Lovesey, Peter 1936–
Lovesey, Peter 1936–
(Peter Lear, Peter Harmer Lovesey)
Born September 10, 1936, in Whitton, Middlesex, England; son of Richard Lear (a bank official) and Amy Lovesey; married Jacqueline Ruth Lewis, May 30, 1959; children: Kathleen Ruth, Philip Lear. Education: University of Reading, B.A. (honors), 1958.
Agent—Vanessa Holt Limited, 59 Crescent Rd., Leigh-on-Sea, Essex SS9 2PF, England.
Writer and educator. Thurrock Technical College, Essex, England, senior lecturer, 1961-69; Hammersmith College for Further Education, London, head of general education department, 1969-75. Also served as story consultant for the television series "Rosemary & Thyme," 2003-06. Military service: Royal Air Force, 1958-61; served as education officer; became flying officer.
Macmillan/Panther First Crime Novel Award, 1970, for Wobble to Death; Crime Writers Association Silver Dagger Award, 1977, 1995, and 1996, Gold Dagger Award, 1983, for The False Inspector Dew; Veuve Clicquot/Crime Writers Association Short Story Award, 1985; Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, 1985; Prix du Roman d'Aventures, 1987; finalist for Best Novel award, Mystery Writers of America, 1988, for Rough Cider, and 1996, for The Summons; Ellery Queen Readers award, 1991; Anthony Award for best novel, 1992, for The Last Detective; Mystery Writers of America Golden Mysteries Short Story Prize, 1995; Crime Writers Association Macavity Award for Best Novel, 1997, for Bloodhounds, and 2004, for The House Sitter; Crime Writers Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, 2000, for lifetime Achievement.
Keystone, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1983.
Rough Cider, Bodley Head (London, England), 1986, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Bertie and the Tinman, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1988.
On the Edge, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Bertie and the Seven Bodies, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Bertie and the Crime of Passion, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1993.
The Reaper, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Circle, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2005.
"SERGEANT CRIBB" MYSTERY SERIES
Wobble to Death, Dodd (New York, NY), 1970.
The Detective Wore Silk Drawers, Dodd (New York, NY), 1971.
Abracadaver, Dodd (New York, NY), 1972.
Mad Hatter's Holiday: A Novel of Murder in Victorian Brighton, Dodd (New York, NY), 1973.
Invitation to a Dynamite Party, Macmillan (London, England), 1974, published as The Tick of Death, Dodd (New York, NY), 1974.
A Case of Spirits, Dodd (New York, NY), 1975.
Swing, Swing Together, Dodd (New York, NY), 1976.
Waxwork, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
"PETER DIAMOND" MYSTERY SERIES
The Last Detective, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
Diamond Solitaire, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Summons, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Bloodhounds, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Upon a Dark Night, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1997.
The Vault, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Diamond Dust, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2002.
The House Sitter, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Secret Hangman, Soho Crime (New York, NY), 2007.
The House Sitter; and Upon a Dark Night, Sphere (London, England), 2007.
Butchers and Other Stories of Crime, Macmillan (London, England), 1985, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.
(Editor) The Black Cabinet: Stories Based on True Crimes, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1989.
The Staring Man and Other Stories, Eurographica (Helsinki), 1989.
The Crime of Miss Oyster Brown and Other Stories, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1994.
Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose (novellas and stories), Crippen & Landru (Norfolk, VA), 1998.
The Sedgemoor Strangler, and Other Stories of Crime, Crippen & Landru (Norfolk, VA), 2001.
(Editor) The Verdict of Us All, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2006.
The Kings of Distance: A Study of Five Great Runners, Eyre & Spottiswoode (London, England), 1968, published as Five Kings of Distance, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Tom McNab) The Guide to British Track and Field Literature, 1275-1968, Athletics Arena (London, England), 1969.
The Official Centenary History of the Amateur Athletic Association, Guinness Superlatives (London, England), 1979.
