Joan Aiken, English-born daughter of American poet Conrad Aiken, began her writing career in the 1950s. Working for Argosy magazine as a copy editor but also as the anonymous author of articles and stories to fill up their pages, she was adept at inventing a wealth of characters and fantastic situations, and went on to produce hundreds of stories for Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many other magazines. Some of those early stories became novels, such as The Silence of Herondale, first published fifty years ago in 1964. Although her first agent famously told her to stick to short stories, saying she would never be able to sustain a full-length novel, Joan Aiken went on to win the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for The Whispering Mountain, and the Edgar Alan Poe award for her adult novel Night Fall. Her best known children's novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, was acclaimed by Time magazine as 'a genuine small masterpiece'. In 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children's literature, and although best known as a children's writer, Joan Aiken wrote many adult novels, both modern and historical, with her trademark wit and verve. Many have a similar gothic flavour to her children's writing, and were much admired by readers and critics alike. As she said 'The only difference I can see is that children's books have happier endings than those for adults.' You have been warned . . .
Robert Bloch (1917 - 1994)Robert Albert Bloch was born in Chicago in 1917. Over a career spanning some sixty years he published works in the areas of crime SF and fantasy and, of course, horror. He is best-known as the author of the classic 1958 horror novel, Psycho, famously filmed two years later by Alfred Hitchcock. His career awards include the Hugo, three Bram Stokers and a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award, and in 1991 he was named a World Horror Grandmaster. He worked extensively in television, writing many original screenplays including three for the original series of Star Trek. He died in 1994.
Born William Anthony Parker White in Oakland, California, Anthony Boucher (1911-1968) wrote both mystery and science fiction and was a highly regarded literary critic and editor. He also wrote scripts for radio, spoke numerous languages fluently, and was the first translator into English of Jorge Luis Borges. A founding member of the Mystery Writers of America, he was one of the first winners of an Edgar Award for his mystery reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle. He also wrote short stories for, among others, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Black Mask and Ed McBain's Mystery Book. His iconic status was cemented when, in 1970, Bouchercon (the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention) was set up in his honour.
Pamela Branch (1920-1967) was born on a tea estate in Sri Lanka. She was educated in England, studied art in Paris, and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Returning to the East, she lived for three years on a houseboat in Kashmir, and travelled extensively in Europe, India and the Middle East. According to her more famous contemporary Christianna Brand, she was 'the funniest lady you ever knew'; she adored practical jokes, of which she had a seemingly endless store, and the contemporary press lavishly praised her wit. The Sunday Times stated that 'even the bodies manage to be ghoulishly diverting' and the Times Literary Supplement compared her third novel, Murder Every Monday, to the work of Evelyn Waugh. She married twice, was, according to her friends, entertaining, glamorous, beautiful and charming, and the greatest mystery of her work is why it has not received more recognition since her untimely death from cancer at the age of forty-seven.
John Dickson Carr
John Dickson Carr (1906-1977), the master of the locked-room mystery, was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of a US Congressman. He studied law in Paris before settling in England where he married an Englishwoman, and he spent most of his writing career living in Great Britain. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Golden Age mystery writers, his work featured apparently impossible crimes often with seemingly supernatural elements. He modelled his affable and eccentric series detective Gideon Fell on G. K. Chesterton, and wrote a number of novels and short stories, including his series featuring Henry Merrivale, under the pseudonym Carter Dickson. He was one of only two Americans admitted to the British Detection club, and was highly praised by other mystery writers. Dorothy L. Sayers said of him that 'he can create atmosphere with an adjective, alarm with allusion, or delight with a rollicking absurdity'. In 1950 he was awarded the first of two prestigious Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America, and was presented with their Grand Master Award in 1963. He died in Greenville, South Carolina in 1977.
Vera Caspary (1899-1987)Vera Caspary, the acclaimed American writer of novels, plays, short stories and screenplays, was born in Chicago in 1899. Her writing talent shone from a young age and, following the death of her father, her work became the primary source of income for Caspary and her mother. A young woman when the Great Depression hit America, Caspary soon developed a keen interest in Socialist causes, and joined the Communist Party under a pseudonym. Although she soon left the party after becoming disillusioned, Caspary's leftist leanings would later come back to haunt her when she was greylisted from Hollywood in the 1950s for Communist sympathies. Caspary spent this period of self-described 'purgatory' alternately in Europe and America with her husband, Igee Goldsmith, in order to find work. After Igee's death in 1964, Caspary returned permanently to New York, where she wrote a further eight titles. Vera Caspary died in 1987 and is survived by a literary legacy of strong independent female characters.
