Cecil Street

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE (3 May 1884 – 8 December 1964), who was known to his colleagues, family and friends as John Street, began his military career as an artillery officer in the British army. During the course of World War I, he became a propagandist for MI7, in which role he held the rank of Major.[1] After the armistice, he alternated between Dublin and London during the Irish War of Independence as Information Officer for Dublin Castle, working closely with Lionel Curtis.[2] He later earned his living as a prolific writer of detective novels.

Major (Cecil) John (Charles) Street
Born3 May 1884
Died8 December 1964(1964-12-08) (aged 80)
Eastbourne, East Sussex
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Commands heldRoyal Garrison Artillery
World War I
Irish War of Independence
Spouse(s)Eileen Annette Waller


John Street produced two long series of novels; one under the name of John Rhode, the majority featuring the academic Dr. Priestley,[3]; another under the name of Miles Burton, the majority featuring the retired naval officer Desmond Merrion; and a third under the name Cecil Waye.

The Dr. Priestley novels were among the first after Dr Thorndyke to feature scientific detection of crime,[3] such as analysing the mud on a suspect's shoes. Desmond Merrion is an amateur detective who works with Scotland Yard's Inspector Arnold.

Critic and author Julian Symons placed "John Rhode" as a prominent member of the "Humdrum" school of detective fiction. "Most of them came late to writing fiction, and few had much talent for it. They had some skill in constructing puzzles, nothing more, and ironically they fulfilled much better than S. S. Van Dine his dictum that the detective story properly belonged in the category of riddles or crossword puzzles. Most of the Humdrums were British, and among the best known of them were Major John Street ...".[4] Symons' opinion has not however prevented the Rhode and Burton books becoming much sought after by collectors, and many of the early ones can command high prices. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor in their A Catalogue of Crime offer a different perspective to Symons, praising several of the Rhode books in particular, though they only review a small proportion of the more than 140 novels written by Street.

Curt Evans has written the only detailed account of Street's life and works: "I wrote my new book, Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961 (published by McFarland Press) in part to give a long overdue reappraisal of these purportedly "humdrum" detection writers as accomplished literary artists. Not only did they produce a goodly number of fine fair play puzzles, but their clever tales have more intrinsic interest as social documents and even sometimes as literary novels than they have been credited with having."


This bibliography has been confirmed against a standard reference.[5]

Writing as John Rhode

Dr. Priestley Novels

Series characters: Lancelot Priestley, Inspector Hanslet and Inspector Jimmy Waghorn.

Non-series Novels

  • A.S.F.: The Story of a Great Conspiracy (1924) (U.S. title The White Menace)
  • The Double Florin (1924)
  • The Alarm (1925)
  • Mademoiselle From Armentieres (1927)
  • Drop to His Death (1939) (U.S. title Fatal Descent; on its first publication in the U.S. the book was promoted as being solely by C J C Street), with "Carter Dickson", a pseudonym of John Dickson Carr
  • Night Exercise (1942) (U.S. title Dead of the Night). Sir Hector Chalgrove, acerbic businessman and Home Guard Colonel, disappears during a World War II night exercise. Major Ledbury (Officer Commanding the Wealdhurst Company, Home Guard) assists police to find the killer and assuage local suspicion of his guilt.

Non-Fiction Books

  • The Case of Constance Kent

Short Stories

  • The Elusive Bullet. Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror - Second Series, Ed. Dorothy L Sayers, 1931 (Dr. Priestley story). Reprinted: Bodies from the Library. Ed. Tony Medawar, 2018
  • The Vanishing Diamond. The Great Book of Thrillers. Ed. H. Douglas Thomson, 1935 (Dr. Priestley story)
  • The Yellow Sphere. Sunday Dispatch, 3 April 1938
  • The Purple Line. Evening Standard, 20 January 1950. Reprinted: Evening Standard Detective Book, 1950 (Inspector Purley story)

Non-Fiction Articles

  • Constance Kent, included in The Anatomy of Murder, Bodley Head, 1936
  • Why People Like Detective Stories. The Listener, 2 October 1935
  • Unsolved Mysteries No. 6: Solution to the "Mystery of the Murdered Lieutenant". The Star, 1938

Stage Plays

  • Sixpennyworth, featuring Inspector Jimmy Waghorn (No performances have been traced). The play is set in the lounge of The Spotted Dog, a pub in a town whose name is not given, "emphatically so", and involves a neat method of creating an instant blackout. No performances have been identified

