John Dickson Carr (1906 -
1977) was born in Uniontown, Pa. as the son of Julia and Wooda Nicholas Carr, a
Pennsylvania lawyer who served a term in Congress. Carr told a story of himself as a child
being introduced to President Woodrow Wilson and asking him what he did for a living.
Settling in England, Carr attained a pace of four novels a year, plus radio and short story work. It was more than one publisher could handle, so Carr started with another publisher, choosing the pseudonym Nicholas Wood in honor of his father. When The Bowstring Murders (1933) appeared, it bore, to his shock, the byline "Carr Dickson." Both Carr and the original publisher were understandably miffed, but a slight change to "Carter Dickson" mollified them. The dual identity was one of the worst-kept secrets in the history of the genre, with stories appearing under either name in various collections. Carr was elected to the Detection Club, the first American to be so honored. Carr is best known for his intricate puzzle novels with strong Gothic and supernatural overtones. The man is known as "the master of the locked room." He was that. No one in the history of the genre could match him for sheer sustained ingenuity when it came to devising reader-bamboozling locked rooms and other impossible crimes. Of these, The Three Coffins (1935), contains not only a mystery, but a lecture by Dr. Fell which defines the genre. He was also author of the first standard biography of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle (1949), and collaborated with Doyle's son Adrian in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1954). Incidentally, he showed himself also to be a master at putting one over on the publisher. In 1964, ill and behind schedule, yet still required to submit a book, he dusted off the thirty-year-old Devil Kinsmere, revised it, retitled it Most Secret, and had it accepted again by the publishing company that issued it unsuccessfully thirty years before. From 1969 until his death, he wrote "The Jury Box," a mystery review column in EQMM. Carr created four distinct, and distinctly likable detectives: Henri Bencolin and Dr. Gideon Fell under his own name, and Sir Henry Merrivale and Colonel March as Dickson. What is even more remarkable is that they remain distinguishable even though they all meet the same type of cases (impossible crimes) and tend to serve the same function in the structure of the story.
Carr did not attempt to write stories of genteel murders solved by detached intellectuals. Carr, who frequently used the phrase "improving one's mind with the study of sensational fiction," would wade hip-deep in atmosphere. Ruined castles, rats, rooms that seem to kill, and lurid tales from the plague era all figure in his novels. There are often pools of blood. On top of this, Carr could write scenes of rollicking slapstick and frequently threw them in the same books with the brooding horrors, thereby somehow increasing the impact of both. To quote a contemporary assessment from Dorothy L. Sayers, "In short, he can write."
Francis M(ichael), Jr. Nevins (born
Bayonne, New Jersey, January 6, 1943 -
) U.S. lawyer, law professor, editor, anthologist, and scholar and writer of
mystery stories. He teaches Estates, Copyright, Law and Electronic Media, and seminars in
related areas at the St. Louis University Law School in Missouri. An scholar
of the genre who constantly unearths great old stories and reintroduces forgotten writers
to modern scrutiny. Prof. Nevins is an accomplished mystery writer, having published
numerous short stories and five full-length mystery novels. Some book-length
critical works by Nevins, both of which have won Edgar Awards are Royal Bloodline:
Ellery Queen, Author and Detective won for 1974, and the study Cornell
Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die was the best critical/biographical work of
Anthony Boucher (b.August 21, 1911 - d. April 1968) William Anthony Parker White, to give him his full name, was well-known in both SF and detection circles. He was born in Oakland, California and until his death in 1968 spent most of his working days as an author, editor and critic of these two genres plus -- another major interest -- opera and music. Thus he regularly reviewed detective stories for EQMM. Anthony Boucher also edited True Crime Detective magazine (1952-53), half a dozen detection anthologies and, in succession, three major American lines of crime fiction: the Mercury Mysteries (1952-55), the Dell Great Mystery Library (1957-60) and the Collier Mystery Classics (1962-68). Between 1945 and 1948 he wrote radio plays for the Sherlock Holmes and Case Book of Gregory Hood (with Denis Green) series in the USA. He even stepped as replacement for Frederick Dannay to continue the Ellery Queen radio drama together with Manfred B.Lee. The Mystery Writers of America elected him their President for 1951, and three times voted him the Edgar Allan Poe award for excellence in criticism (1946, 1950, 1953). In 1970, after his death, American detective fans began annual conventions in his memory -- "Bouchercons". Another nonfiction book, published during his lifetime, was Ellery Queen: A Double Profile (1951); this of course dealt with the two authors who between them were the late Ellery Queen. His fictional output wasn't huge. Apart from the multiple collaboration The Marble Forest (1951, as by "Theo Durrant", also known as The Big Fear), it consists of seven detective novels and barely fifty short stories, some mysteries, some SF/fantasy and some an enjoyable mixture of both. He died of lung cancer.
