John Dickson Carr

Carr - 1940s photo

Born: 30 November 1906, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA

Died: 28 February 1977, Greenville, South Carolina, USA


Overview

John Dickson Carr is the nonpareil of detective writers.

He is the master of the impossible crime: the locked room murder, with the doors and windows locked and bolted on the inside; the victim struck down or vanishing into thin air in front of startled witnesses; the corpse found in snow or mud, without a single footprint around the body – apparently murdered by a creature lighter than air…

He was a natural storyteller, a lively, vivid writer.  He was a master both of suspense and uproarious farce.  He gave the reader every clue to solve the mystery – but had a magician’s talent for misdirecting the reader.  And he was a titan of ingenuity.

He was, truly, the greatest player of the Grandest Game in the World.

Carr, a young American, went to Paris to study; there, he wrote his first detective story, It Walks by Night, featuring the Satanic head of the Parisian police, Henri Bencolin.  He married an Englishwoman, and settled in the UK.

He created his two most famous detectives: Dr. Gideon Fell, an absent-minded scholar based on G. K. Chesterton (Hag’s Nook, 1933), and the uproarious Sir Henry Merrivale, head of Military Intelligence (The Plague Court Murders, 1934, under the pseudonym of Carter Dickson).

Disenchanted with the post-war world and the Labour government, he returned to US in the late 1940s.  The Bride of Newgate (1950) is the first of his exciting, carefully researched historical mysteries, often set in the Restoration or the Regency; readers of Alexandre Dumas or George Macdonald Fraser will particularly enjoy them.

Some of his best books

Dr. Gideon Fell

  • The Blind Barber (1934)
  • The Three Coffins (1935) – which has the Locked Room Lecture
  • The Arabian Nights Murder (1936)
  • The Crooked Hinge (1938)
  • The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939)
  • He Who Whispers (1946)

Sir Henry Merrivale

  • The Plague Court Murders (1934)
  • The Red Widow Murders (1935)
  • The Unicorn Murders (1935)
  • Death in Five Boxes (1938)
  • The Reader is Warned (1939)
  • Nine – and Death Makes Ten (1940)
  • She Died a Lady (1943)

Non-series

  • The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey (1936) – historical non-fiction
  • The Emperor’s Snuff-box (1942)
  • The Devil in Velvet (1951)
  • The Nine Wrong Answers (1952)

Recommended reading


Works

  1. It Walks by Night (1930; Henri Bencolin)
  2. The Lost Gallows (1931; Henri Bencolin)
  3. Castle Skull (1931; Henri Bencolin)
  4. The Corpse in the Waxworks (1932; Henri Bencolin; published in the UK as The Waxworks Murder)
  5. Poison in Jest (1932)
  6. Hag’s Nook (1933; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  7. The Mad Hatter Mystery (1933; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  8. The Eight of Swords (1934; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  9. The Blind Barber (1934; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  10. Death-Watch (1935; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  11. The Three Coffins (1935; Dr. Gideon Fell; published in the UK as The Hollow Man)
  12. The Arabian Nights Murder (1936; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  13. The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey (1936; non-fiction)
  14. The Burning Court (1937)
  15. The Four False Weapons (1937; Henri Bencolin)
  16. To Wake the Dead (1937; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  17. The Crooked Hinge (1938; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  18. The Problem of the Green Capsule (1939; Dr. Gideon Fell; published in the UK as The Black Spectacles)
  19. The Problem of the Wire Cage (1939; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  20. The Man Who Could Not Shudder (1940; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  21. The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  22. Death Turns the Tables (1941; Dr. Gideon Fell; published in the UK as The Seat of the Scornful)
  23. The Emperor’s Snuff-box (1942)
  24. Till Death Do Us Part (1944; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  25. He Who Whispers (1946; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  26. The Sleeping Sphinx (1947; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  27. Below Suspicion (1949; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  28. The Bride of Newgate (1950)
  29. The Devil in Velvet (1951)
  30. The Nine Wrong Answers (1952)
  31. The Third Bullet (1954; short stories)
  32. The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1954; short stories; with Adrian Conan Doyle)
  33. Captain Cut-Throat (1955)
  34. Patrick Butler for the Defence (1956)
  35. Fire, Burn! (1957)
  36. The Dead Man’s Knock (1958; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  37. Scandal at High Chimneys (1959)
  38. In Spite of Thunder (1960; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  39. The Witch of the Low Tide (1961)
  40. The Demoniacs (1962)
  41. The Men Who Explained Miracles (1963)
  42. Most Secret (1964)
  43. The House at Satan’s Elbow (1965; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  44. Panic in Box C (1966; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  45. Dark of the Moon (1967; Dr. Gideon Fell)
  46. Papa Là-bas (1968)
  47. The Ghosts’ High Noon (1969)
  48. Deadly Hall (1971)
  49. The Hungry Goblin (1972)
  50. The Door to Doom and Other Detections (1981; short stories)
  51. The Dead Sleep Lightly (1983; radio plays)
  52. Fell and Foul Play (1991; short stories)
  53. Merrivale, March, and Murder (1991; short stories)
  54. Speak of the Devil (1994; radio play)
  55. Thirteen to the Gallows (2008; two plays)

