Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Saturday, 7 June 2008 14:32 UK

Book at Bedtime choices defended

The cover of Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
Gowdy tried "to help us understand" why kidnaps occurred, Ms Raphael said

The woman in charge of BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime has defended her decision to pick novels which some listeners have branded "disturbing".

Among the complainants was one person saying Helpless by Barbara Gowdy, about child abduction, made them "sick".

Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael said it was "extremely well written" and added listeners could "turn off".

But she said it might have been better to have avoided airing it after another "difficult" book, by Poppy Adams.

"I would accept that The Behaviour of Moths followed straight on by Helpless may not have been the best two books to put next to each other," Ms Raphael told her radio station's Feedback programme.

"However we do try to get books on publication, and the paperback of Helpless is out now, and Behaviour of Moths has just been published.

"That's when people are reading the reviews, and they are being talked about."


Listeners complained that Helpless, which follows the stalking and kidnap of a nine-year-old girl, was an inappropriate and tasteless choice for Book at Bedtime, which is broadcast at 2245 each weekday.

"It is about a very difficult subject," Ms Raphael said. "Unfortunately, writers do want to write about disturbing things.

"We felt that this showed a level of humanity and an attempt to understand the story from everybody's perspective, that we thought listeners would enjoy hearing."

A BBC spokesman was unable to give full details of the number of complaints received by Feedback, as it was an independently-produced programme.

However, he confirmed three complaints had been made directly to the corporation about Helpless, with three further comments saying the book was frightening.

One further complaint had been sent regarding The Behaviour of Moths, he added.

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