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Edmund Crispin Books In Order

Publication Order of Gervase Fen Books

The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Holy Disorders (1945) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Moving Toyshop (1946) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Swan Song aka Dead and Dumb (1947) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Love Lies Bleeding (1948) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Buried for Pleasure (1949) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Frequent Hearses aka Sudden Vengeance (1950) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Long Divorce aka A Noose for Her (1951) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Glimpses of the Moon (1977) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Fen Country (1979) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Edmund Crispin real name Robert Bruce Montgomery was a British composer and crime author best known for writing the Gervase Fen series of novels. Crispin was born in Chesham Bois of Buckinghamshire, and attended Taylors’ School and St John’s College, where he graduated in 1943 with a bachelor in modern languages. At St Johns College, he was choirmaster and organ scholar, which were two things he also did when he was teaching at Shrewsbury School. He made his name as a composer of choral and vocal music and composed the famous “An Oxford Requiem” in 1951. However, he pivoted towards film and composed several popular comedies that aired on British TV in the 1950s. He was the composer of the original Carry on theme and its six scores Cruising, Regardless, Constable, Teacher, Nurse, and Sergeant. He was also the composer of the scores of the Love, Large, Sea, and House films of the “Doctor” Film franchise. Montgomery was the writer of the scores and screenplays of the film such as “Raising the Wind”, “The Brides of Fu Manchu”, “Twice Round the Daffodils”, “No Kidding”, “Watch Your Stern” among many other films of the 1950s.

The novels of the Gervase Fen series of novels feature Gervase Fen, an English and Professor teaching English and Literature at a fictional institution named St Christopher College near St Johns College. Gervase is an absent-minded and eccentric character modeled on professor WE Moore of Oxford University. The character is introduced as a forty-year-old professor whose moods can change at an instant’s notice. He is a wayward, demanding, witty, and intelligent person, who can have bouts of perverse character and then suddenly have great levels of motivation and enthusiasm. The school boyish Fen has brown hair carelessly treated with water and blue eyes. He likes to live in the present and takes an interest in unfamiliar people, things though he can be volatile, naïve, cherubic but most of the time cherubic. Nonetheless, similar to Crispin, Gervase Fen is mentally restless and easily bored. He is an amateur detective with immense confidence in his capacity investigating any case, has an overwhelming and large personality and can be just as entertaining as the stories in which he appears. Fen loves to say “Oh my fur and whiskers!” from Alice in Wonderland whenever he is really shocked. Gervase does not shy away from saying anything into achieve a particular effect and some of his speech may not be exactly palatable. He has a wife composed of family and children though they are only brief mentions in the novels.

Edmund Crispin wrote nine novels of the Gervase Fen series, which were followed by an anthology of short stories under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, a name that the author derived from “Hamlet, Revenge” by Michael Innes. The novels are fantastic and intricately plotted whodunits that come with sometimes-unbelievable solutions to their locked room mysteries. They are written in farcical, literary, and sometimes humorous style with many references to music, poetry, and English literature. In many instances, they break the mold of the times and speak directly to the audience in the manner of plays. The best example of this was “Lets go left, After all Gollancz is the publisher” which was a line by Cadogan in “The Moving Toyshop”. The novels have had a lot of influence as “The Well Mannered War” of the “Doctor Who” series of novels by Gareth Roberts was supposedly modeled on the Gervase Fen style. In writing about the novel “The Moving Toy Shop”, the author said that he novel is more “Doctor Who” as compared to his novels. Today the Edmund Crispin novels are deemed some of the best of classic crime mysteries ever written.

“Edmund Crispin” would stop most of his work in fiction and music after the 50s, even though he still penned reviews for “The Sunday Times” science fiction and crime novel sections. Crispin had been a heavy drinker for a long time and this habit affected his writing, resulting in long gaps between the publications of his novels. Nonetheless, he preferred to live a quiet life that involved playing bridge, going to church, reading, and listening to music. Despite living in Totnes in Devon, he did not attempt to explode the district and rarely visited London. In 1964, he moved to Week, Darlington where he had build a house for himself. He did not have many sexual relationships during his life, and married Ann his secretary in 1976, barely two years to his death from alcoholism related complications. His biography “Edmund Crispin/Bruce Montgomery: A Life in Music and Books” came out in 2007.

“The Case of the Gilded Fly” is the debut novel of the series that introduced Gervase Fen the lead protagonist. The Oxford University Theater is one of the most intriguing and notorious hotbeds of liberalism and permissiveness just like others of its kind. On this day, Yseult the malicious and beautiful actor is the center of attention on the T Center-stage. Yseult is talented in the dark arts of destroying men, though in terms of actual acting she is just a little better than mediocre. The cast is composed of her present and past conquests including the women that are in love with them. Professor Gervase Fen the fop extraordinaire, witty, and Zen scholar is watching from the sidelines, thinking he would be happier doing some amateur sleuthing rather than discuss English literature. Fen finally gets his wish when Yseult is murdered. While he is very similar to Lord Peter Wimsey, he is far more confident, rude, eccentric, original, and best of all brilliant.

“Holy Disorders” the second novel in the Gervase Fen series of novels is set in 1945 wartime Britain. However, even in times of war, some aspects of normal life are uninterrupted. Some of these essentials include the Tolnbridge Cathedral services, where Fen loves to spend his holidays when he is not teaching English and Literature at Oxford University. When the cathedral organist is the victim of an attack, Fen steps in to investigate and asks Geoffrey Vintner the organist and composer to take the deceased’s place. The mild mannered successor is also attacked several times after taking up his post. The eccentric Fen only makes it worse when his behavior borders on the rude, such that he does not remember inviting Vintner to become the cathedrals organist. Filled with Nazi spies, devil worship, ghost rumors, and eccentric characters, the novel sees Fen in a race to find a deranged attacker before the Scotland Yard takes the case away from him.

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