Branson, H(enry) C(lay) 1905–1981

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BRANSON, H(enry) C(lay) 1905–1981

PERSONAL: Born 1905, in Battle Creek, MI; died 1981; married; children: three daughters. Education: Attended Princeton University, 1924; University of Michigan, B.A., 1937.

CAREER: Author.


Salisbury Plain (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1965.


I'll Eat You Last, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1941, published as I'll Kill You Last, Mystery Novel of the Month (New York, NY), 1942.

The Pricking Thumb, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1942.

Case of the Giant Killer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1944.

The Fearful Passage, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1945.

Last Year's Blood, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1947.

The Leaden Bubble, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1949.

Beggar's Choice, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1953.

Branson's manuscripts are maintained at Michigan State University.

SIDELIGHTS: Crime novelist H. C. Branson derived from his father not only his substantial American name but also a solid Midwestern upbringing. Branson had read the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a boy, followed Philo Vance's cases in Paris in the pages of Scribner's magazine and was one of the most familiar cardholders at the Ann Arbor Public Library, where he withdrew and consumed hundreds of mystery stories. Following a period of physical and emotional crisis, he decided to see if he could write detective fiction.

John Bent, Branson's series detective, is a physician by training but does not practice in the stories. He is a low-keyed, humane, likeable, self-assured, and wise character; he is singularly observant and frank to the point of being outspoken—this being perhaps his only vice outside the pleasures of drinking and smoking, to which he is openly devoted. In the seven novels in which he appears, police authorities and the District Attorney's office seem quite willing to give Bent free run of the crime scenes and evidence, because in his quiet, affable way, he commands respect. In his deliberate, meticulous fashion, he evolves theories and puzzles over them doggedly until they render up the information and facts he wants. People and the tangles they involve themselves in are what interested Branson, and in his fiction he gave considerable attention to the intricacies of plotting.