Julian Gustave Symons
was a British
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
crime writer and poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...
. He also wrote social and military history, biography and studies of literature.
Life and work
Julian Symons was born in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...
. He was a younger brother, and later the biographer, of the writer A. J. A. Symons
Alphonse James Albert Symons was an English writer and bibliographer.In 1922, he founded the First Edition Club to publish limited editions and to organize exhibitions of rare books and manuscripts. In 1924 he published a bibliography of first editions of the works of Yeats, and in 1930 he founded...
He left school at 14. He founded the poetry magazine Twentieth Century Verse in 1937, editing it for two years. "He turned to crime writing in a light–hearted way before the war and soon afterwards established himself as a leading exponent of it, though his use of irony to show the violence behind the respectable masks of society place many of his books on the level of the orthodox novel." In World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
he applied for recognition as an anti-capitalist conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....
, but ended up in the Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...
1942 to 1944, when he was invalided out with a non-battle-related arm injury. After a period as an advertising copywriter, he became a full-time writer in 1947. During his career he won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....
and, in 1982, received the MWA's Grand Master Award. Symons served as the president of the Detection Club
The Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, G.D.H. Cole, Margaret Cole, E.C. Bentley, and H.C. Bailey. Anthony...
from 1976 till 1985.
Symons's 1972 book Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (published as Mortal Consequences in the US) is one of the best-known critical works in the field of crime fiction. Revised editions were published in 1985 and 1992. Symons highlighted the distinction between the classic puzzler mystery, associated with such writers as Agatha Christie
Dame Agatha Christie DBE was a British crime writer of novels, short stories, and plays. She also wrote romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections , and her successful West End plays.According to...
and John Dickson Carr
John Dickson Carr was an American author of detective stories, who also published under the pen names Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn....
, and the more modern "crime novel," which puts emphasis on psychology and motivation.
Symons published over thirty crime novels and story collections between 1945 and 1994. His works combined elements of both the detective story and the crime novel, but leaned clearly toward the latter, with an emphasis on character and psychology which anticipated current crime fiction writers such as Ruth Rendell
Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, , who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is an English crime writer, author of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries....
and P.D. James. His novels tend to focus on ordinary people drawn into a murderous chain of events; the intricate plots are often spiced with black humour. Novels typical of his style include The Colour of Murder (1957), the Edgar-winning The Progress of a Crime (1960), The Man Whose Dreams Came True (1968) The Man Who Lost His Wife (1970) and The Plot Against Roger Ryder (1973). Symons's crime fiction is highly prized by connoisseurs, even if it is less well-known to the general reading public.
Symons wrote two modern-day Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The fantastic London-based "consulting detective", Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve...
A pastiche is a literary or other artistic genre or technique that is a "hodge-podge" or imitation. The word is also a linguistic term used to describe an early stage in the development of a pidgin language.-Hodge-podge:...
s, as well as a pastiche that was set in the 1920s. In A Three Pipe Problem (1975), the detective was "...a television actor, Sheridan Hayes, who wears the mask of Sherlock Holmes and assumes his character. The book neatly reversed the usual theme of the criminal behind the mask by having a rather commonplace man wearing the mask of the great detective." The Kentish Manor Murders was written in 1988. For his 1981 book The Great Detectives, he wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche instead of a biographical sketch. Entitled "How a Hermit was Disturbed in His Retirement," the events of the tale take place in the 1920s as Sherlock Holmes is drawn out of retirement in order to solve an unusual missing persons case. The story was included in the collection The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, in which it was given a more Doylean title of "The Adventure of Hillerman Hall." He also made occasional forays into historical mystery, such as The Blackheath Poisonings (1978), which was filmed for television in 1992.
- The Immaterial Murder Case (1945)
- A Man Called Jones (1947)
- Bland Beginning (1949)
- The Thirty-First of February (1950)
- The Broken Penny (1953)
- The Narrowing Circle (1954)
- The Paper Chase (1956) as Bogue's Fortune (US)
- The Colour of Murder (1957) (Winner, 1957 Gold Dagger Award)
- The Gigantic Shadow (1958) as The Pipe Dream (US)
- The Progress of a Crime (1960) (Winner, 1961 Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...
