Joseph Smith Fletcher (7 February 1863 – 30 January 1935) was an English journalist and author. He wrote more than 230 books on a wide variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction, and was one of the most prolific English writers of detective fiction. Fletcher was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, the son of a clergyman. His father died when he was eight months old, and after which his grandmother raised him on a farm in Darrington, near Pontefract. He was educated at Silcoates School in Wakefield, and after some study of law, he became a journalist. At age 20, Fletcher began working in journalism, as a sub-editor in London. He subsequently returned to his native Yorkshire, where he worked first on the Leeds Mercury using the pseudonym A Son of the Soil, and then as a special correspondent for the Yorkshire Post covering Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. He was married to the Irish writer Rosamond Langbridge, with whom he had one son, Rev. Valentine Fletcher, who has subsequently held various ministries across Yorkshire, including Bradford and Sedberg. Fletcher died in Surrey 1935, one week short of his 72nd birthday. He was survived by his wife Rosamond and son Valentine
Fletcher’s first books published were poetry. He then moved on to write numerous works of historical fiction and history, many dealing with Yorkshire, which led to his selection as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In 1914, Fletcher wrote his first detective novel and went on to write over a hundred more, many featuring the private investigator Ronald Camberwell. Fletcher is sometimes incorrectly described as a “Golden Age of Detective Fiction” author, but he is in fact an almost exact contemporary of Conan Doyle. Most of his detective fiction works considerably pre-date that era, and even those few published within it do not conform to the closed form and strict rules professed, if not unfailingly observed, by the Golden Age writers. (Source: Wikipedia)
After 1901 Fletcher continued writing mainstream novels–largely about his native Yorkshire–but mystery tales increasingly dominated his output, especially after the publication in 1919 of The Middle Temple Murder, the mystery novel that became famous within the literature for having been praised (allegedly) by the United States President, Woodrow Wilson. Alfred Knopf, Fletcher’s canny American publisher, never tired of reminding the reading public of this fact. (The Passing Tramp)
‘Fletcher produced considerably in excess of two hundred books in his lifetime; inevitably, the quality of his work fluctuated. He belonged to an older generation of writers than Agatha Christie and other dominant figures of the Golden Age, and his work began to seem dated even during his lifetime. After his death in 1935, his reputation went into steep decline, and has never fully recovered. The Middle Temple Murder remains however, one of the most enjoyable crime novels of its period.’ (Martin Edwards, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books British Library Crime Classics, 2017)
An unidentified elderly gentleman is found bludgeoned to death in London’s Middle Temple, that enclave of justice between Fleet Street and the Thames. After due investigation the police conclude that it was merely a case of robbery. But Frank Spargo, a young journalist who senses a scoop, and Inspector Rathbury of New Scotland Yard, who doesn’t, soon unearth fresh clues and join forces to solve an intricate and intriguing mystery.
Joseph Smith Fletcher was a British writer and fellow of the Royal Historical Society who had studied law before turning to journalism. Dubbed ‘the Dean of Mystery Writers’, his literary career spanned some 200 books, with the seminal The Middle Temple Murder acclaimed as one of the genre’s defining novels, popular on both sides of the Atlantic with readers, critics and US Presidents alike.
This Detective Club classic is introduced by the detective fiction historian Nigel Moss, celebrating 100 years since the book’s first publication. It includes the bonus of Fletcher’s earlier short story ‘The Contents of the Coffin’, his precursor to the full-length The Middle Temple Murder. (Source: HarperCollinsPublishers)
The Middle Temple Murder has been reviewed, among others, at Mystery File, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, My Reader’s Block, Happiness Is a Warm Book, and Only Detect.