As Carter Dickson

  1. The Bowstring Murders (1933; first published in the US as by Carr Dickson)
  2. The Plague Court Murders (1934; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  3. The White Priory Murders (1934; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  4. The Red Widow Murders (1935; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  5. The Unicorn Murders (1935; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  6. The Punch and Judy Murders (1936; Sir Henry Merrivale; published in the UK as The Magic Lantern Murders)
  7. The Peacock Feather Murders (1937; Sir Henry Merrivale; published in the UK as The Ten Teacups)
  8. The Judas Window (1938; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  9. Death in Five Boxes (1938; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  10. Fatal Descent (1939; with John Rhode)
  11. The Reader is Warned (1939; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  12. And So to Murder (1940; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  13. Nine – and Death Makes Ten (1940; Sir Henry Merrivale; published in the UK as Murder in the Submarine Zone)
  14. The Department of Queer Complaints (1940; short stories)
  15. Seeing is Believing (1941; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  16. The Gilded Man (1942; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  17. She Died a Lady (1943; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  18. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience (1944; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  19. The Curse of the Bronze Lamp (1945; Sir Henry Merrivale; published in the UK as Lord of the Sorcerers)
  20. My Late Wives (1947; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  21. The Skeleton in the Clock (1948; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  22. A Graveyard to Let (1949; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  23. Night at the Mocking Widow (1950; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  24. Behind the Crimson Blind (1952; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  25. The Cavalier’s Cup (1953; Sir Henry Merrivale)
  26. Fear is the Same (1956)

What they say…

About John Dickson Carr

“Mr. Carr can lead us away from the small, artificial, brightly lit stage of the ordinary detective plot into the menace of outer darkness.  He can create atmosphere with an adjective.  He can alarm with an illusion or delight with a rollicking absurdity.  He can invent a passage from a lost work of Edgar Allan Poe and make it sound like the real thing.  In short, he can write—in the sense that every sentence gives a thrill of positive pleasure.” – Dorothy L. Sayers

“Very few detective stories baffle me nowadays, but Mr. Carr’s always do.” – Agatha Christie

“He has a sense of the macabre that lifts him high above the average run of detective story writers.” – J. B. Priestley

“You borrow detective stories; you invest in a Carr.” – Torquemada in the Observer

“Brilliant…  He is the obvious heir to the mantle of Mr. Chesterton.” – Spectator

“He has a fertile gift of macabre invention…  He has the knack of surrounding his plot and characters with a perpetual aura of excitement.” – Sunday Times

“He can produce an icy shudder in a heat wave.” – The Times (London)

About Carter Dickson

“One of the big five of thriller writers”

“A provider of sheer joy since he started writing detective stories, and also a practitioner in the first class.” – Torquemada in the Observer

“Carter Dickson is a master not only of the baffling clue, but of suspense and atmosphere.  He has a rare quality among detective writers of being able to wrap his mysteries in the flesh and blood of a good story.” – Sphere

“Carter Dickson is one of our chief atmosphere stylists.  He has almost every gift—and I don’t know why I say almost…  He deserves his triumph.” – Charles Williams in the Daily Telegraph