Leo Bruce (1903 – 1979)

rupert-croft-cookeRupert Croft-Cooke (30 June 1903 – 10 June 1979) was an English writer, a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction, including screenplays and biographies under his own name and detective stories under the pseudonym of Leo Bruce. Fearing continued persecution in the UK for homosexuality, he spent fifteen years in Morocco.

The son of Hubert Bruce Cooke, of the London Stock Exchange, and his wife Lucy, daughter of Dr Alfred Taylor, Rupert Croft Cooke (he later combined his middle name with his surname) was born on 20 June 1903, in Edenbridge, Kent, and was educated at Tonbridge School and Wellington College (Shropshire). At the age of seventeen, he was working as a private tutor in Paris. He spent 1923 and 1924 in Buenos Aires , where he founded the journal La Estrella. In 1925 he returned to London and began a career as a freelance journalist and writer. His work appeared in a variety of magazines, including New Writing, Adelphi, and the English Review. In the late 1920s the American magazine Poetry published several of his plays. He was also a radio broadcaster on psychology. Having started selling antiquarian books in 1929 (continuing this business until 1931), in 1930 he spent a year in Germany, and in 1931 lectured in English at the Institut Montana Zugerberg in Switzerland. In 1940 he joined the British Army and served in Africa and India until 1946. He later wrote several books about his military experiences. From 1947 to 1953 he was a book reviewer for The Sketch. In 1952 he was one of the last people to be arrested in Britain for homosexuality and he had to spend six months in prison. From 1953 to 1968 he lived in Morocco before moving on to live in a number of other countries, Tunisia, Cyprus, West Germany and Ireland. Croft-Cooke died in 1979 in Bournemouth. He is best known today for the detective stories he wrote under the name of Leo Bruce. His detectives were called Carolus Deene and Sergeant Beef. (Source Wikipedia).

The Man Who Was Leo Bruce (Rupert Croft-Cooke, 1903-1979), by Curt Evans

Even though I posted before about Leo Bruce here, I think it is worthwhile to revisit his life and work once again. 

Bibliography: Sergeant Beef series ((as by Leo Bruce): Case for Three Detectives (1936); Case Without a Corpse (1937); Case With Four Clowns (1939); Case With No Conclusion (1939); Case With Ropes and Rings (1940); Case For Sergeant Beef (1947); Neck and Neck (1951); and Cold Blood (1952).

Carolus Deene series (as by Leo Bruce): At Death’s Door (1955); Dead for a Ducat (1956); Death of Cold (1956); Dead Man’s Shoes (1958); A Louse for the Hangman (1958); Our Jubilee Is Death (1959; Furious Old Women (1960); Jack on the Gallows Tree (1960); A Bone and a Hank of Hair (1961); Die All, Die Merrily (1961); Nothing Like Blood (1962); Crack of Doom (1963) aka Such Is Death; Death in Albert Park (1964); Death at Hallows End (1965); Death on the Black Sands (1966); Death at St. Asprey’s School (1967); Death of a Commuter (1967); Death on Romney Marsh (1968); Death with Blue Ribbon (1969); Death on All Hallowe’en (1970); Death by the Lake (1971); Death in the Middle Watch (1974); Death of a Bovver Boy (1974); Murder in Miniature (1992).

The first Sergeant Beef novel, Case with Three Detectives (1936), is a genre tour de force: a locked room mystery in which appear, under altered names, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown.*  In succession the three Great Detectives offer brilliant solutions to the murder–but they all turn out to be wrong!  It is left to Sergeant Beef to actually solve the case. Croft-Cooke would publish seven more Sergeant Beef detective novels (in the third novel, Beef sets up in private practice as a detective).  None of these sequels attains quite the exalted heights of Case for Three Detectives, but they all are clever and witty fair play mysteries.  Beef and his chronicler Watson, a priggish gent named Townshend (who is always denigrating the subject of his chronicles), are a delightfully humorous duo. …. Croft-Cooke’s first mystery written after his arrest and incarceration in 1953-1954 was At Death’s Door (1955), the first Carolus Deene mystery.  A Sergeant Beef novel was never published after 1952. Sergeant Beef also appeared in ten short stories, originally published in the Evening Standard in the early 1950s and reprinted twenty years ago in Murder in Miniature: The Short Stories of Leo Bruce (edited by Barry Pike), a book that is still in print today. (The Passing Tramp)

Further reading:


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Geoffrey Bles Ltd. (UK), 1936)

Possibly the most unusual mystery ever written. A murder is committed, behind closed doors, in bizarre circumstances. Three amateur detectives take the case: Lord Simon Plimsoll, Monsieur Amer Picon, and Monsignor Smith (in whom discerning readers will note likeness to some familiar literary figures). Each arrives at his own brilliant solution, startling in its originality, ironclad in its logic. Meanwhile Sergean Beef sits contemptuously in the background. “But, ” says Sergean Beef, “I know who done it!” (Chicago Review Press)

Case for Three Detectives has been reviewed, among others at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ CrossExaminingCrime, gadetection, and At the Scene of the Crime.

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