Dudley, Ernest 1908–2006

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Dudley, Ernest 1908–2006

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born July 23, 1908, in Dudley, Worcestershire, England; died February 1, 2006. Broadcaster and author. Although he had a varied career and wrote books in several genres, Dudley was best remembered for hosting the weekly radio series Armchair Detective and for writing a series of detective tales featuring his character Dr. Morelle. Born Vivian Ernest Coltman-Allen, he was the son of a physician but was himself a sickly child. Educated at home as a consequence of his poor health, he decided to take up acting to, according to him, meet women. After an unhappy experience with a poorly directed Shakespearean troupe, he found a better group of actors that included the young Rex Harrison. Changing his name to Ernest Dudley while an actor, he later won roles in plays at the West End and on Broadway. However, the appeal of the theater began to wane and Dudley changed careers. With the help of his well-connected wife, actress Jane Grahame, he found a job as a reporter for the Daily Mail, covering everything from crime and sports to music and society gossip. During World War II, Dudley, who was considered physically unfit for active duty, was a journalist for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Part of his job was to sneak coded messages into his broadcasts for the Allied forces to hear. He was also invited to write a crime series for the BBC, which inspired him to create his series character, Dr. Morelle, who debuted on radio in 1942 and later appeared in short stories and novels by Dudley. Among these are Meet Doctor Morelle (1944), Dr. Morelle and the Drummer Girl (1950), Callers for Dr. Morelle (1957), and Nightmare for Dr. Morelle (1960). At the same time, Dudley started his detective novel review series called The Armchair Detective, also broadcast on the BBC. The show ran through the 1940s and much of the 1950s, until Dudley moved to television to host Judge for Yourself. The author and broadcaster continued writing for television through the 1960s, eventually leaving the industry when he became troubled by the increasing violence shown in television programs. Having also written historical novels such as The Face of Death (1958), Dudley now moved to another genre entirely: animal stories. Among these works are Rangi: Highland Rescue Dog (1970), Scrap, the Gentle Wildcat (1974), and Dog of the Storm: The True Story of a Man and His Dog (1979). Depressed after the death of his wife in the early 1980s, Dudley took up running on a doctor's advice and participated in marathons, which was a notable change for the man once deemed too sick to attend school or go to war. His experiences as a runner are related in his Run for Your Life (1985). He continued to write, as well, most recently completing a novelette featuring the Edgar Allan Poe character of Auguste Dupin; a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, he also adapted The Return of Sherlock Holmes for the stage in 1993, which went on a successful tour. Many of his Dr. Morelle stories were reprinted in 2002.



Dudley, Ernest, Run for Your Life, Columbus (Bromley, England), 1985.


Times (London, England), February 7, 2006, p. 55.