W. J. Burley
||This article uses bare URLs for citations, which may be threatened by link rot. (April 2014)|
|William John Burley|
1 August 1914|
|Died||15 November 2002
|Occupation||Author and teacher|
|Known for||Crime novels featuring Charles Wycliffe|
William John Burley (1 August 1914 – 15 November 2002) was a British crime writer, best known for his books featuring the detective Charles Wycliffe, who became the basis of the popular Wycliffe television series throughout the mid 1990s.
Burley was born in Falmouth, Cornwall. Before he began writing, he was employed in senior management with various gas companies, before giving it up after the Second World War when he obtained a scholarship to study zoology at Balliol College, Oxford. After obtaining an honours degree he became a teacher. Appointed head of biology, first at Richmond & East Sheen County Grammar School in 1953, then at Newquay Grammar School in 1955, he was well established as a writer by the time he retired at the age of 60 in 1974. He died at his home in Holywell, Cornwall, on 15 November 2002.
The village of Kergwyns is baffled by the bizarre shooting of an attractive local woman; the only thing stolen from the scene being her left shoe and stocking, exposing her foot deformity. As Wycliffe investigates, he becomes acquainted with the life of a deeply unhappy woman who routinely manipulated the men around her. When it becomes apparent that she left clues regarding her murder imbedded in crossword puzzles, the detective wonders why, if she knew about her impending death, did she do nothing about it? And, perhaps more importantly, is somebody of power carefully stage managing the case's progress?
A young auburn haired woman turns up naked and strangled in a seedy hotel room down by the docks, her face savagely beaten after death. The discovery of a thousand pounds stashed underneath some clothing, along with the observance of expensive luggage indicating more class than her present surroundings, exacerbate the mystery of her murder, and Superintendent Wycliffe finds himself drawn towards the investigation, interrupting his seaside holiday so he can make inquiries of his own.
Social butterfly Caroline Bryce causes a scandal in her home village of Treen, when her dead body is dragged from the bottom of a local river. Baffled as to a possible motive for killing Ms. Bryce, Wycliffe mulls over several possibilities. Could it have been a lover's quarrel? Family feud? Or perhaps even the explosion of a long held resentment for the woman?
- Wycliffe and Death in a Salubrious Place (1973)
In a remote corner of the Isles of Scilly, the murdered body of a young woman has been found, her skull and facial bones smashed. The locals, scared and angry, turn against the newcomer in their midst, Vince Peters, a famous pop star and teenage idol. However, Wycliffe is not so convinced of his guilt, and soon scratches away at the surface of this supposedly close-knit community, exposing an undercurrent of fear and hatred.
In a cul-de-sac just off the main road of a sprawling West Country port, a prostitute has been found naked and strangled in her bed. While the local police pass it off as just another sex crime, Wycliffe isn't so sure, partly because the victim, Lily Painter, isn't a typical lady of the night; she enjoys Beethoven and has a variety of degrees to her name. Furthermore, when the detective begins unearthing her past he discovers shady connections with smugglers and property speculators. It will take arson another murder before he can wrap up this case.
Somebody has booby trapped a boat owned by Cedric Tremain's father, killing him. Following Cedric's subsequent arrest, his fellow villagers are unanimous in their belief that he isn't a likely murderer. However, circumstantial evidence soon begins piling up and conspiring against the hapless sailor. When Wycliffe arrives on the scene of the crime, he too finds himself believing Cedric's protestations of innocence, and soon establishes a link between the current murder and that of a young woman twenty years ago, supposedly strangled by a cousin of Cedric's, who served fourteen years of a commuted death sentence.
- Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls (1976)
Two very different women, a nightclub singer and a nurse, have been strangled in their own homes, under the same efficient method, within the space of one week. Although the media and police are unanimous in the belief that these murders are the work of a psychopath, Wycliffe believes the solution may be a bit more complex. When another attack is suddenly aborted for no earthly reason, the detective feels his theory has been proved; this is no ordinary killing spree. But his colleagues are entirely uninterested, and he knows he will be on his own this time. In the course of his solo investigation he uncovers a connection with an old school trip, a youth hostel and a cruel practical joke played on a lonely student.
- Wycliffe and the Scapegoat (1978)
Every Halloween in Cornwall, the life size effigy of a man rolls down the cliffs and into the sea inside a flaming wheel; the morbid commemoration of an age old pagan ritual whereby the dummy would in fact be a human sacrifice. This year, however, every gruesome detail of the legend is re-enacted when respected builder and undertaker Jonathan Riddle finds himself signed up as the so-called 'scapegoat', strapped within the blazing Ferris wheel and pushed towards a fiery grave. Wycliffe's investigation, meanwhile, proves almost as bizarre as the crime itself, with baffling new evidence arriving by the bucket load, and the eventual discovery of a solution stranger than anything he's ever encountered before.
The small community of Paul's Court is shattered by the violent deaths of Willy Goppel, a German doll house maker found hanging from a beam in his home, and Yvette Cole, a fifteen-year-old with a wild reputation, found strangled, half-naked and thrown callously over a churchyard hedge. With the help of a local detective, Wycliffe uncovers a dark string of anatgonisms weaving across Paul's court.