UNDER PSEUDONYM PETER LEAR
Goldengirl (novel), Cassell (London, England), 1977, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Spider Girl (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1980.
The Secret of Spandau, M. Joseph (London, England), 1986.
TELEPLAYS; WITH WIFE JACQUELINE RUTH LOVESEY
"The Horizontal Witness" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1980.
"Something Old, Something New" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1980.
"Murder, Old Boy?" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 1981.
"The Choir That Wouldn't Sing" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/PBS, 1981.
"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/PBS, 1981.
"The Last Trumpet" (for the Cribb television series), Granada Television/PBS, 1981.
Contributor to over eighty anthologies. Contributor to periodicals, including Armchair Detective, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Harper's, and Company. Crime novels have been translated into twenty-two languages.
Peter Lovesey's Goldengirl, written under the pseudonym Peter Lear, was filmed by Avco Embassy Pictures Corp. in 1979. Other Lovesey novels are under option for feature films. The Detective WoreSilk Drawers, Wobble to Death, A Case of Spirits, Mad Hatter's Holiday: A Novel of Murder in Victorian Brighton, Invitation to a Dynamite Party, Waxwork, Swing, Swing Together, and Abracadaver, were adapted into episodes of the television series "Cribb," Granada Television/PBS, 1980-81; On the Edge, was adapted for television as Dead Gorgeous, 2002; Diamond Dust was adapted for audiobook, BBC Audiobooks America, 2002; The House Sitter was adapted for audiobook, read by Steve Hodson, BBC Audiobooks, 2003; The Last Detective was adapted for audiobook, read by Simon Prebble, BBC Audiobooks, 2006.
When Peter Lovesey won the 2000 Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, he became firmly established as one of the most respected and admired mystery writers working today. Other Diamond Dagger Award-winners include P.D. James, John le Carre, Dick Francis, and Ed McBain. Lovesey joined their ranks by virtue of his literate thrillers—some of them set in Victorian England. In a career spanning more than thirty years, Lovesey has written novels of detective fiction as well as thrillers, short story collections, and plays. He is best known for his "Sergeant Cribb" and "Peter Diamond" series, and his work jumps continents and decades, from the 1880s to the present. According to Josh Rubins in the New York Times Book Review, Lovesey "has continued to stretch his talents" while earning the title "reigning master of the historical crime novel."
All of Lovesey's fiction is remarkable for its vivid yet offbeat historical details—a St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers contributor noted that readers "revel in the author's obvious love for the etiquette, finery, and hypocrisy of the Victorian times." Lovesey portrays a clear understanding of the psychology of the societies he depicts. As a Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor noted: "[Lovesey's books] are modern novels about the past, not attempts to resuscitate past forms." More recently, the author's Peter Diamond novels have proven that Lovesey is just as comfortable with the modern police procedural as he is with history-mysteries. In Booklist, Emily Melton called the writer "always appealing" and "one of the mystery genre's brightest and best." A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked that Lovesey's novels contain "everything the cerebral puzzle-addict craves, from tempting red herrings to literary arcana to deliciously plotted surprises."
Lovesey's interest in sport led him to write his prize-winning first novel, Wobble to Death. While researching the life of a Native American athlete, he found a description of the Victorian "wobble," a walking endurance contest. Later, while "perusing the personals columns of the [London] Times as Sherlock Holmes used to do," he stated, he discovered an advertisement for a crime novel contest. Wobble to Death was the result.
Wobble to Death is the first of a series of novels featuring Detective Sergeant Cribb and his assistant, Constable Thackeray. Critics have praised these books for their authentic evocation of Victorian atmosphere and restrained characterization. All eight novels featuring Cribb and Thackeray proved popular with the reading public. They were adapted for a television series called "Cribb" and broadcast in America on PBS's Mystery! program. Lovesey later collaborated with his wife Jacqueline to produce six more "Sergeant Cribb" stories for the series.
