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||Anthony Gilbert (1899-1973) - Pseudonym for Lucy Beatrice Malleson; also wrote as J. Kilmeny Keith, Lucy Egerton, Anne Meredith, and Sylvia Denys Hooke|
Prolific British mystery writer, a woman writing under a man's name, whose most famous creation is lawyer-detective Arthur G. Crook. For many years, Gilbert's identity was kept secret; readers assumed that the author was a man. Distinctive for Gilbert's novels is skillful plotting, lively supporting characters, entertaining dialogue, and clever action without exaggerating violence. She wrote straight fiction – mostly with a Victorian flavor – under the pseudonym of Anne Meredith.
--'"Mrs. Warren said speculatively, "I wonder why it is people always regard marriage as something comic – unmarried people, I mean. Married ones don't."
Anthony Gilbert was born Lucy Beatrice Malleson in Upper Norwood, London; the city remained her home for the rest of her life. Malleson was educated at St. Paul's Girls' School, Hammersmith. Her mother hoped that she would become a teacher. After her father, who was a stockbroker, was thrown out of work in 1914, Malleson took a course in shorthand and typing to earn living for the family. She worked as a secretary for the Red Cross, Ministry of Food, and Coal Association. Ignoring her mother's plans to make her a schoolteacher, she fulfilled her own ambition as a writer. At the age of seventeen, Malleson had published poems in Punch and literary weeklies. In 1925, she published her first book, The Man Who Was London, under the name J. Kilmeny Keith.
After seeing John Willards' play The Cat and the Canary, Malleson decided to try her skills at the thriller genre. These early efforts were a failure. However, The Tragedy at Freyne (1927), written under the pseudonym Anthony Gilbert, was well reviewed. The story introduced Scott Egerton, a rising young British political leader, who then solved crimes in some ten novels. In The Body on the Beam (1932) Egerton examined the death of a young woman of dubious reputation, whose body is found hanging in a third-rate lodging-house. A young man is arrested, but Egerton approaches the problem from a different angle and builds up an equally strong case against another man from the woman's past, and traps the real criminal.
Malleson's first Arthur G. Crook novel was Murder by Experts (1936). It gained an enormous success and Malleson dropped Egerton. During the years G. Crook developed from rather unattractive Cockney character into a strong and popular personality, although he is not generally the protagonist of the story. Crook featured in some 50 novels. Frequently he comes to help when a woman or a children is in peril, as in Missing from Her Home (1969), where a nine-year-old girl vanishes while on a trip to the supermarket. In And Death Came Too (1956) Crook helps Ruth Appleyard, who is involved in several questionable death cases. A Question of Murder (1955) was a about a young woman who is suspected of murdering a boarder. As in the television series Columbo, starring Peter Falk, Crook is badly dressed and murders usually are unaware that they are soon in a trap. But when Columbo intuition always guides him to the right suspect, Crook thinks beforehand thant his clients cannot be guilty. He is the Criminals' Hope and the Judges Despair," as he calls himself.
Malleson was also an avid theater-goer. She wrote more than 25 radio plays, broadcasted in Great Britain and overseas. On the radio, she often associated with John Dickson Clark. Malleson's thriller, The Woman in Red (1941), about a secretary, whose employer drugs her and tries to drive her mad to cover a murder, was broadcast in the United States by CBS and made into a film under the title My Name is Julia Ross (1945), directed by Joseph H. Lewis, starring Nina Foch. "A likeable, unpretentious, generally successful attempt to turn good trash into decently artful entertainment," said James Agee of the film. Between the years 1934 and 1962, Malleson published 20 straight novels and one mystery, Portrait of a Murderer (1934) under the name Anne Meredith. This work was an "inverted mystery", which had been invented by R. Austin Freeman (1862-1943); the identity of the murderer or criminal is given away at the beginning.
Malleson's autobiography, Three-a-Penny (1940), was published under the name Anne Meredith. It dealt with her childhood, struggle with poverty, development of her literary interests, women's rights, and her life as a popular writer. "I like being a writer," she once said in an interview, "which is just as well, as I clearly could not be anything else." Malleson's short stories were published from the 1940s in several anthologies, and such periodicals as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and The Saint. Among these was 'The Mills of God', a poignant and heartbreaking crime story about abortion (EQMM, April 1969). Also the short story 'Fifty Years After', written under the name of Anthony Gilbert, dealt with the theme. "Salts of lemon was a common way out of trouble for girls who'd fallen into it. Easy to come by – you said you wanted it to clean a straw hat – a penn'orth or two-penn'orth over the counter and no questions asked." (from Ellery Queen's Murdercade, 1976) One of her stories, 'A True Account', was adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1959 and another, 'You'll Be the Death of Me' for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1963.
Malleson's short story 'You Can't Hang Twice' received a Queens award in 1946. 'Door to a Different World', published in EQMM, was an Edgar Award nominee in 1971. Malleson was a founding member of the British Detection Club, she also served as its General Secretary. Malleson never married. She died on December 9, 1973. Her cousin was the actor, playwright and scriptwriter Miles Malleson, who appeared in such films as Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Series characters: traditional sleuth, the politician Scott Egerton, and the beer-drinking Cockney barrister Arthur G. Crook, an overweight detective like Nero Wolfe, who drives in Rolls Royce and comes on stage when it is time to solve the case. Crook lives in London on Brandon street, he is addicted to bright brown, off-the-rack suits, his office is chaotic and is situated at the top of a shabby building in a disreputable part of the town. - For further reading: A Catalogue of Crime by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor (1971); World Authors 1950-1970, ed. by John Wakeman (1975); Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, ed. by Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler (1976); Twentieth Century Mystery and Crime Writers, ed. by John M. Reilly (1985); Encyclopedia Mysteriosa by William L. DeAndrea (1997)
Books as Anne Meredith
Plays and radio dramas:
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