Choose another writer in this calendar:
by birthday from the calendar.
||Cyril Hare (1900-1958) - pseudonym for Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark|
British mystery writer, lawyer, and country
court judge in Surrey, who combined in his work his knowledge of
subleties of law with sympathetic portrayal of his characters and
unexpected plot developments. Hare's most famous work is Tragedy at Law (1942), widely
acclaimed as one of the great classics of detective novel. In 1987 the
critic and mystery writer H.R.F. Keating included it among the 100 best
crime and mystery books ever published.
Cyril Hare was born Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark in
Mickleham, Surrey. His father, Henry Herbert Gordon Clark, ran the
family wine and spirit business, Matthew Clark & Sons. Most of his
early years Hare spent in the country, where he learned to hunt, shoot,
and fish. After studies at St Aubyn's, Rottingdean and Rugby, Hare
entered the New College, Oxford, and was called to the bar in 1924,
fulfilling his part of the family tradition. In 1933, he married Mary
Barbara Lawrence; they one son and two daughters.
With his family, Hare settled in Cyril Mansions, Battersea,
London. At the bar his practice was largely in the civil and criminal
courts in and around London. He worked in the firm of noted barrister
Ronald Oliver, in Hare Court, Temple, where many of the great crime
cases of the 1920s were handled.
During World War II, Hare toured as a
judge's marshal for some time. In 1940, he worked a brief period at the
Ministry of Economic Warfare; his experiences provided the inspiration
for With a Bare Bodkin. From
1942 to 45, he was served as a
Legal Assistant in the Director of Public Prosecutions Department.
Shortly after the
war, he contracted tuberculosis, from which he never fully recovered.
After some occasional sketches for Punch and other
journals, Hare published his first mystery novel, Tenant for Death (1937). It dealt
with the disappearance of a financier, who is the found dead in South
Kensington. His pseudonym Hare took from his London home, and his
Temple chambers, Hare Court, where he worked.
The well-received debut was followed by Death Is No Sportsman (1938), and Suicide Expected (1939), which were
good, solid mysteries, but did not drew to any great extent on his
legal background. Hare's great interest in music is seen in When the Wind Blows (1949), in
which a local orchestra performs Mozart's Prague Symphony. Pettigrew's
wife Eleanor plays the violin passably well. "No reasonable husband
could object, particularly when this blameless occupation was coupled
with an undertaking, scrupulously carried out, to practice only when he
was out of the house." (Ibid., p. 16)
Hare's pricipal series characters were Inspector John Mallet of Scotland Yard and a
fellow barrister Francis Pettigrew, who first appeared in Tragedy
as an unhappy, aging lawyer. "But to be honest, and for once he felt
like being honest with himself, was not the over-riding cause of
Francis Pettigrew's lack of success – no, if he was to be honest
why not call things by their proper names? – of his failure, then,
simply something lacking in Francis Pettigrew himself?" (Ibid., p. 16) The book was published by Faber and Faber, which remained Hare's publisher throughout his career.
In With a Bare Bodkin (1946)
Pettigre meets Miss Eleanor Brown, a young woman half his age, and
falls in love with her. At the end, Pettigrew expresses his feelings
towards her: "I want you desperately, and I want you here. If you go,
you go with my malediction on your head, and I promise you solemnly I
shall use all my influence with the Ministry of Labour to have you
directed into domestic service in a hospital for bombed-out inebriates.
Now, what do you say?" Pettigrew has
peaceful retirement in He Should
Have Died Hereafter (1958). As a character, Pettigrew is
carefully developed story by story. Hare once remarked that
writers may be excused, if they surround principal policeman with
contrasting colorful types and streamline police routines. Noteworthy,
in spite of mastering the fine points of English law, Pettigrew is
haunted by his lack of success, a trait which makes him somewhat unique
world of legal mysteries.
Hare's narration is mildly humorous and charming, but he did not make condescending fun of ordinary police officers, familiar from the work of Dorothy Sayers. Basically, the real target of Hare's irony was the speech and pretentious manners of the British upper classes, especially the judges of the High Court of Justice: "There is however, something about judical garments that gives consequence to any but the most undignified figure," Hare wrote in Tragedy at Law. (Ibid., p. 8) Hare had a good ear for different social languages; as a public speaker he was supreme.
Tragedy at Law,
partly a detective story, was set in
legal world just after the outbreak of WWII. Among Hare's books,
this was his own favorite. Mr Justice Barber, known
unofficially as the "Shaver," and journeying with his butler from court
notes and a mysterious stranger arranges nasty surprises for him.
Nothing much happens until
on page 253 out of a total of 290: the dagger gets thrust between his
shoulders. Pettigrew appears as an amateur detective, who doesn't have
much pages between the murder and its solution. But he beats Inspector
Mallet by explaining the legal issues related to the murder. Lars Ole
argued that "there are implications of a Greek tragedy in the judge's
hubris of ignoring insurance and neglecting the traffic code. The
nemesis striking makes him end up as a victim rather than a laughing
stock." (The Legal
Thriller from Gardner to Grisham: See you in Court! by Lars Ole
Sauerberg, 2016, p. 85) This work has stood well the test of
time, and was reissued in 2009.
