Friday, June 28, 2013

Anthony Berkeley

Anthony Berkeley Cox is one of the lesser remembered writers of Britain's Golden Age of Detection, yet was oddly one of the leading members of the genre at the time. While not educated in the hallowed halls of Oxford or Cambridge, like many his contemporaries, he attended the secular University College London. After serving in the British army during WWI, Berkeley took to writing as a journalist for such magazines as Punch and The Humorist. Berkeley published under many pseudonyms, such as Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley (he omitted the Cox) and A. Monmouth Platts. In fact many people might recognize his writing as Francis Iles more, because his book, Malice Aforethought, was made into a BBC Movie staring Richard Armitage, and when I say staring, it's really a minor role, but it is staring to me.

In his writing, Berkeley is most known for the creation of the novice sleuth Roger Sheringham, who appeared in Berkeley's first novel, The Layton Court Mystery, which he published anonymously. Berkeley's book The Poisoned Chocolate Case staring Sheringham, is considered a classic of this classic genre. While he continued writing for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and The Gaurdian until his death in 1971, it wasn't his writing that Berkeley is most famous for.

In 1930 he co-founded the legendary Detection Club with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Baroness Orczy, G.K. Chesteron,  and other established mystery writers. The club had regular meetings where the authors would discuss their projects and get help with the technical aspects of their books. The club is noted for the fact that they adhered to a code of "fair play." Meaning, in their writing, they were to give the reader a fair chance at guessing the guilty party. While the club still exists, the fair play rule has become even more lax... in fact their were several members of the original club who didn't adhere to the rule at the time. They published several anthologies and co-authored many books, which Berkeley contributed to. Because of Berkeley's involvement in the club he is considered a key figure in the development of crime fiction and a worthy inclusion in my Golden Summer.


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