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Death in the Fifth Position by Gore Vidal

Episode 2

Duration: 15 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 FMLatest broadcast: on BBC Radio 4 Extra

With McCarthyism reaching fever pitch in 1950s America, Peter Sargeant - a dashing PR man - is hired by the Grand St Petersburg ballet to fend off rumours that their star choreographer is a communist. But New York's ballet world is shocked when, on the opening night, the lead ballerina plummets to her death from a wire, maintaining her classical pose in the 'fifth position' as she hits the floor.

Gore Vidal's earlier novel The City and the Pillar was published in 1948 when the author was 23 years old. Its central story of a homosexual relationship caused such a scandal that the New York Times book critic refused to review any book by Gore Vidal. Others followed his lead and the author found himself at a loss as to how to continue to earn a living through his pen until a publisher suggested that he turn his hand to writing under a different name. Death In the Fifth Position was published in 1952 - the first of a trio of entertainments featuring Peter Cutler Sargeant II as a publicist turned private eye.

Episode 2:
Our narrator, Peter Sargeant, is beginning to get to know the members of the Grand St Petersburg ballet company. Their complicated relationships have already come to his attention when he overheard the conductor Miles Sutton threatening to kill his wife, Ella, the lead ballerina in the new ballet.

Written by Gore Vidal (as Edgar Box)
Read by Jamie Parker

Abridged by Isobel Creed
Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4 Show less

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