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Verses of the Poet Laureate, read by Bill Paterson, Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick, Orion, 3hrs 40mins, £8.99

Verses of the Poet Laureate, read by Bill Paterson, Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick, Orion, 3hrs 40mins, £8.99

THIS IS a timely follow-up to the recent debate over who, if anyone, deserved to be Poet Laureate after the death of Ted Hughes. It traces the varied fortunes of the laureateship from its first incumbent, John Dryden, to its 19th, Andrew Motion himself. Samples of their verse, both personal and patriotic, reveal much that is great ­ Tennyson and Hughes emerge as head and shoulders above the rest. There is also plenty that is hilariously trite ­ most notably Alfred Austin's couplet on an illness of the Prince of Wales: "Down the electric wire the message came/ He is not much better, he is much the same". Top marks to Hilary Laurie who selected the poems, and wrote the informative introduction and biographical and critical links.

Strangers on a Train, read by William Roberts, Isis, 10hrs, £17.99 (mail order: 0800 731 5637)

WITH A remastered version of Alfred Hitchcock's masterly film about to be released, this unabridged recording is a great way to take another look at the original: a typically bizarre thriller by Patricia Highsmith. Guy is a promising architect with a new sweetheart. There is only one problem ­ his separated wife is finding her married boyfriend isn't going to come up to scratch now she's pregnant ­ so she wants Guy back, for respectability's sake. Travelling overnight by train to reason with her, he confides his problem ­ and his growing hatred of her ­ into the suspiciously eager ear of Charles Bruno, who reveals his own pathological hatred of his father. The way in which Highsmith makes the nightmare outcome totally psychologically convincing is a tribute to her genius.

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