Freeman Wills Crofts (1879-1957)

Commentary


Life
b. 26 Waterloo Rd., Dublin, son of British army doctor and namesake who died of feaver in Honduras prior to his birth; mother [née Celia Frances Wise] re-married Jonathan Harding, Vicar of Gilford, Co. Down, and Archdeacon of Dromore; ed. Methody and Campbell College, Belfast; apprenticed as railway engineer on Belfast & Northern Counties Railways by his uncle, Berkeley Deane Wise; appt. Junior Asst. on extension of Donegal railway to Derry and Strabane, 1899; District Engineer at Coleraine, living at 11 Lodge Rd.; m. Mary Bellas Canning, dg. of bank manager in Coleraine, 1912;
 
commenced writing detective stories during a protracted illness, 1919; wrote The Cask (1920), a novel; appt. Chief Assistant Engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway, and settled at Grianon, Jordanstown, nr. Belfast, 1922; worked on Bleach Green Viaduct project, 1927-34; became a successful detective writer, his principal character being Inspector Joseph French, the eponymous hero Inspector French's Greatest Case (1924), his fifth novel, and hero of 28 further novels;
 
Crofts retired to write full-time and settled Blackheath, nr. Guildford, Surrey, 1929; moved again to Worthing, Sussex, 1953; d. Worthing,, 1957; other titles Man Overboard (1936), and The Affair at Little Woking (1943); published 40 books in all, with some radio plays, and was widely translated. DIB KUN OCIL

[ top ]

Works
Novels
The Cask (1920)
The Ponson Case (1921)
The Pit-Prop Syndicate (1922)
The Groote Park Murder (1923)
Inspector French's Greatest Case (1925)
Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (1926)
Inspector French and the Starvel Tragedy (1927)
The Sea Mystery (1928)
The Box Office Murders (1928)
Sir John Magill's Last Journey (1930)
Mystery in the Channel (1931)
Sudden Death (1932)
Death on the Way (1932)
The Hog's Back Mystery (1933)
The 12.30 from Croydon (1934)
Mystery on Southampton Water (1934)
Crime at Guildford (1935)
The Loss of the Jane Vosper (1936)
Man Overboard! (1936)
Found Floating (1937)
The End of Andrew Harrison (1938)
Antidote to Venom (1938)
Fatal Venture (1939)
Golden Ashes (1940)
James Tarrant, Adventurer (1941)
The Losing Game (1941)
Fear Comes to Chalfont (1942)
The Affair at Little Wokeham (1943)
Enemy Unseen (1945)
Death of a Train (1946)
Young Robin Brand, Detective (1947)
Silence for the Murderer (1949)
French Strikes Oil (1952)
Anything to Declare? (1957)
   
Short stories
 
The Hunt Ball Murder (1943)
Mr. Sefton, Murderer (1944)
Murderers Make Mistakes (1947)
Many a Slip (1955)
The Mystery of the Sleeping Car Express (1956)
 
Source: “Crime Writers in Alphabetical Order” [online; accessed 11.06.2010].
 

Kunitz (1967): ‘the author claims “over fifty short stories and some thirty short radio plays for the BBC”’

[ top ]

Selected publishing details: The Cask (Collins 1920); The Pit-Prop Syndicate (Collins 1922); Inspector French’s Greatest Case (Collins 1925); The 12.30 from Croydon (Hodder & Stoughton 1934); Fatal Venture (North West Books 1939), rep. (I Henry Publs. 1984) [0 86025 2477]; Fear Comes to Chalfont (1942); The Affair at Little Wokeham [in US as Double Tragedy] (1943); Enemy Unseen (1945); Death of a Train (Hodder & Stoughton 1946); Young Robin Brand [juvenile detective stories] (1947); Murderers Make Mistakes (Hodder & Stoughton 1947) [short stories]; The Four Gospels in One Story (1949); French Strikes Oil [in US as Dark Journey] (1951); The Mystery of the Sleeping Car and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton 1956) [short stories].

See also Julian Symons, The Art of Murder, A Select Bibliography (British Council 1992).

[ top ]

References
There is an excellent Wikipedia page online

[… Crofts] is best remembered for his favourite detective, Inspector Joseph French, who was introduced in his fifth book, Inspector French's Greatest Case (1924). Inspector French always set about unravelling each of the mysteries presented him in a workmanlike, exacting manner - this approach set him apart from most other fictional sleuths.  […] Many of his stories have a railway theme, and his particular interest in the apparently unbreakable alibi often focussed on the intricacies of railway timetables.