Lovesey certainly has not limited himself to his Cribb tales. He has also published four collections of short stories, including Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose, a volume that contains both stories and short novels. Writing shorter fiction fulfills two goals for Lovesey: the sheer enjoyment of writing stories and the chance to take risks, as the author once noted.
Yet Lovesey keeps returning to the detective novel. He left the Victorian period to experiment with places and time periods. Keystone, a mystery set in Hollywood in 1915, appeared next. It involves the Keystone Cops and many other silent film actors, such as Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, and Mack Sennett. A Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor found in this novel "historically accurate" characterizations and "fascinating technical details of early moviemaking," mixed with a deeper message: that Keystone comedy masks the violence of America about to embark on World War I. In Rough Cider, a novel of psychological suspense, and On the Edge, in which two ex-WAAF plotters turn into murderesses, a St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers contributor saw a "much tougher centre … than anything the author produced before." Of the latter novel, the St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers contributor noted: "The setting, style, and feel of the writing is richly authentic and the cliche ‘page-turning’ is perfectly apt."
Lovesey again returned to the Victorian era with his "Bertie" books. This time, the author features a rather unusual detective—Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's son and heir, who later became King Edward VII of England. In the first book, Bertie and the Tinman, Bertie, as he is known to his intimates, tells the story of the apparent suicide of his favorite jockey, Fred Archer, popularly known as the Tinman. Doubting that Archer was suicidal, the Prince becomes suspicious and launches a personal investigation that takes him all over Victorian London, from the coarsest fleshpots to the most elegant salons. "The rueful, candid voice [Lovesey] gives to the fleshy prince rings true," commented Time magazine contributor William A. Henry III, and "the details of the horse-racing and music-hall worlds are vivid, and much of the tale is sweetly funny." "This is an affectionate look at Prince Albert, a likable chap even with his pomposities and one-sided view of life," reported Newgate Callendar in the New York Times Book Review. "And the race-track scenes and backgrounds crackle with authenticity. There is a great deal of humor in the book, even a strong dash of P.G. Wodehouse. Bertie and the Tinman is a delightful romp."
Lovesey has undergone another evolution, from the written word and the page to the spoken word and the stage. In 1994, Lovesey, along with other British mystery writers Liza Cody and Michael Z. Lewin, toured eight American cities, performing a program filled with skits, dramatic readings, sound effects, and audience participation. Lovesey said in an Armchair Detective interview of the performance: "In this show we're still concerned with the craft of writing. There's a serious element even in something which appears to have entertainment value and laughter."
In 2001, Lovesey released a collection of sixteen tales The Sedgemoor Strangler, and Other Stories of Crime, many of which had been previously published in periodicals. David Pitt, writing for Booklist, referred to the collection as "marvelous," adding that "even those who have read them all before will want to read them again."
Lovesey's Peter Diamond books have contemporary settings—generally in and around the city of Bath, England. The Last Detective introduces Diamond, a middle-aged, overweight, and cantankerous police inspector who, while not amiss to using computers and lab analysis to solve murders, nevertheless does his best work as an old-fashioned puzzle-solver. "Diamond is a believably flawed soul, sexist and impulsive, yet essentially good-hearted," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. New York Times Book Review contributor Rubins commented that The Last Detective provided "a bravura performance from a veteran showman: slyly paced, marbled with surprise and, in the end, strangely affecting."
Subsequent Diamond novels have adhered to the formula of The Last Detective. Lovesey has not forgotten his interest in the past, as some Diamond plots include allusions to Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, while others involve suspicious antiques dealers, history professors, or bibliophiles. In The Vault, for instance, Diamond investigates the discovery of a partial skeleton, unearthed from a vault underneath the house in which Shelley wrote Frankenstein. A Publishers Weekly contributor maintained that the plot of The Vault "crackles with wit and urbanity, snappy dialogue and deeper, fouler doings whispering from the wings." In 2002, Lovesey released Diamond Dust, in which Diamond learns that the victim of his newest case is his wife of almost twenty years. Stunned by the news and his swift removal from the investigation, Diamond must find a way to clear his name as he becomes the prime suspect. "Lovesey will be hard-pressed to surpass this current effort … [but] it would be no great surprise if he did," commented a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Diamond's adventures continue with 2003's The House Sitter, which Connie Fletcher referred to as a "deft turn on the classic locked-room mystery" in her review for Booklist. The book's plot involves Diamond's investigation of the murder of a crime profiler, who had been researching the homicide of a film director and may have unearthed the identity of a serial killer. Fletcher noted: "An ingenious and complex novel, this is Lovesey at the top of his form."
