Rupert Croft-Cooke (20 June 1903 – 1979) was an English biographer and author of fiction and non-fiction, including screenplays and biographies under his own name and detective stories under the pseudonym of Leo Bruce. For legal reasons, he spent fifteen years in Morocco.
Born on 20 June 1903, in Edenbridge, Kent, Croft-Cooke was educated at Tonbridge School and Wellington College. At the age of seventeen, he was working as a private tutor in Paris. He spent two years in Buenos Aires, where he founded the journal La Estrella. In 1925 he returned to London and began a career as a freelance journalist and writer. His work appeared in a variety of magazines, including New Writing, Adelphi, and the English Review. In the late 1920s the American magazine Poetry published several of his plays. He was also a radio broadcaster on psychology. In 1930 he spent a year in Germany. In 1940 he joined the British Army and served in Africa and India until 1946. He later wrote several books about his military experiences. From 1947 to 1953 he was a book reviewer for The Sketch.
Croft-Cooke was a homosexual, which brought him into conflict with the laws of his time. In 1953, at a time when the Home Office was seeking to clamp down on homosexuality, he was sent to prison for six months on conviction for acts of indecency, although the facts were meagre. Croft-Cooke's secretary and companian, Joseph Alexander, had met two Navy cooks, Harold Altoft and Ronald Charles Dennis, in the Fitzroy Tavern near Tottenham Court Road in London, and invited them to spend the weekend at Croft-Cooke's house in Ticehurst, East Sussex. During the weekend, they consumed food and alcohol and had sex with both Croft-Cooke and his assistant. On their way home from the weekend, they got drunk and assaulted two men, one of whom was a policeman. They were arrested and agreed to testify against Croft-Cooke to get immunity from prosecution for the assault charges.
The case of Croft-Cooke was discussed by the Committee who produced the Wolfenden report into changing the law on prostitution and homosexuality, specifically by Philip Allen, a civil servant testifying on behalf of the Home Office. Allen described Croft-Cooke and Alexander as attempting to "interfere" with the sailors, who "resisted" the advances. Michael Graham-Harrison, a junior Home Office civil servant, attempted to correct Allen's rhetorical overreaching, noting that the sailors were "picked up in a place frequented by homosexuals" and arguing that he did "not think anybody could belie for a moment that they did not know what they were going for".
The 1957 war film Seven Thunders was based on his novel. He also wrote for television, including an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He is best known today for the detective stories he wrote under the name of Leo Bruce. His detectives were called Carolus Deene and Sergeant Beef.
Major publications as Rupert Croft-Cooke
- Rupert Croft-Crooke collection, 1930-1974 (4.5 linear feet) are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.
- Rupert Croft-Cooke Papers, 1956-1977 (1 linear feet) are housed at the Washington State University Libraries.
- Rupert Croft-Cooke at croft-cooke.co.uk
- 'Croft-Cooke, Rupert', in Frances C. Locher, Ann Evory, Contemporary Authors (1980)
- Higgins, Patrick. Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male homosexuality in postwar Britain. pp. 65–70.
- The Life and Works of Rupert Croft-Cooke at croft-cooke.co.uk, accessed 30 January 2011
- T. J. Binyon, Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction (1989), pp. 54, 123
- An autobiographical account of his time in India during the Second World War.