T. J. Binyon
T.J. Binyon was born in Leeds, where his father Denis was a university lecturer. When, aged 18, doing his National Service, he was assigned to the Joint Services School for Linguists in Bodmin, Cornwall, to learn Russian. There, in 1954, the young soldiers, among them Alan Bennett, Michael Frayn and Dennis Potter, were trained to serve as translators and interpreters in the Cold War. It was there that Binyon's interest in Russian language and literature was kindled.
He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, but read German and Russian instead of History, which had been his original plan. After graduating he spent a year at Moscow State University. On returning to England, he took up teaching Russian literature at the University of Leeds. Eventually, in 1968, he became a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and taught in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford. He retired in the early 2000s.
Apart from his academic career, Binyon had a great interest in crime fiction. He worked as a reviewer of detective fiction for the The Times Literary Supplement and the London Evening Standard and, more importantly, wrote a theoretical book—"Murder Will Out": The Detective in Fiction (OUP, 1990)—and two crime novels, Swan Song (1982) and Greek Gifts (1988).
T.J. Binyon was married twice, first to Felicity Butterwick (1974–1992) and, after a divorce, to Helen Ellis (from 2000 up to his death). He died, aged 68, of sudden heart failure in his house in Witney, Oxfordshire while doing research for what was to be his next book on Mikhail Lermontov.