Lovesey's 2005 novel The Circle features a character briefly profiled in The House Sitter, Henrietta Mallin. Not officially part of the "Diamond" series, the book may indicate Lovesey is ready to start a new series, focused on Mallin. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented: "While there's every reason to believe Diamond has plenty of life left in him, traditional mystery fans will have no regrets if Lovesey's next few books continue to focus on Mallin." A detective chief inspector, Mallin is called in to investigate a series of murderous arson cases targeting a publisher and a writing circle he is involved with. A Kirkus Reviews contributor summarized: "Frazzled and almost flummoxed by the writers playing amateur detective, Hen ultimately narrows her field of suspects and sets a trap for the villain." The same critic noted that Lovesey proves he can "out-Christie Dame Agatha."
In his 2007 Peter Diamond mystery titled The Secret Hangman, Lovesey sets Diamond on an investigation involving the death of a husband and wife. First the wife is found hanging in public and then a few days later the husband is also found dead by hanging. The official ruling is that their deaths are a murder-suicide, but Diamond is not convinced and continues his investigation. When a colleague tells Diamond that there was a similar case two years earlier, Diamond is sure that both husband and wife were murdered, leading him to a serial killer. In a subplot, Diamond meets a love interest in costume researcher Paloma Kean, but their romance is soon hindered when her son becomes a suspect in a series of robberies. "Lovesey … master of the switchback twist, has several in store here," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Lovesey and his critics recognize the great gift of his ability to entertain. A Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor credited Lovesey's development of "rich comic characterizations within a traditional puzzle framework" which "humaniz[es] a too often sterile form" as Lovesey's chief contribution to the genre of British mystery writing. The writer continued: "At his best (and he is often at his best) Lovesey has brought a comic lightness to the mystery novel that has expanded its possibilities in new and unexpected ways."
Lovesey once told CA: "My first published work was sports journalism, a long series of pieces, mostly unpaid, on the history of track and field. I chose to write on sports because I wanted to participate, however remotely. I had discovered early in life that I was not cut out to be an athlete; I was pathetically inept at every kind of sport. So I cornered the market in track and field history. One magazine gave me the by-line ‘The World's Foremost Authority on the History of Athletics’; in fact, I was the world's only authority. But eventually I had enough material for a book. The Kings of Distance was published in England in 1968 (1981 in the U.S.).
"I was drawn to mystery writing by the lure of money. In 1969 Macmillan and Panther Books announced a first crime novel competition with a thousand pound first prize. I was then a teacher, earning a salary of less than this. Using a Victorian long distance race as the background, I wrote Wobble to Death, won the prize, and was launched as a writer of historical mysteries. Seven more followed, featuring the detectives Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray. They were all adapted for the TV series ‘Sergeant Cribb,’ made by Granada, and seen in America in the Mystery! series on PBS. A further six episodes were scripted by my wife Jacqueline and me.
"I was reluctant to write only historical mysteries, so I tried a modern thriller, Goldengirl, under the pen name Peter Lear. This was about a gifted American woman athlete's exploitation by various individuals as she tries to win a unique triple at the Olympics. It was filmed by Avco Embassy, starring Susan Anton and James Coburn, directed by Joseph Sargent.
