My trusted on-line encyclopaedia, Wiki, had never even heard of him.
I enlisted John Mackintosh’s help. He discovered (as had I) that Ready has his own entry in IMDb (the Internet Movie Database, to the uninitiated), where he is credited as the writer of two 1939 short television plays, but the page is empty of any personal details. He also discovered somewhere that, apparently, the hapless Mr Ready died in 1984, though not where, how, nor what age he was when it happened.
Maybe ‘Stuart Ready’ is code for something else, I mused – a pseudonym, perhaps, widely used among writers, but unknown to the rest of us. Maybe it’s employed in much the same way as ‘A. N. Other’, without the pun. I say this because this guy has written literally dozens of plays, possibly hundreds, plus scripts for television and short stories – you name it, he’s done it – but, as for any details of his life or death (1984 notwithstanding): diddly squat.
With hindsight, I probably should have anticipated something like this, as right from the start, once Annie and I had settled on our choice of play, we came up against the paradox of the prolific, yet unknown playwright. We had seven copies of Murder Deferred in our library of plays – not quite enough for a production– and I had to chase about the Internet’s many second-hand bookshops to buy extra copies. The publisher, Samuel French Ltd (from whom we get the acting editions for most of our plays) no longer had any, despite the play still showing up on their list of ‘full length plays for performance’. During this frantic search for copies I came across one ‘slightly used’ acting edition (admittedly from a place in California) for which the asking price was £90! (Plus postage and packing, of course.) Fortunately, Amazon and a couple of more locally-based shops provided me with the necessary copies at considerably reduced cost.
Interestingly, French’s no longer lists Stuart Ready among its playwrights, but still asked for £240 in performing rights! Presumably, then, someone must know who he was; somewhere out there exist the heirs to Mr Ready’s estate, who are entitled to their share of the £240. Assuming, of course, that French’s can find them…