The Toff

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In the series of adventure novels by John Creasey, the Toff is the nickname of the Honourable Richard Rollison, an upper-class crime sleuth.[1] Creasey published almost 60 Toff adventures, beginning with Introducing the Toff in 1938 and continuing through The Toff and the Crooked Copper, published in 1977, four years after the author's death.

Rollison is in many ways similar to Simon Templar, although Creasey's other character The Baron bears an even closer resemblance. Unlike Templar, Rollison has no earlier life of crime, although he frequently breaks or bends the law in pursuing his investigations.

Rollison's calling card includes a caricature of a toff — a line drawing with a top hat, monocle, bow-tie and cigarette with a holder. His flat includes a trophy wall, on which is a memento of every case Rollison helped to solve.

In these stories Rollison is moderately well-known, as his exploits are frequently reported in the newspapers. He is equally at home in upper-crust society circles as he is in the East End of London.

Main characters[edit]

Richard Rollison[edit]

The Toff is a wealthy bachelor living in a Mayfair flat at 22 Gresham Terrace. Although the settings of the stories keep up with the times, Rollison himself maintains an age of roughly 40 throughout. He is described as over six feet tall, with dark hair. Rollison's friends refer to him as Rolly, and acquaintances from the East End refer to him as "Mr. Ar".

Jolly[edit]

Jolly is Rollison's valet, as well as a partner is his investigations. He is described as dour and sad-looking, and is in every way the proper gentleman's gentleman.

Superintendent William "Bill" Grice[edit]

Superintendent Bill Grice of Scotland Yard shows respect for Rollison's abilities and contributions, but nonetheless complains about his methods. Grice bears a scar on his face from a case in which Rollison was involved.

Richard Shuttleworth[edit]

Shuttleworth owns the stables at the end of Shoreditch Lane. He also acts as Rollison's apprentice in many novels.

Supporting characters[edit]

William "Bill" Ebbut[edit]

Bill Ebbut is the proprietor of the Blue Dog Gymnasium, in which he trains fighters, and The Sailor's Arms public house. Ebbut frequently provides trustworthy men to act as guards or trail suspects. In The Toff and the Golden Boy, Ebbut is described as follows:

He had a big head, pendulous jowls, no neck to speak of, and a huge chest merging into a mammoth waist-line. All the time he breathed, he wheezed.

Lady Gloria Hurst[edit]

Lady Gloria Hurst is Rollison's aunt. Her home is the Marigold Club, where she takes in women requiring temporary assistance. She occasionally protects women involved in Rollison's adventures.

Adaptations[edit]

Two films have been made from Toff adventures: Salute the Toff and Hammer the Toff (both 1952); as well as BBC Radio adaptations starring Terence Alexander, The Toff and the Runaway Bride (1975) and The Toff on the Farm (1977).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Toff" is British English slang for an ostentatiously idle young man of the upper classes, hence the name.