The Serpent's Smile
by Olga Hesky

Olga Hesky - The Serpent's Smile

BBC Radio 4: Saturday Night Theatre

Broadcast: Saturday 16th February 1985 @ 8:30 p.m.

It's Saturday evening in Tel Aviv - from dusk on the eve of the Sabbath until the first star puts in an appearance in the Saturday evening sky, the whole town is pretty much like a morgue. Then slowly, one by one, the shops down the main thoroughfare - Dizengoff Street - switch on their lights and open their doors; the scores of cafés set out their tables and chairs on the wide boulevards; the traffic starts to flow - slowly at first, then faster and more furiously as daylight fades completely into the balmy summer night. The people come in ones and twos, in scores, and then in droves to sample the cosmopolitan delights of one of the world's greatest thoroughfares, The Champs Elysées of Israel. Amid all that noise, all those crowds, all that confusion, who could be expected to notice how it was that one young man toppled slowly to the pavement, blood spreading over his shirt front ... The man had died of a knife wound to the chest, but there wasn't any hole in his shirt to correspond with the wound. He was dead when he arrived at Dizengoff Street, probably unloaded from a car at the curb, and supported at each side for a few paces. Then simply left to fall - while the two of them walked away.

Inspector Tami Shimoni is brought in to investigate only to find that he will have to do so without the corpse which was suddenly taken away, after a post-mortem in the middle of the night, on orders by the Inspector General, the Head of the Israel Police. Tami soon finds that the death of the young man is tied into another investigation, though minor, that he is working on: a young American tourist that had her camera stolen.

The dead man is later identified as Yehoshua Caleb, an Israeli GUG Agent, who had been in Libya secretly investigating the recent development of micro-virus that has no antidote, except one made from the same formula. He had returned unexpectedly to Israel on the same flight as Shelley Bernstein, the young American tourist who had her camera stolen. But why did he return? He had not contacted anyone and nothing was found on his body. All Tami has to go on is that Caleb had a cryptic conversation with Shelley on their flight in and was to meet with her for dinner the night he died.

Dramatised by Neville Teller from Olga Hesky's 1966 novel, "The Serpent's Smile".

With Steve Hodson [Inspector Tami Shimoni of the Israeli Police, Tel Aviv Branch], Susan Denaker [Shelley Bernstein, an American Tourist], John Gabriel [Pappa Barzilai, Tami's Landlord], Gwen Cherrell [Freda Harrison, an American Tourist], Ed Bishop [Joe Harrison, an American Tourist, Freda's Husband], Barbara Atkinson [Betty Mannering, an English Tourist], Lydia Sherwood [Lucy Mannering, an English Tourist, Betty's Twin Sister], Mia Soteriou [Maisie Rice, an English Tourist], David Sinclair [Maurice Rice, an English Tourist, Maisie's Husband], Arnold Diamond [Max, a Tourist Guide], Ali Raffi [Hashi], David Garth [Superintendent Cohen], William Eedle [Sergeant Lieb], Adrian Egan [Uzi, a Member of Israel's Top Security Force, GUG], Harry Towb [Nahum Schwartz, Propietor of the Café Schwartz on Dizengoff Street], Cyril Shaps [Dr. Livni], Alan Thompson [Mr. Reuben, Tami's Neighbour], Colin Starkey [Yitzhak], Bernard Brown [The Police Surgeon], and Peter Acre [Yehoshua (Josh) Caleb, an Israeli GUG Agent].

Other parts were played by members of the cast.

Produced by John Cardy

Re-broadcast on Monday 18th February 1985 on BBC Radio 4: Afternoon Theatre

90 minutes

An excerpt from Neville Teller's 2008 book, "One Man's Israel" on how 'The Serpent's Smile' came to be made: "In 1984, I put to the BBC the idea of a dramatisation of 'The Serpent's Smile' for the popular radio drama spot, Saturday Night Theatre. At that time, there had been virtually no drama on BBC radio set in Israel, and the proposal was taken up. The producer was John Cardy, a friend and working colleague as editor of 'Book at Bedtime'.

'The Serpent's Smile' was, of course, published a year before the Six Day War, but we agreed to set the play in contemporary Israel. By that time, I 'd come to know the head of radio drama for Kol Yisrael, Eran Baniel, and we contacted him and asked if he would help our production by recording some genuine Israeli sound effects: Tel Aviv traffic, Israeli telephone tones and police sirens ... things like that. After a time the sound effect tapes arrived, and John Cardy feed them as appropriate into the production. ..."


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