In With a Bare Bodkin Hare returned to the atmosphere of WW II. The story is set in a remote part of Britain, Marsett Bay, where Francis Pettigrew and his civil service branch is sent to escape the Blitz. Hare keeps the pace slow, plays with the labyrinth of fiction within fiction, and murder doesn't occur until halfway through the book. When the Wind Blows portrays Pettigrew as a reluctant detective. At this point of his life, he is married and lives in the imaginary southern county of Markshire. The murder of a violinist upsets the peace of the small town.
In An English Murder
(1951) Hare used the conventional setting (a
country house) and the usual suspect (there is a butler), but
managed to come out with an original and fresh tale. An English
Christmas party is disturbed by a murder and the history professor Dr. Wenceslaus
Bottwink, a Jewish Czech concentration camp survivor, starts to
help Scotland Yard. With a sharp eye on British peculiarities, he solves the crime. The Guardian has
listed this cozy mystery among the top 10 Christmas crime stories.
Curiously, in spite
of the Cold War, the book was released as a
two-part television film in 1974 the Soviet Union under the title Christo angliyskoe ubiystvo (A Very
English Murder), directed by Samson Samsonov and produced by
Mosfilm. Alexei Batalov, famous from Mikhail Kalatozov's film Letyat zhuravli (The Cranes Are
Flying, 1957), played the role of Dr.
Bottwink; Ivan Pereverzev was the butler.
Hare was invited to join the Detection Club in 1946. Along with Michael Gilbert, Anthony Berkeley, John Dickson Carr, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, and other member of the Club, Hare carried the Golden Age tradition into the late 1950s. From 1950, he served as County Court Judge in Surrey. Hare's duties concerned civil disputes only. Cyril Hare died on 25 August, 1958, at the peak of his career. His last Pettigrew story was He Should Have Died Hereafter, in which Pettigrew and his old friend Inspector Mallett solve the mystery of a disappeared body in Exmoor.
"It was all of fifty years since he had last seen a hunted deer and now the sight of it in some way dispelled the enchantment of reminiscene in which he had been living up to that moment. Willy-nilly, he found himself looking at the hapless beast through the eyes of the elderly, urban humanitarian who had somehow evolved from that small boy."
This sight leads Pettigrew to recall an experience of his
childhood, which he had buried: he found a dead man in his childhood in
Bolter's Tussock and left it there. The nightmare repeats itself when
he again stumbles over a body on the moor. However, Pettigrew realizes
that there must be a perfectly rational explanation to the whole thing
and finds the answer from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Hare's later stories and articles were published in Illustrated
London News and The Law Journal.
Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare
(1959; US title: Death Among Friends and Other Detetive Stories, 1959), included two Pettigrew adventures and an
introduction by Michael Gilbert, his friend and fellow-lawyer. Hare's Tragedy
fell in the hands of Gilbert in 1943 while he was a prisoner of war on
the Adriatic coast of Italy. "It was in such circumstances that an
orderly delivered to us, one day, along with our lunch of pasta and diced meat-loaf, a tattered copy of Tragedy at Law.
The excitement was intense. The only other reading matter available to
us at the time was a week-old Italian newspaper devoted to accounts of
Axis victories in Sicily and Pantellaria, and a Complete Works of
Milton." (Ibid., p. 7) The book inspired
Gilbert later in his career as a mystery
writer. According to Gilbert, Hare had a striking physical resemblance
to Sherlock Holmes: "The thin, inquisive nose, the intellectual
forehead, the piercing eye, the Oxford common-room voice." (Ibid., p. 8)
Hare was not a prolific short story writer, but he nevertheless contributed stories to three CWA (the Crime Writers' Association) anthologies, Choise of Weapons (1958), edited by Michael Gilbert, Planned Departures (1958), edited by Elizabeth Ferrars, and Some Like Them Dead (1960), edited by Roy Vickers. 'Name of Smith' (1952), first published in the Evening Standard, illustarates Hare's ability to inject into his stories questions about truth and justice without being didactic. Based mostly on dialogue, it tells of a judge, "an old ruffian," whose soft side is revealed to his colleagues only after his death. The story was reperinted in Mysterious Pleasures (2003), celebrating the 50th anniversary of CWA. In 'An Unpleasant Man,' set in an English village close to an American airbase, the detective sergeant solves a crime, when the murdered makes a mistake by using an American expression.
For further reading: Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection by Chris Steinbrunner, Otto Penzler (1976); 'Hare, Cyril' by Charles Shibuk, in Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly (1980); 'Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (1942),' in Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H.R.F. Keating (1987); 'Hare, Cyril,' in The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery by Bruce F. Murphy (1999); 'Hare, Cyril,' by Martin Edwards, in Whodunit?: A Who's Who in Crime & Mystery Writing, edited by Rosemary Herbert (2003); 'Cyril Hare (1900-58) UK,' in 100 Must-Read Crime Novels by Richard Shepard and Nick Rennison (2010); The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards (2015); The Legal Thriller from Gardner to Grisham: See you in Court! by Lars Ole Sauerberg (2016) - See other lawyer-authors: Erle Stanley Gardner, Michael Gilbert