, Best Novel)
- The Killing of Francie Lake (1962) as The Plain Man (US)
- The End of Solomon Grundy (1964)
- The Belting Inheritance (1965)
- The Man Who Killed Himself (1967) (filmed in 1969 as Arthur! Arthur!)
- The Man Whose Dreams Came True (1968)
- The Man Who Lost His Wife (1970)
- The Players and the Game (1972)
- The Plot Against Roger Rider (1973)
- A Three-Pipe Problem (1975)
- The Blackheath Poisonings (1978)
- Sweet Adelaide (1980)
- The Detling Murders (1982) as The Detling Secret (US)
- The Name of Annabel Lee (1983)
- The Criminal Comedy of the Contented Couple (1985) as A Criminal Comedy (US)
- The Kentish Manor Murders (1988)
- Death's Darkest Face (1990)
- Something Like a Love Affair (1992)
- Playing Happy Families (1994)
- A Sort of Virtue: A Political Crime Novel (1996)
Short crime fiction
- Murder! Murder! (1961)
- Francis Quarles Investigates (1965)
- How to Trap a Crook (1977)
- Great Detectives - Seven Original Investigations (1981)
- The Tigers of Subtopia (1982)
- Did Sherlock Holmes Meet Hercule . . . (1988; single story in a limited edition of 200 copies)
- The Man Who Hated Television (1995)
- A Julian Symons Sherlockian Duet (2000; 2 stories in a pamphlet)
- The Detections of Francis Quarles (2006)
Biography, history and literary criticism
- A J A Symons: His Life & Speculations (1950) biography
- Charles Dickens (1951)
- Thomas Carlyle. The life and ideas of a prophet (1952?) biography
- Criminal Acts (1955)
- Horatio Bottomley
Horatio William Bottomley was a British financier, swindler, journalist, newspaper proprietor, populist politician and Member of Parliament .-Early life:...
- The General Strike - A Historical Portrait (1959)
- A Reasonable Doubt (1960) non-fiction
- The Thirties: a Dream Revolved (1960) revised 1975
- Buller’s Campaign (1963) military history
- England's Pride: The Story of the Gordon Relief Expedition (1965) military history
- Crime and Detection: An Illustrated History from 1840 (1966)
- Critical Occasions (1966) essays
- Between the Wars (1972) history
- Notes From Another Country (1972) stories
- Bloody Murder - From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History (1972) (US title: Mortal Consequences) (Special Edgar Award, 1973)
- A Reflection on Auden (1973) broadsheet poem
- The Angry 30s (1976) history
- The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1978)
- Conan Doyle - Portrait of an Artist (1979)
- Agatha Christie - the Art of Her Crimes (1981)
- Critical Observations: Diverse Essays (1981)
- Crime and Detection Quiz (1983)
- 1948 and 1984. The Second Orwell Memorial Lecture (1984)
- Dashiel Hammett (1985)
- Two Brothers. Fragments of a Correspondence (1985)
- Makers of the New: The Revolution in Literature, 1912-1939 (1987)
- Oscar Wilde: A problem in Biography (1988) Lurcy Lecture, Amherst College
- Somebody Else (1990) stories
- The Thirties and The Nineties (1990)
- Portraits of The Missing: Imaginary Biographies (1991)
- Does Literature Exist? (1992) Lurcy Lecture, Amherst College
- Criminal Practices -Symons on Crime Writing 60s to 90s (1994)
- Hell Gate
- An Anthology of War Poetry (1942) editor
- Selected Writings of Samuel Johnson (1949) editor
- Carlyle: Selected Works (1957) editor
- Essays & Biographies by A.J.A. Symons (1969) editor
- Verdict of Thirteen: a Detection Club Anthology (1978)
- Edgar Allan Poe Selected Tales (1980) editor
- New Poetry 9, an Arts Council Anthology (1983) editor
- Classic Crime Omnibus (1984) editor, stories