While taking a leisurely Sunday stroll along the West Country estuary, Wycliffe stumbles across a service revolver with one recently fired chamber. From these humble beginnings, he soon ends up embroiled in a world of shady art robberies, crooked dealers, a suspicious suicide and the hunt for a missing yacht.
- Wycliffe and the Beales (1983)
The Beales, a strange, reclusive family living on the edge of Dartmoor in Ashill House, consist of Simon, an old man entirely withdrawn from active life, Nicholas and Gertrude, perpetually hitting the bottle and playing war games, and the painter Edward, who takes long walks along the moors in search of artistic inspiration. The only one with any drive or ambition is Gertrude's husband Frank Vicary, and all of his time is absorbed by the task of running the family business. When a murder rocks their local community, no-one has any reason for suspecting one of the Beales, until Wycliffe arrives on the case and finds his investigation leading him up the Beales's garden path.
The reclusive writer David Cleeve has been receiving mysterious warnings in the form of a single playing card; the Jack of Diamonds. When the card arrives torn in half one day, a murder is committed that same evening. Holidaying in the local area, Wycliffe finds himself drawn into the investigation and soon uncovers a sinister tale of double murder, arson attacks and a whole host of other crimes reverberating down the years.
With his wife away for Christmas, Wycliffe readily accepts an invitation to stay with a Penzance lawyer and his family in their remote country home; although when he arrives he finds the atmosphere less than welcoming, and the unease soon culminates in the disappearance of a young girl, whom he had seen playing the Virgin Mary in a recent nativity play. He soon discovers that the missing youth was unpopular in her local community, and even her parents seem indifferent about the whole affair. Nevertheless, the detective leads a mass search for her and is soon caught up in a major criminal investigation.
- Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue (1987)
- Wycliffe and the Tangled Web (1988)
- Wycliffe and the Cycle of Death (1990)
- Wycliffe and the Dead Flautist (1991)
- Wycliffe and the Last Rites (1992)
- Wycliffe and the Dunes Mystery (1993)
- Wycliffe and the House of Fear (1995)
- Wycliffe and the Redhead (1997)
- Wycliffe and the Guild of Nine (2000)
- Wycliffe and the Last Lap (2003) unfinished
- A Taste of Power (1966)
- Death in Willow Pattern (1969)
- The Schoolmaster (1977)
- The Sixth Day (1978)
- Charles and Elizabeth (1979)
- The House of Care (1981)
- "Tales of Cornish Sleuth Found Fame". Western Morning News (Plymouth). 26 November 2002.
- Kinsman, Margaret (2003). W. J. Burley (Dictionary of Literary Biography V. 276: British Mystery and Thriller Writers Since 1960). Thomson Gale. pp. 67–75. ISBN 0787660205.
- Hooper', Brad; Bill Ott (15 April 1999). "A Hard-Boiled Gazetteer to the British Isles". Booklist 95 (16): 1456.
- Keating, H. R. F. (18 April 1998). "Agatha's Legacy Lives On". The Times.
- Lawson, Mark (8 October 1997). "Inside Story: Making a killing". The Guardian (London, England).
- "I'd Love to be Wycliffe on TV Again". Western Morning News (Plymouth). 12 December 2002.
- "Column 8". The Sydney Morning Herald. 16 March 2009.
- "History and Staff". Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- "Wycliffe author dies in Cornwall". BBC News. 25 November 2002. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Jones, Roger (Winter 2000). "Journal: A Bookman's Year". The American Scholar 69 (1): 133.
- Simister, Beryl (20 May 2005). "Book Reviews". UK Newsquest Regional Press – This is Bedford.
- "Potteries Found Highwayman Had Undying Appeal for the Masses". Western Morning News (Plymouth). 13 September 2003.
- Popple, Jeff (19 October 1997). "Police Detectives on the Beat". The Canberra Times.
- "Wycliffe and the Schoolgirls". OCLC Worldcat. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
- [dead link]
- MacCurtain, Austin (12 March 1989). "Paperbacks; Books". The Sunday Times (London).
- White, Jean M. (19 September 1982). "Book World; Mysteries". The Washington Post.
- "Dock Briefs/ Reviews of some recent detective fiction". The Guardian (London). 24 January 1985.
- Mann, Richard (29 October 2001). "One Tedious Police Detective". Morning Star.
- Coleman, John (27 November 1988). "Adventures in the Scam Trade; Crime fiction; Books". The Sunday Times.
- Coady, Matthew (5 July 1990). "Books: Two-time winner – Crime". The Guardian (London).
- Coady, Matthew (23 July 1992). "Books: The corpse in question – Crime". The Guardian (London, England).
- Jackson, Suzanne (23 February 2008). "Book". Coventry Evening Telegraph (Nuneaton Edition).
- Leon, Donna (10 May 1998). "Body of evidence – Crime – Books". The Sunday Times.
- W. J. Burley biographical website
- Wycliffe author dies in Cornwall, BBC news report
- W. J. Burley at the Internet Book List
- Article on W. J. Burley