James Hadley Chase
Born René Brabazon Raymond in London, the son of a British colonel in the Indian Army, James Hadley Chase (1906-1985) was educated at King's School in Rochester, Kent, and left home at the age of 18. He initially worked in book sales until, inspired by the rise of gangster culture during the Depression and by reading James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, he wrote his first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish. Despite the American setting of many of his novels, Chase (like Peter Cheyney, another hugely successful British noir writer) never lived there, writing with the aid of maps and a slang dictionary. He had phenomenal success with the novel, which continued unabated throughout his entire career, spanning 45 years and nearly 90 novels. His work was published in dozens of languages and over thirty titles were adapted for film. He served in the RAF during World War II, where he also edited the RAF Journal. In 1956 he moved to France with his wife and son; they later moved to Switzerland, where Chase lived until his death in 1985.
Reginald Evelyn Peter Southouse Cheyney (1896-1951) was born in Whitechapel in the East End of London. After serving as a lieutenant during the First World War, he worked as a police reporter and freelance investigator until he found success with his first Lemmy Caution novel. In his lifetime Cheyney was a prolific and wildly successful author, selling, in 1946 alone, over 1.5 million copies of his books. His work was also enormously popular in France, and inspired Jean-Luc Godard's character of the same name in his dystopian sci-fi film Alphaville. The master of British noir, in Lemmy Caution Peter Cheyney created the blueprint for the tough-talking, hard-drinking pulp fiction detective.
J. J. Connington
Alfred Walter Stewart (1880-1947), who wrote under the pen name J. J. Connington, was born in Glasgow, the youngest of three sons of Reverend Dr Stewart. He graduated from Glasgow University and pursued an academic career as a chemistry professor, working for the Admiralty during the First World War. Known for his ingenious and carefully worked-out puzzles and in-depth character development, he was admired by a host of his better-known contemporaries, including Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr, who both paid tribute to his influence on their work. He married Jessie Lily Courts in 1916 and they had one daughter.
Constance Lindsay Dowdy (1907-2000) began her career writing poems and articles for several periodicals before her first detective novel, Murder with Relish, was published in 1948. Her publisher subsequently convinced her to adopt the pseudonym Guy Cullingford, under which all her ensuing novels were written. Her most celebrated title, Post Mortem, was published in 1953 and received wide critical acclaim. Her identity was finally unmasked after being accepted into The Detection Club, the CWA and the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.
Born in Zambia, Peter Dickinson spent his childhood in Gloucestershire and was educated at Eton and Cambridge, where he read English. Before writing full-time, he worked in various capacities on Punch Magazine, where he reviewed detective novels. His own first two detective novels, Skin Deep and A Pride of Heroes, set a still unsurpassed record by winning the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger in successive years (1968 and 1969), and his 21 crime and mystery novels have been published in several languages. Peter Dickinson is also one of the UK's most acclaimed children's writers. He has twice won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Award, as well as the Guardian Children's Fiction Award. He has been Chairman of the Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was awarded an OBE for services to literature in 2009. He lives in Hampshire, England.
Stanley Ellin (1916-1986) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and educated at Brooklyn College. He worked as a teacher, a steelworker and a dairy farmer, and served in the US Army in World War 2, before becoming a full-time writer in 1946. His first published short story, The Speciality of the House caused an immediate sensation and won him a special Ellery Queen Award. He won two Edgars for short stories, as well as one for The Eighth Circle, Le Grand Prix du Meilleur Roman Policier Etranger for Mirror, Mirror on the Wall and was made a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America in 1980.
One of the most distinguished crime writers of her generation, Elizabeth Ferrars (1907-1995) was born in Rangoon and came to Britain at the age of six. She was a pupil at Bedales school between 1918 and 1924, studied journalism at London University and published her first crime novel, Give a Corpse a Bad Name, in 1940, the year that she met her second husband, academic Robert Brown. Highly praised by critics, her brand of intelligent, gripping mysteries beloved by readers, she wrote over seventy novels and was also published (as E. X. Ferrars) in the States, where she was equally popular. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine described her as as 'the writer who may be the closest of all to Christie in style, plotting and general milieu', and the Washington Post called her 'a consummate professional in clever plotting, characterization and atmosphere'. She was a founding member of the Crime Writers' Association, who, in the early 1980s, gave her a lifetime achievement award.