[ top ]

British Library holds [to 1956] Found Floating (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1937), 316pp.; rep. (Pan 1949); The Groote Park Murder (Collins 1924; Penguin 1946); The Hog’s Back Mystery (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1933; Pan 1948); The Hunt Ball Murder (London: Todd Publ. [1943]; Vallancey [1946]); Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (Collins 1920; NY: Harper Bros. 1928). BML [1956-68], Anything to Declare? (Hodder & Stoughton 1957), 192pp.; Crime at Guildford (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1959), 252pp.; Fatal Venture (Penguin 1959); Golden Ashes (Penguin 1959); The Loss of the Jane Vosper … abridged and simplified with glossary by R H Durham (Longmans 1961) [Bridge Series]; Mystery in the Channel (Penguin 1959), 222pp.; The Mystery of the Sleeping Car Express and Other Stories (Hodder & Stoughton 1956), 191pp.; The Sea Mystery (Penguin 1959).

[ top ]

University of Ulster Central Library holds An Uaigh ra [sic] Choillidh [Sir John Magill’s Last Journey] trans. Seán Mac Maolain (Diolta Foillseachain Rialtais 1935), 436pp; also The 12.30 from Croyden (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1934) 336pp.

[ top ]

Books in Print [1994], The Cask (London: Collins 1920; Remploy 1977) [0 70660 714 7]; The Pit-Prop Syndicate (London: Collins 1922; Remploy 1977) [0 70660 803 8]; Inspector French’s Greatest Case (London: Collins 1925; Hogarth 1985) [0 70121 001 X]; Fatal Venture (London: Bodley Head 1939; I. Henry Publs. 1984) [0 86025 2477]; The Mystery of the Sleeping Car Express and Other Stories (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1956; Chivers Press [Large Print] 1982) [0 85119 860 0]; The Loss of the Jane Vosper (London: Longmans 1961; Collins 1980) [0 00 231 479 7]

[ top ]

Belfast Public Library holds Antidote to Venom [1938]; Cheyne Mystery; End of Andrew Harrison; Fatal Venture; Man [Overboard]; Anything to Declare[?] [1957]; Enemy Unseen [1952]; Fatal Venture (1951); French Strikes Oil [1952]; James Tarrant, Adventurer [1941]; Many a Slip [1955]; The Mystery of the Sleeping Car Express [1956]; Sir John Magill’s Last Journey [1934]. Also, in post-1956 CAT, Four Gospels in One Story with difficult passages clarified .. by F. W. Crofts (Longmans, Green 1949), 334pp.; Inspector French’s Case Book, The Cheyne Mystery, The Starvel Tragedy [1928]; Omnibus [1932]; Double Death, with D. L. Sayers (1939); Box Office Murders [1929]; Fatal Venture (1938); Found Floating (1938, 1949); Man Overboard (1939); Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930, 1955) Comlucht na Mide Mionach, trans. by Seán Mac Maoláin (Dublin 1933). Also, A New Zealand Tragedy (1936) [concerning the murder of Samuel Lankey and wife by William Bayley].

[ top ]

Commentary
A. N. Jeffares, Anglo-Irish Literature (London: Macmillan 1982), p.225, ‘his realist crime novels depend upon careful attention to detail, an insistence upon the slow logical gathering of information. BS holds The Affair at Little Wokeham (1943).

[ top ]

Quotations
The Affair at Little Wokeham: An “Inspector French” Novel (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1943), ‘Having telephoned to Inspector Cleaver at the Yard, asking him to make inquiries on the subject of Messrs Windthorpe and Margesson and their staff, French called the members of the household one by one into the library and discreetly questioned them. All denied having mentioned the jewels to any other person, just as he expected they would …’ (p.115); Murderers Make Mistakes (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1947), 288pp.; author’s pref. notes that the stories formed the basis of eighteen short plays entitled Insp. French’s Cases broadcast on BBC during 1943-1945, though ‘not identical with the plays, being not only differently arranged, but containing fuller details … about half presented in the form of Double Stories, in which the criminal first describes his actions and then Chief Inspector French tells us now he learned the truth … the remainder, here called in contradistinction Single Stories … are told through French’. Chapter titles: The Case of [the Affair at Little Wokeham]; … The Old Gun; … The Telephone Call; … The Lower Flat; … The Army Truck; … The Invalid Colonel; … The Hidden Sten Gun; … The Avaricious Money Lender; … The Evening Visitor; … The Enthusiastic Rabbit Breeder; … The Retired Wine Merchant; … The Home Guard Trench; … The Playwright’s Manuscript; … The Limestone Quarry; …The L-Shaped Room; … The Stolen Hand Grenade; … The Relief Signalman; … The Burning Barn; … The Solicitor’s Holiday; … The Swinging Boom; … The Fireside Mountaineer; … The Waiting Car. [End.]

[ top ]

Notes
Mrs Crofts: Crofts' wife's maiden names Bellas and Canning are variously associated with Co. Londonderry - Canning being the family of the one-time British premier from Garvagh and Bellas being the name of a leading builder's supplier whose family concern continued on Mountsandel Rd., Coleraine, for many generations.

[ top ]