Book Notification

Edmund Crispin Books In Order

Book links take you to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Publication Order of Gervase Fen Books

The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944)Description / Buy at Amazon
Holy Disorders (1945)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Moving Toyshop (1946)Description / Buy at Amazon
Swan Song / Dead and Dumb (1947)Description / Buy at Amazon
Love Lies Bleeding (1948)Description / Buy at Amazon
Buried for Pleasure (1948)Description / Buy at Amazon
Frequent Hearses / Sudden Vengeance (1950)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Long Divorce (1951)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Glimpses of the Moon (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
Fen Country (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

Beware of the Trains (1953)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

We Know You're Busy Writing But.... (1969)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Nero Wolfe Mystery Magazine Volume 1 Number 1, January 1954(1954)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best SF Vol 1(1955)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best SF Vol 2(1956)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best Tales of Terror(1962)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best SF Vol 5(1963)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best Tales of Terror 2(1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best SF Vol 6(1966)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Stars And Under(1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best SF Vol 7(1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
Best Murder Stories 2(1973)Description / Buy at Amazon
Outwards From Earth(1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
Bodies from the Library 4(2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Edmund Crispin, whose real name was Robert Bruce Montgomery, was a British composer and crime author, renowned for the Gervase Fen series of novels. Crispin was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, and attended Taylors’ School and St John’s College, where he graduated in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in modern languages. At St Johns College, he served as choirmaster and organ scholar, roles he later reprised while teaching at Shrewsbury School. He first gained recognition as a composer of choral and vocal music, most notably composing the acclaimed “An Oxford Requiem” in 1951. However, he transitioned towards film and composed for several popular comedies aired on British TV during the 1950s. He was the composer of the original Carry On theme and its six scores: Cruising, Regardless, Constable, Teacher, Nurse, and Sergeant. He also composed the scores for the Love, Large, Sea, and House films of the “Doctor” film franchise. Montgomery wrote the scores and screenplays for films like “Raising the Wind”, “The Brides of Fu Manchu”, “Twice Round the Daffodils”, “No Kidding”, and “Watch Your Stern”, among many others from the 1950s.

The Gervase Fen series features the titular character, an English 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 W.E. Moore of Oxford University. Introduced as a forty-year-old professor, Gervase can shift moods at a moment’s notice. He’s a demanding, witty, intelligent person, capable of bouts of perverse behavior followed by bursts of motivation and enthusiasm. Fen, with his carelessly watered brown hair and blue eyes, has a schoolboy charm. He enjoys living in the moment and takes an interest in unfamiliar people and things. Despite his volatility, naivety, and occasional cherubic innocence, Fen, much like Crispin, is mentally restless and easily bored. As an amateur detective, he has immense confidence in his ability to investigate any case. His overwhelming personality is as entertaining as the stories he appears in. Fen often exclaims “Oh my fur and whiskers!” from Alice in Wonderland when genuinely shocked. He is unafraid to say anything to achieve a desired effect, even if his words may not always be palatable. He has a wife and children, though they are only mentioned briefly in the novels.

Edmund Crispin wrote nine novels in the Gervase Fen series, followed by an anthology of short stories under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, a name that the author derived from “Hamlet, Revenge” by Michael Innes. These novels are intricately plotted whodunits with sometimes unbelievable solutions to their locked-room mysteries. They are written in a farcical, literary, and occasionally humorous style with numerous references to music, poetry, and English literature. On occasion, they break the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience in the manner of plays. The best example of this is the line “Let’s go left, after all, Gollancz is the publisher,” spoken by Cadogan in “The Moving Toyshop”. The novels have had a significant influence; “The Well Mannered War” from the “Doctor Who” series by Gareth Roberts was reportedly modeled on the Gervase Fen style. Crispin once commented that “The Moving Toy Shop” is more akin to “Doctor Who” than his other works. Today, the Edmund Crispin novels are regarded as some of the best classic crime mysteries ever written.

Crispin’s work in fiction and music mostly ceased after the 1950s, although he continued writing reviews for “The Sunday Times'” science fiction and crime novel sections. Crispin had long struggled with alcohol, a habit which affected his writing and caused long gaps between novel publications. Despite this, he preferred a quiet life playing bridge, attending church, reading, and listening to music. Even though he lived in Totnes, Devon, he made no attempts to explore the district and rarely visited London. In 1964, he moved to Week, Darlington where he had a house built. He had few romantic relationships in his life, and married his secretary Ann in 1976, just two years before his death from alcohol-related complications. His biography, “Edmund Crispin/Bruce Montgomery: A Life in Music and Books,” was published in 2007.

“The Case of the Gilded Fly” is the debut novel of the series introducing Gervase Fen as the lead protagonist. The Oxford University Theater is known for its liberalism and permissiveness, much like others of its kind. Yseult, a beautiful and malicious actor, is at the center of attention on stage. She excels in the dark arts of destroying men, though her actual acting skills are mediocre at best. The cast is composed of her current and past conquests, including the women who are in love with them. Professor Gervase Fen, the foppish, witty, and Zen scholar, watches from the sidelines, thinking he would rather be doing amateur sleuthing than discussing English literature. Fen’s wish is granted when Yseult is murdered. While he bears a resemblance to Lord Peter Wimsey, Fen is far more confident, rude, eccentric, original, and most importantly, brilliant.

“Holy Disorders”, the second novel in the Gervase Fen series, is set in 1945 wartime Britain. Despite the war, some aspects of normal life remain uninterrupted. Among these is the service at Tolnbridge Cathedral, where Fen loves to spend his holidays when he’s not teaching English and Literature at Oxford University. When the cathedral’s organist is attacked, Fen investigates and asks Geoffrey Vintner, an organist and composer, to fill the position. Vintner, a mild-mannered successor, faces numerous attacks after taking up his post. Fen’s eccentric and sometimes rude behavior doesn’t help matters, especially as he can’t remember inviting Vintner to become the cathedral’s organist. The novel, brimming with Nazi spies, devil worship, ghost rumors, and eccentric characters, sees Fen racing to find the deranged attacker before Scotland Yard takes over the case.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Edmund Crispin

Leave a Reply