Day: May 7, 2020

C. S. Forester (1899 – 1966)

220px-CS_Forester00Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (27 August 1899 – 2 April 1966), known by his pen name Cecil Scott “C. S.” Forester, was an English novelist known for writing tales of naval warfare, such as the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars. The Hornblower novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1938. His other works include The African Queen (1935, filmed in 1951 by John Huston).

Born in Cairo, Forester had a complicated life, including imaginary parents, a secret marriage and a debilitating illness. During World War II he moved to the United States where he wrote propaganda to help get that country to enter the war on the Allied side, and eventually settled in Berkeley, California. He married Kathleen Belcher in 1926, had two sons, and divorced in 1945. The eldest son, John Forester is a noted cycling activist and wrote a biography of his father. In 1947, C. S. Forester secretly married a woman named Dorothy Foster. He suffered extensively from arteriosclerosis later in life.

The popularity of the Hornblower series, built around a central character who was heroic but not too heroic, has continued to grow over time. It is perhaps rivalled only by the much later Aubrey–Maturin series of seafaring novels by Patrick O’Brian. Interestingly, both Hornblower and Aubrey are based in part on the historical figure, Admiral Lord Dundonald of Great Britain (known as Lord Cochrane during the period when the novels are set). Brian Perett has written a book The Real Hornblower: The Life and Times of Admiral Sir James Gordon, GCB, ISBN 1557509689, presenting the case for a different inspiration, namely James Alexander Gordon.

Forester also wrote detective novels like Payment Deferred (1926), selected as one of the Haycraft-Queen cornerstones, and Plain Murder (1930); and seafaring stories that did not involve Hornblower, such as Brown on Resolution (1929), The Ship (1943) and Sink the Bismarck! (1959). (Source: Wikipedia)

Further reading: C. S. Forester Society

Cecil Scott Forester was a successful novelist who remains well regarded, but his contribution to the crime genre has long been undervalued. This was partly because Forester, …. , became celebrated as the author of books such as The African Queen (1938), together with the series of historical seafaring tales featuring Horatio Hornblower. Forester regarded Payment Deferred as a straight realistic novel; because there is no detection, he did not see it as belonging to the same tradition as the mysteries of Poe, Collins, Doyle and Chesterton. Plain Murder (1930) is one of the earliest crime novels where the action revolves around office life; … Astonishingly, Forester’s third crime novel, The Pursued, was lost, and not published until 2011. (The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards)

I also understand, thanks to a comment on Martin Edwards’s blog ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ that Julian Symons was well aware of Forester’s book [Payment Deferred], and in fact he included it in a revised edition of Bloody Murder. Unfortunately I have and old copy of Bloody Murder (Penguin 1974), where Payment Deferred is not mentioned.


(Facsimile Dust Jacket. John Lane, The Bodley Head (UK), 1926)

Mr Marble is in serious debt, desperate for money to pay his family’s bills, until the combination of a wealthy relative, a bottle of Cyanide and a shovel offer him the perfect solution. In fact, his troubles are only just beginning. Slowly the Marble family becomes poisoned by guilt, and caught in an increasingly dangerous trap of secrets, fear and blackmail. Then, in a final twist of the knife, Mrs Marble ensures that retribution comes in the most unexpected of ways …

First published in 1926, C. S. Forester’s gritty psychological thriller took crime writing in a new direction, portraying ordinary, desperate people committing monstrous acts, and showing events spiralling terribly, chillingly, out of control. (Penguin Modern Classics publicity page)

Payment Deferred has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name? and FictionFan’s Book Reviews.