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W.J. Burley Books In Order

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Publication Order of Henry Pym Books

A Taste of Power (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
Death in Willow Pattern (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Wycliffe Books

Wycliffe and the Three Toed Pussy (1968)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and How to Kill a Cat (1970)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Guilt Edged Alibi (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and Death in a Salubrious Place (1973)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and Death in Stanley Street (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Pea Green Boat (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe And The Schoolgirls (1976)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the School Bullies (1976)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Scapegoat (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe in Paul's Court (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe's Wild Goose Chase (1982)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Beales (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Four Jacks (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin (1986)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue (1987)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe And The Tangled Web (1988)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Last Rites (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the House of Fear (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Redhead (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wycliffe and the Guild of Nine (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Schoolmaster (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
The 6th Day (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
Charles and Elizabeth (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
The House of Care (1981)Description / Buy at Amazon

W.J. Burley was a well known British author of crime novels. He is best known for writing crime fiction novels featuring the chief protagonist detective Charles Wycliffe. Burley’s depiction of Wycliffe as West Country’s area CID superintendent was widely recognized and later served as the basis of successful 1990s television series called Wycliffe. Another popular character created by author Burley in his writing career is that of a zoologist & amateur detective named Henry Pym. Even though Burley enjoyed a successful and long writing career, he has attracted very less critical attention that seems quite surprising. This can be easily understood from the fact that his death in 2002 was hardly noticed by the world of crime fiction. The reason behind this was the private nature of the author. For a large part of his literary career, he was associated with the CWA, but he was never seen in any of its activities.

Burley didn’t even try much to socialize with his fellow novelists. Burley arrived at the writing scene quite late. He had attained 52 years of age when his debut novel was published. Before that, he used to work full time as a teacher. Also, Burley took to writing on a full-time basis only after retiring from his former profession. Burley was greatly influenced by the works of the great Belgian writer Georges Simenon. Just like him, he also kept his stories short & crispy. Burley was born as William John Burley on August 1, 1914, in Falmouth, Cornwall, England. After his initial education, he worked in several gas companies in the post of senior manager. When World War II came to an end, Burley earned a scholarship to study at Balliol College, Oxford. He obtained an honors degree in zoology and started teaching biology. He was first employed at Richmond and East Sheen County School and then at the Newquay Grammar School.

Burley retired from his former job in 1974 and decided to become a full-fledged writer. The death of Burley occurred on November 15, 2002, in Holywell, Cornwall. Burley was intensely self-critical of his work and had confessed on one occasion that never felt satisfied with his books. He felt that they were too derivative and followed an already established pattern too closely. With his 1979 book Charles and Elizabeth, Burley felt to have broken new ground. For the first time in over a decade, he felt as if he came up with something different to offer. He always tried to break away from the formula’s constraints, yet he kept returning to the same character again and again. After beginning his career with books revolving around an amateur detective, Burley moved on to write investigative stories about a professional policeman. Accordingly, he came up with the creation of Henry Pym.

In an interview given in 1991, Burley explained that he wanted Charles Wycliffe to be earnest, diligent, compassionate, and have an interesting sense of humor. As an author of crime stories, Burley was torn between continuing his series and trying to enter other territories, just like many other crime writers. He attempted to write a science fiction story in 1978, but did not gain much success. After attempting to write another novel in the same genre in 1980, Burley chose to stick to his original genre. The success of Wycliffe gave way to widely acknowledged TV series produced by HTV that featured actor Jack Shepherd in the role of Charles Wycliffe. However, Burley preferred his original scripts more than the adapted versions shown in the television series. Most of the books penned by Burley are seen taking place in the distant southwest and concerning tensions arising within people living in small groups and working in close proximity. The criminals depicted in the novels are not professionals, but common people driven by emotions of hatred, jealousy, or hatred. In the later books, Burley chose to use actual locations in Devon and Cornwall.

The Wycliffe series written by author W.J. Burley is comprised of a total of 22 books released between 1968 and 2000. Every book of this series features the lead character in the form of detective Charles Wycliffe. The other essential characters mentioned by Burley in the books include Pussy Welles, Caroline Bryce, Vince Peters, Lily Painter, Morley Tremain, Cedric Tremain, Jonathan Riddle, Willy Goppel, Yvette Cole, Kersey, Simon Beales, Edward Beales, Nicholas Beales, Gertrude Beales, Frank Vicary, David Cleeve, Edwin Garland, Gifford Tate, Matthew Glynn, Alfred Glynn, Maurice Glynn, Sara Glynn, Tony Mills, Lizzie Biddick, Cochran Wilder, Roger Kemp, Bridget Kemp, Simon Meagor, Morwenna, Archer, Lina, Francine, etc. The plots of all the books are primarily set in Cornwall.

The debut book of this series is entitled ‘Wycliffe and the Three-Toed Pussy’. It was released in 1968 and revolves around the shocking murder of a young woman. Wycliffe is given the charge of investigating the murder, who discovers that the killer has taken away a shoe of the victim and her left leg’s stocking, thereby exposing the deformed foot. With further investigation, Wycliffe learns about an unhappy lady, who used to manipulate men around her. Wycliffe knows that it is going to be a very difficult task to find the real murderer as half of the men in the Kergwyns village used to visit the victim for pleasure.

The investigation becomes even more complicated after several clues are discovered in the form of puzzles. The next novel of this series is known as ‘Wycliffe and How to Kill a Cat’. It was published in 1970 and features another murder mystery that Charles Wycliffe takes up to investigate. Once again, the victim is a young woman, who was killed by strangulation. The killer had smashed the face of the victim in order to hide her identity. Superintendent Wycliffe was on an official holiday and was staying in the same hotel in which the murder took place. As soon as he learns about the case, he becomes fascinated to investigate it. He first tries to establish the identity of the victim and find out answers to some of the weird questions related to the victim. The list of suspects grows too long and Wycliffe carefully examines each one of them to hunt down the killer.

Book Series In Order » Authors » W.J. Burley

One Response to “W.J. Burley”

  1. Brigitte Rodgers: 7 months ago

    We (in the USA) learned about this author from the tv series Wycliffe. Thank you for describing the author Burley. I am now looking forward to reading his books. Thank you.


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