"I was encouraged to venture out of the Victorian period in my mystery writing, and wrote several one-off novels set in more recent times. In recent years I have tended to alternate between Victorian and contemporary settings. The Victorian series features Bertie, the Prince of Wales, writing his detective memoirs and revealing to perceptive readers more than he intends. The modern novels are about a police sleuth, Peter Diamond, embattled against forensic scientists and computer operators, and, amazingly, coming out the winner."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Barnes, Melvin, Murder in Print: A Guide to Two Centuries of Crime Fiction, Barn Owl Books (Berkeley, CA), 1986.
Benstock, Bernard, editor, Art in Crime Writing, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.
Burack, Sylvia K., Writing Mystery and Crime Fiction, The Writer (Cincinnati, OH), 1985.
Carr, John C., The Craft of Crime: Conversations with Crime Writers, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1983.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 87: British Mystery and Thriller Writers since 1940, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Dove, George N., and Earl F. Bargainner, Cops and Constables: American and British Fictional Policemen, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1986.
Keating, H.R.F., Crime and Mystery: The One Hundred Best Books, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1987.
St. James Guide to Crime Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Armchair Detective, summer, 1984, "Dr. Crippen and the Real Inspector Dew"; spring, 1995, Charles L.P. Silet, "Murder in Motion: An Interview with Liza Cody, Michael Z. Lewin, and Peter Lovesey"; winter, 1997, Kathryn Kennison, review of Bloodhounds.
Booklist, September 1, 1991, Peter Robertson, review of The Last Detective; March, 1, 1998, Emily Melton, review of Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose, p. 1097; August, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of The Vault, p. 2121; November 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of The Sedgemoor Strangler, and Other Stories of Crime, p. 557; May 1, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of The House Sitter, p. 1550.
Bookseller, February 14, 1997, "The Friendly Art of Murder."
Crimespree, August, 2007, Annie Chernow, interview with author.
Deadly Pleasures, summer, 1996, Martin Edwards, interview with author, pp. 17-19.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1993, review of Diamond Solitaire, p. 968; August 1, 2000, review of The Vault, p. 1078; March 15, 2005, review of The Circle, p. 320; March 15, 2007, Peter Lovesey, review of The Secret Hangman.
New York Times, October 14, 1983, Anatole Broyard, review of Keystone, p. C29.
New York Times Book Review, March 27, 1988, Newgate Callendar, review of Bertie and the Tinman; October 20, 1991, Josh Rubins, "Who Slew Snoo?," p. 40; October 8, 1995, Carol Peace Robins, review of The Summons, p. 26; April 19, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Upon a Dark Night; October 8, 2000, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Vault, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1991, review of The Last Detective; February 9, 1998, review of Upon a Dark Night, p. 76; August 7, 2000, review of The Vault, p. 78; September 24, 2001, review of The Sedgemoor Strangler, and Other Stories of Crime, p. 73; April 8, 2002, review of Diamond Dust, p. 207; March 28 2005, review of The Circle, p. 59.
Strand, Issue 7, 2001, Andrew F. Gulli, interview with author, pp. 47-53.
Time, April 17, 1978, review of Waxwork; February 1, 1988, William A. Henry, III, review of Bertie and the Tinman, p. 66.
Times Literary Supplement, September 20, 1991, Julian Symons, review of The Last Detective; February 5, 1999, Patricia Craig, review of The Vault.
Wall Street Journal, November 1, 1991, Tom Nolan, review of The Last Detective; May 18, 1998, Tom Nolan, review of Upon a Dark Night.
Washington Post Book World, October 20, 1992, Richard Lipez, review of The Last Detective.
Fandango,http://www.fandango.com/ (August 5, 2007), filmography of author.
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (August 5, 2007), list of author's awards.
International Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (August 5, 2007), information on author's film work.
Mystery Readers International,http://www.mysteryreaders.org/ (August 5, 2007), Anne Perry, interview with author.
Reviewing the Evidence,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (August 5, 2007), Andi Shechter, review of The Secret Hangman.
Time Warner Books Web site,http://www.twbooks.co.uk/ (April 17, 2000), interview with author.