G.K. Chesterton (b. May 29, 1874, d. June 14, 1936), Gilbert Keith Chesterton,was a versatile and iconoclastic English author equally at home in many genres. He wrote novels, 1904), criticism (works on Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, and George Bernard Shaw), poetry, biography (St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas), and innumerable essays. He was also a talented artist, as seen in his boisterous illustrations of his own works. Among his admirable short stories, the best known are those about the priest-detective Father Brown, who first appeared in The Innocence of Father Brown (1911) and continued through five collections. Father Brown's methods were based less on material clues than on his intuitive knowledge of human motivation. The plots are unlikely but the puzzles ingenious, and the superbly written stories abound in the illuminating paradoxes of which Chesterton was a master and in breathtaking analyses of moral truth. A doctrinal and social conservative, Chesterton was received into the Roman Catholic church in 1922 by his friend Father John O'Connor (the model for Father Brown), and exercised a considerable influence on later English Catholic writers, notably Evelyn Waugh. Ever the individualist, he was known for his ebullient humor and huge girth. In 1936 he published his autobiography.
Julian Symons (Gustave)(b. May 30, 1912, d. Nov. 19, 1994), (English poet, editor,
biographer, historian, reviewer, and mystery writer, reviewer, and scholar) Symons
(pronounced "Simmons") was an English writer of highly literate
crime novels, among them The Progress of a Crime (1960), The Man Who Killed
Himself (1967), The Name of Annabel Lee (1983), and A Criminal Comedy
(1985). His novels are unusual for the seriousness of their subject matter and their
sharply satiric edge. Symons thrice won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for mystery writing. A
distinguished biographer and critic, he also wrote Bloody Murder (1972), a history of the
crime novel. He has been honored several times among his Awards, the Grand Master
Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1982. He earned these awards not simply
because of his achievements as a crime writer, which are considerable, but for his work as
an editor, reviewer (the Sunday Times),scholar and historian of the genre.
Dame Agatha Christie (b.
Sept. 15, 1890,
Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle (1859-1930) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied to be a doctor at the
University of Edinburgh and set up a small practice at Southsea in Hampshire during his
20s. While the practice proved largely unsuccessful, the lack of patients provided him
with the opportunity to create possibly the most popular character ever introduced in the
history of fiction, Sherlock Holmes. While at University, Conan Doyle had been greatly
influenced by John Bell, one of his professors. Bell was an expert in the use of deductive
reasoning to diagnose disease. Conan Doyle was so impressed that he used these same
principles when creating his famous detective.
S.S.Van Dine (b. Charlottesville, Va., 1888?, d. Apr. 11, 1939), was the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright an American scholar, editor, and art critic who turned to the writing of fiction after his health declined. He wrote a series of detective novels with an amateur sleuth as protagonist: Philo Vance, a languid purveyor of esoteric knowledge and icy logic, was a huge success. Between 1926 and 1938, 12 novels appeared, 11 of which were turned into movies, and, in the 1940s, Vance was also featured in a radio series. Among the best of the Van Dine novels are The Greene Murder Case (1928), The Bishop Murder Case (1929), and The Scarab Murder Case (1930).
Edgar Allan Poe (b. Boston, Jan. 19, 1809, d. Oct. 7, 1849), is best known for his poems and short fiction, deserves more credit than any other writer for the transformation of the short story from anecdote to art. He virtually created the detective story and perfected the psychological thriller. He also produced some of the most influential literary criticism of his time--important theoretical statements on poetry and the short story--and has had a worldwide influence on literature.
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