Christopher St. John Sprigg (1907 – 1937)


76015_1Christopher St. John Sprigg aka Christopher Caudwell was a British Marxist writer, thinker and poet. He was born into a Roman Catholic family, resident at 53 Montserrat Road, Putney. He was educated at the Benedictine Ealing Priory School, but left school at the age of 15 after his father, Stanhope Sprigg, lost his job as literary editor of the Daily Express. Caudwell moved with his father to Bradford and began work as a reporter for the Yorkshire Observer. He made his way to Marxism and set about rethinking everything in light of it, from poetry to philosophy to physics, later joining the Communist Party of Great Britain in Poplar, London. In December 1936 he drove an ambulance to Spain and joined the International Brigades there, training as a machine-gunner at Albacete before becoming a machine-gun instructor and group political delegate. He edited a wall newspaper. He was killed in action on 12 February 1937, the first day of the Battle of the Jarama Valley. His brother, Theodore, had attempted to have Caudwell recalled by the Communist Party of Great Britain by showing its General Secretary, Harry Pollitt, the proofs of Caudwell’s book Illusion and Reality. Caudwell’s Marxist works were published posthumously. The first was Illusion and Reality (1937), an analysis of poetry. Caudwell published widely, writing criticism, poetry, short stories and novels. Much of his work was published posthumously. (Source: Goodreads)

Further reading: A Short Life of Crime: Christopher St. John Sprigg (1907-1937)

Christopher St. John Sprigg published six detective novels in a flurry between 1933 and 1935.  A final tale appeared in 1937.

Bibliography: Crime in Kensington (1933) aka Pass the Body; Fatality in Fleet Street (1933); The Perfect Alibi (1934); Death of an Airman (1934); The Corpse with the Sunburnt Face (1935); Death of a Queen (1935); and The Six Queer Things (1937)

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Hutchinson (UK), 1934)

Death of an Airman is an enjoyable and unorthodox whodunit from a writer whose short life was as remarkable as that of any of his fictional creations. When an aeroplane crashes, and its pilot is killed, Edwin Marriott, the Bishop of Cootamundra in Australia, is on hand. In England on leave, the Bishop has decided to learn how to fly, but he is not convinced that the pilot’s death was accidental. In due course, naturally, he is proved right. The Bishop and Inspector Bray of Scotland Yard make an appealing pair of detectives, and ultimately a cunning criminal scheme is uncovered. (British Library Crime Classics).

Death of an Airman has been reviewed, among others, at Vintage Pop Fictions, The Invisible Event, Beneath the Stains of Time, and In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel.

2 thoughts on “Christopher St. John Sprigg (1907 – 1937)

  1. Sprigg was an interesting writer. It is a pity he died so young as I think he had more to offer the genre. His approach was quite different. Moonstone Press have reprinted four of his titles.

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