Edmund Crispin

Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery (usually credited as Bruce Montgomery) (2 October 1921 – 15 September 1978), an English crime writer and composer, known for his Gervase Fen novels.

Life and work

Montgomery was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire.[1] He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and graduated from St John's College, Oxford, in 1943, with a BA in modern languages, having for two years been its organ scholar[2] and choirmaster. From 1943 to 1945 he taught at Shrewsbury School. He first became established under his own name as a composer of vocal and choral music, including An Oxford Requiem (1951), but later turned to film work, writing the scores for many British comedies of the 1950s. For the Carry On series he composed six scores, (Sergeant, Nurse, Teacher, Constable, Regardless and Cruising), including the original Carry On theme subsequently adapted for later films by Eric Rogers. He also composed the scores to four films in the Doctor film series (House, Sea, Large and Love). Montgomery wrote both the screenplay and score of Raising the Wind (1961), and his other film scores included The Kidnappers (1953), Raising a Riot (1955), Eyewitness (1956), The Truth About Women (1957), The Surgeon's Knife (1957), Please Turn Over (1959), Too Young to Love (1959), Watch Your Stern (1960), No Kidding (1960), Twice Round the Daffodils (1962) and The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966).

Montgomery wrote nine detective novels and two collections of short stories under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin (taken from a character in Michael Innes's Hamlet, Revenge!).[3] The stories feature Oxford don Gervase Fen,[4] who is a Professor of English at the university and a fellow of St Christopher's College, a fictional institution that Crispin locates next to St John's College. Fen is an eccentric, sometimes absent-minded, character reportedly based on the Oxford professor W. E. Moore. The whodunit novels have complex plots and fantastic, somewhat unbelievable solutions, including examples of the locked room mystery. They are written in a humorous, literary and sometimes farcical style and contain frequent references to English literature, poetry, and music. They are also among the few mystery novels to break the fourth wall occasionally and speak directly to the audience. Perhaps the best example is from The Moving Toyshop, during a chase sequence – "Let's go left", Cadogan suggested. "After all, Gollancz is publishing this book."[5]

Crispin is considered by many to be one of the last great exponents of the classic crime mystery.[6]

Montgomery's output of music and fiction all but ceased after the 1950s, but he continued to write reviews of crime novels and science fiction works for The Sunday Times. He had always been a heavy drinker and there was a long gap in his writing during a time when he was suffering from alcohol problems. Otherwise he enjoyed a quiet life (enlivened by music, reading, church-going and bridge) in Totnes, Devon, where he resisted all attempts to develop or exploit the district, and visited London as little as possible. He moved to a new house he had built at Week, a hamlet near Dartington, in 1964. In 1976 he married his secretary Ann, two years before he died from alcohol-related problems. His music was composed using his real name, Bruce Montgomery.

A biography by David Whittle, Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books (ISBN 0754634434) was published in June 2007. A previously unpublished novella, featuring Edmund Crispin, will be included in the 2019 edition of the annual anthology, Bodies from the Library.

Influence

Gareth Roberts has said that the tone of his Doctor Who novel The Well-Mannered War was modelled upon Crispin's style. He also remarks (of The Moving Toyshop) that "It's more like Doctor Who than Doctor Who." Christopher Fowler pays homage to The Moving Toyshop in The Victoria Vanishes, his sixth Bryant & May novel.

Novels

All feature Gervase Fen.

  • The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944) (published in the United States as Obsequies at Oxford)
  • Holy Disorders (1945)
  • The Moving Toyshop (1946)
  • Swan Song (1947) (published in the United States as Dead and Dumb)
  • Love Lies Bleeding (1948)
  • Buried for Pleasure (1948)
  • Frequent Hearses (1950) (published in the United States as Sudden Vengeance)
  • The Long Divorce (1951) (published in the United States as A Noose for Her)
  • The Glimpses of the Moon (1977)

Short story collections

Beware of the Trains (1953)

  1. Beware of the Trains (from Daily Sketch, Dec 1949)
  2. Humbleby Agonistes (from London Evening Standard)
  3. The Drowning of Edgar Foley (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1952)
  4. "Lacrimae Rerum" (from Daily Sketch, Dec 1949)
  5. Within the Gates (from London Evening Standard, March 1952)
  6. Abhorred Shears (from London Evening Standard)
  7. The Little Room (from London Evening Standard, Sept 1952)
  8. Express Delivery (from London Evening Standard)
  9. A Pot of Paint
  10. The Quick Brown Fox (from London Evening Standard, Jan 1950)
  11. Black for a Funeral
  12. The Name on the Window
  13. The Golden Mean (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1952)
  14. Otherwhere
  15. The Evidence for the Crown
  16. Deadlock (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, June 1949)

Fen Country (1979)

  1. Who Killed Baker? (from London Evening Standard)
  2. Death and Aunt Fancy
  3. The Hunchback Cat (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  4. The Lion's Tooth (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1955)
  5. Gladstone's Candlestick (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1955)
  6. The Man Who Lost His Head (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1955)
  7. The Two Sisters
  8. Outrage in Stepney (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, 1955)
  9. A Country to Sell (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1955)
  10. A Case in Camera (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1955)
  11. Blood Sport (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  12. The Pencil (from London Evening Standard, Feb 1953)
  13. Windhover Cottage (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  14. The House by the River (from London Evening Standard, Feb 1953)
  15. After Evensong
  16. Death Behind Bars (from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, 1960)
  17. We Know You're Busy Writing, But We Thought You Wouldn't Mind If We Just Dropped in for a Minute (from Winter's Crimes, 1969)
  18. Cash on Delivery
  19. Shot in the Dark (from London Evening Standard, 1952)
  20. The Mischief Done (from Winter's Crimes, 1972)
  21. Merry-Go-Round (from London Evening Standard, Feb 1953)
  22. Occupational Risk (from London Evening Standard, 1955)
  23. Dog in the Night-Time (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  24. Man Overboard (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  25. The Undraped Torso (from London Evening Standard, Aug 1954)
  26. Wolf! (from London Evening Standard, Feb 1953)

Uncollected stories

  • "St Bartholomew's Day", Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (February 1975)

Books edited by Crispin

Crispin also edited seven volumes entitled Best Science Fiction, which were published during the 1960s.[7]

Notes

  1. Whittle, David (2007). Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books. Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 4.
  2. John Bowen in The Oldie, April 2011
  3. Herbert, Rosemary (2003). Whodunit: A Who's Who in Crime and Mystery Writing. Oxford University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-19-515761-3.
  4. Grosset, Philip. "Gervase Fen"
  5. Crispin, Edmund (1946). The Moving Toyshop (Chapter 6). London: Four Square (paperback) Edition, 1965, p. 68.
  6. BBC - Doctor Who - Classic Series - Ebooks - Introduction - Let me entertain you
  7. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections, "Best SF" to "Best SF 7".

References

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