Joan Fleming (1908-1980) was one of the most original and literate crime writers of her generation. Born in Lancashire and educated at Lausanne University she became the wife of a Harley Street eye surgeon and mother of four, and was already a successful children's author before she turned to crime. She is the author of over thirty novels and won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1962 for When I Grow Rich and again in 1970 for Young Man, I Think You're Dying. The Deeds of Dr Deadcert was made into the 1958 film Rx for Murder.
Erle Stanley Gardner
Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) left school in 1909 and attended Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana for just one month before he was suspended for focusing more on his hobby of boxing than his academic studies. Soon after, he settled in California, where he taught himself the law and passed the state bar exam in 1911. The practise of law never held much interest for him, however, apart from as it pertained to trial strategy, and in his spare time he began to write for the pulp magazines that gave Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler their start. Not long after the publication of his first novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, featuring Perry Mason, he gave up his legal practice to write full time. He had one daughter, Grace, with his first wife, Natalie, from whom he later separated. In 1968 Gardner married his long-term secretary, Agnes Jean Bethell, whom he professed to be the real 'Della Street', Perry Mason's sole (although unacknowledged) love interest. He was one of the most successful authors of all time and at the time of his death, in Temecula, California in 1970, is said to have had 135 million copies of his books in print in America alone.
Anthony Gilbert was the pen name of Lucy Beatrice Malleson. Born in London, she spent all her life there, and her affection for the city is clear from the strong sense of character and place in evidence in her work. She published 69 crime novels, 51 of which featured her best known character, Arthur Crook, a vulgar London lawyer totally (and deliberately) unlike the aristocratic detectives, such as Lord Peter Wimsey, who dominated the mystery field at the time. She also wrote more than 25 radio plays, which were broadcast in Great Britain and overseas. Her thriller The Woman in Red (1941) was broadcast in the United States by CBS and made into a film in 1945 under the title My Name is Julia Ross. She was an early member of the British Detection Club, which, along with Dorothy L. Sayers, she prevented from disintegrating during World War II. Malleson published her autobiography, Three-a-Penny, in 1940, and wrote numerous short stories, which were published in several anthologies and in such periodicals as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and The Saint. The short story 'You Can't Hang Twice' received a Queens award in 1946. She never married, and evidence of her feminism is elegantly expressed in much of her work.
Novelist Lesley Glaister was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England. She grew up in Suffolk, moving to Sheffield with her first husband, where she took a degree with the Open University. She was 'discovered' by the novelist Hilary Mantel when she attended a course given by the Arvon Foundation in 1989. Mantel was so impressed by her writing that she recommended her to a literary agent. Lesley Glaister's first novel, Honour Thy Father, won both a Somerset Maugham Award and a Betty Trask Award. Her other novels include Trick or Treat, Limestone and Clay, for which she was awarded the Yorkshire Post Book Award (Yorkshire Author of the Year), Partial Eclipse and Now You See Me, the story of the unlikely relationship between Lamb, a former patient in a psychiatric ward, and Doggo, a fugitive on the run from the police. Her latest novel is Chosen (2010). Lesley Glaister lives with her husband between Sheffield and Orkney. She has three sons and teaches Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Lesley was a winner of the 2014 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize for Little Egypt.
Richard Grindal was born in New Delhi in 1920, where his father was working for the Indian Civil Service. He was educated at King's, Canterbury and won a scholarship to read modern history at Corpus Christi, Cambridge. During the war he joined the RAF. During the 1960s Richard worked for the Iron & Steel Federation. He was based in London, where he married and where his three children were born. His spiritual home, however, was Scotland; for over 20 years he travelled the world representing the Scotch Whisky industry and wrote a number of books about whisky. Writing and golf were his two great passions. He had 25 crime fiction titles published, some of which under his pen name of Richard Grayson.
P. M. Hubbard
Praised by critics for his clean prose style, characterization, and the strong sense of place in his novels, Philip Maitland Hubbard (1910-1980) was born in Reading, in Berkshire and brought up in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands. He was educated at Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize for English verse in 1933. From 1934 until its disbandment in 1947 he served with the Indian Civil service. On his return to England he worked for the British Council, eventually retiring to work as a freelance writer. He contributed to a number of publications, including Punch, and wrote 16 novels for adults as well as two children's books. He lived in Dorset and Scotland, and many of his novels draw on his interest in and knowledge of rural pursuits and folk religion.
Bill James (1929-) is the author of numerous thrillers and crime novels as well as a critical work on Anthony Powell. In 2006 he was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association's prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger award for the year's best crime novel for Wolves of Memory. His work is much loved and critically acclaimed; the Sunday Telegraph describes him as 'bruisingly good' and The Times as 'subtle and riveting to the last page'. He lives in his native South Wales.