Monday, November 30, 2015

Writers Born Today - John Dickson Carr

It's the birthday of John Dickson Carr, born November 30, 1906 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He devoured mystery, supernatural, and horror stories while growing up amid the coal mines of western PA.  He began writing stories while still in college, and eventually went to Paris to write (although his parents thought he was continuing his studies).

He published his first whodunit in 1930, It Walks By Night. But it wasn't until he went to England that he really hit his stride as a mystery writer. He wrote during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, and became a master of the locked room mystery. His most famous work in this sub-genre is The Hollow Man, published in 1935. It's considered by most to be the greatest locked room mystery of all time. He delighted in creating a spooky atmosphere in his novels, although his endings almost always has a rational explanation.

His work drew inspiration from some of the pioneers of mystery fiction such as Gaston Leroux and G. K. Chesterton. He had many admirers among his fellow writers. Dorothy L. Sayers said of his work, "Every sentence gives a thrill of positive pleasure."

He wrote under several pen names in addition to his own, including Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn. In 1950 he began writing historical stories and The Bride of Newgate, set in 1815 England, was one of the first historical mysteries ever written. Anthony Boucher included this in his list of the Best Dozen Novels of 1950.

Carr was honored on three separate occasions by the Mystery Writers of America. He won his first Edgar Award in 1950 for his biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1963 he was awarded the Grand Master Award. His final Edgar came in 1970 in recognition of his forty year career as a mystery writer.

You can read or download a partial pdf copy of The Hollow Man here.

"Let there be a spice of terror, of dark skies and evil things."

                              - John Dickson Carr

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