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Death in the Fifth Position by Gore Vidal

Episode 5

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 5:
The story continues with the members of the Grand St Petersburg ballet anticipating the imminent arrest of the husband of the murdered ballerina. Not only had Miles Sutton been asking his wife for a divorce, he was also hiding a serious drug habit. Questions remain however over the murder weapon - the pair of shears found by our narrator, Peter, after the murder took place. The performances of the now sell-out ballet continue as does the investigation, and tonight a wealthy patron holds a party for the company.

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

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4 Show less

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