Radio Plays

  • Dr. Priestley, BBC Empire Service, talk as part of the series 'Meet the Detective', 1935
  • The Strange Affair at the Old Dutch Mill, play featuring Inspector Jimmy Waghorn, BBC National Programme, 7 October 1938, as part of the series 'What Happened at 8:20?"
  • Death Travels First, two-part play featuring Inspector Jimmy Waghorn, BBC Home Service, 2 and 9 July 1940 as part of a series of plays by members of the Detection Club

Non-Fiction Radio Programmes

  • Thoughts of a Detective Story Writer, BBC National Programme, 7, 14, 21 and 28 September 1935

Writing as Miles Burton

Desmond Merrion Novels

Series characters: Desmond Merrion and Inspector Henry Arnold.

Non-Series Novels

  • The Hardway Diamonds Mystery (1930)
  • Murder at the Moorings (1932)

Unfinished Material

  • Untitled, 48-page typescript of the opening chapters of an apparently non-series novel, set in the villages of Kildersham and Dreford and concerning a death at a pheasant shoot and a drowning.

Writing as Cecil Waye

"The Perrins" novels

Series characters: Christopher and Vivienne Perrin – 'Perrins, Private Investigators'.

  • Murder at Monk's Barn (1931)
  • The Figure of Eight (1931)
  • The End of the Chase (1932)
  • The Prime Minister's Pencil (1933)

Writing as F.O.O. (Forward Observation Officer)


  • The Worldly Hope (Eveleigh Nash Company), 1917, a war novel.

Non-Fiction Books

  • With the Guns (Eveleigh Nash Company), 1916
  • The Making of a Gunner, 1916

Writing as I.O. (Intelligence Officer)

Non-Fiction Books

  • The Administration of Ireland, 1920, 1921 at Internet Archive

Writing as C. J. C. Street

Non-fiction books and pamphlets


  • Vauban, Builder of Fortresses, by Daniel Halvey, translated with notes, 1929
  • The Life and Voyages of Captain Cook, by Maurice Thiery, translated with notes, 1929

Short Faction

  • A Quiet Night Watch. Launceston Examiner, 4 January 1918
  • The Duel. Hobart Mercury, 8 January 1918
  • Paying a Morning Call. New Zealand Times, 14 January 1918
  • An Airman's Evening. Oamaru Mail, 18 January 1918
  • Ending a Nuisance. Taranaki Herald, 21 January 1918
  • A Night Alarm. Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners' Advocate, 30 January 1918
  • The Sacrifice. Townsville Daily Bulletin, 18 February 1918
  • Running the Gauntlet. Hobart Daily Post, 22 February 1918
  • The Counter Attack. Taranaki Herald, 26 February 1918
  • Gunner Morson, Signaller. Trench and Camp (Camp Logan Edition), 11 March 1918
  • Ready for Action, Sir. Launceston Examiner, 12 April 1918
  • An Overhaul. Sydney World's News, 13 April 1918
  • Getting the Wind Up. War Supplement for Week Ending 27 April 1918
  • Stuck in the Mud. Chicago Tribune, 2 June 1918
  • An Unexpected Shot. Melbourne Age, 20 July 1918
  • Under Fire. Feilding Star, 29 July 1918. Reprinted; Taranaki Herald, 1 August 1918
  • The Thick of It. Leeds Mercury, 14 August 1918
  • Not a Blank. Leeds Mercury, 21 August 1918
  • The Watcher. (Washington) Sunday Star, 25 August 1918

Short Stories

  • On the High Seas. Cassell's Magazine of Fiction, September 1920
  • TITLE UNKNOWN. Lloyd's Story Magazine, September 1922 - Not confirmed
  • The Ship's Doctor. Sea Stories, 5 October 1923

Non-Fiction Articles


  1. Director 'M.I.7(b)(1)' from April – November 1918
  2. The Administration of Ireland, 1920 Reprint, 2001 by Athol Books. Introduction by Dr. Pat Walsh p5
  3. T. J. Binyon (1989). Murder will out. Oxford University Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-19-219223-X.
  4. Symons, Julian (1974). Bloody Murder. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-003794-2.
  5. Hubin, Allen J. (1980). Crime fiction, 1749–1980: A Comprehensive Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8240-9219-8.
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