Joseph Jefferson Farjeon
|Joseph Jefferson Farjeon|
4 June 1883|
Hampstead, London, England
6 June 1955 (aged 72)|
Hove, Sussex, England
Joseph Jefferson Farjeon (4 June 1883 – 6 June 1955) was an English crime and mystery novelist, playwright and screenwriter. His father, brother and sister also made names for themselves in literature.
Born in Hampstead, London, Farjeon was the grandson of the American actor Joseph Jefferson, after whom he was named. His parents were Jefferson's daughter Maggie (1853–1935) and Benjamin Farjeon (1838–1903), a prolific Victorian novelist who was born in Whitechapel to an impoverished immigrant family who travelled widely before returning to England in 1868. Joseph Jefferson Farjeon's brothers were Herbert, a dramatist and scholar, and Harry, who became a composer. His sister Eleanor became a renowned children's author. His daughter Joan Jefferson Farjeon (1913–2006) was a scene designer.
Farjeon worked for ten years for Amalgamated Press in London before going freelance, sitting nine hours a day at his writing desk. One of Farjeon's best known works was a play, Number 17, which was made into a number of films, including Number Seventeen (1932) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and joined the UK Penguin Crime series as a novel in 1939. He also wrote the screenplay for Michael Powell's My Friend the King (1932) and provided the story for Bernard Vorhaus's The Ghost Camera (1933).
Farjeon's crime novels were admired by Dorothy L. Sayers, who called him "unsurpassed for creepy skill in mysterious adventures." His obituarist in The Times talked of "ingenious and entertaining plots and characterization," while The New York Times, reviewing an early novel, Master Criminal (1924), states that "Mr. Farjeon displays a great deal of knowledge about story-telling... and multiplies the interest of his plot through a terse, telling style and a rigid compression." The Saturday Review of Literature called Death in the Inkwell (1942) an "amusing, satirical, and frequently hair-raising yarn of an author who got dangerously mixed up with his imaginary characters."
Most of Farjeon's works had been forgotten, but the figure of Ben in Number 17 appeared again in a string of novels, including Ben on the Job (1932), reissued in 1955 and 1985. The House Opposite (1931), the first full-length original novel to feature Ben, was reissued under the revived Collins Crime Club imprint in 2015, followed by the seven other "Ben" novels in 2016.
A significant revival of interest in the Golden age of detective fiction had followed the 2014 success of The British Library reissue of Mystery in White: A Christmas Crime Story. There followed two further reissues in 2015: Thirteen Guests and The Z Murders. Mystery in White is also one of at least three of his novels to have appeared in Italian, French, Dutch (Het mysterie in de sneeuw – The Mystery in the Snow), German, Spanish, Polish and Russian.
Seven Dead has been reissued by The British Library (September 2017). The novel sees the return of Detective-Inspector Kendall, first seen, in the words of its central character "...in the case of the Thirteen Guests. What I liked about him was that he didn't play the violin, or have a wooden leg or anything of that sort. He just got on with it."
Crime fiction and other works
- The Master Criminal (London, Brentano's, 1924)
- The Confusing Friendship (London, Brentano's, 1924)
- Little Things That Happen (London, Methuen, 1925)
- Uninvited Guests (London, Brentano's, 1925)
- No 17 (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1926)
- At the Green Dragon (London, Harrap, 1926) [US title: The Green Dragon]
- The Crook's Shadow (London, Harrap, 1927)
- More Little Happenings (London, Methuen, 1928)
- The House of Disappearance (New York, A. L. Burt, 1928)
- Underground (New York, A. L. Burt, 1928) [alternative title: Mystery Underground, 1932]
- Shadows by the Sea (London, Harrap, 1928)
- The Appointed Date (London, 1929)
- The 5:18 Mystery (1929)
- The Person Called Z (1929)
- Following Footsteps (1930)
- The Mystery on the Moor (London, Collins, 1930)
- The House Opposite (London, Collins, 1931)
- Murderer's Trail (London, Collins, 1931) [US title: Phantom Fingers]
- The Z Murders (London, Collins, 1932)
- Trunk Call (London, Collins, 1932) [US title: The Trunk Call Mystery]
- Ben Sees It Through (London, Collins, 1932)
- Sometimes Life's Funny (London, Collins, 1933)
- The Mystery of the Creek (London, Collins, 1933) [US title: The House on the Marsh]
- Dead Man's Heath (London, Collins, 1933) [US title: The Mystery of Dead Man's Heath]
- Old Man Mystery (London, Collins, 1933)
- Fancy Dress Ball (London, Collins, 1934) [US title: Death in Fancy Dress]
- The Windmill Mystery (London, Collins, 1934)
- Sinister Inn (London, Collins, 1934)
- The Golden Singer (1935)
- His Lady Secretary (1935)
- Mountain Mystery (1935)
- Little God Ben (London, Collins, 1935)
- Holiday Express (London, Collins, 1935)
- The Adventure of Edward (1936)
- Thirteen Guests (London, Collins, 1936)
- Detective Ben (London, Collins, 1936)
- Dangerous Beauty (London, Collins, 1936)
- Yellow Devil (1937)
- Holiday at Half Mast (London, Collins, 1937)
- Mystery in White (1937)
- The Compleat Smuggler (1938)
- Dark Lady (1938)
- End of An Author (1938) [US title: Death in the Inkwell, 1942]
- Seven Dead (1939)
- Exit John Horton (1939) [US title: Friday the 13th, 1942]
- Facing Death: Tales Told on a Sinking Raft (1940)
- Aunt Sunday Sees It Through (1940) [US title: Aunt Sunday Takes Command]
- Room Number 6 (1941)
- The Third Victim (1941)
- The Judge Sums Up (1942)
- The House of Shadows (1943)
- Greenmask (1944)
- Black Castle (1944)
- Rona Runs Away (1945)
- The Oval Table (1946)
- Peril in the Pyrenees (1946)
- The Works of Smith Minor (1947)
- Back To Victoria (1947)
- Benelogues (1948)
- The Llewellyn Jewel Mystery (1948)
- Death of a World (1948)
- The Adventure at Eighty (1948)
- Prelude To Crime (1948)
- The Lone House Mystery (1949)
- The Impossible Guest (1949)
- The Shadow of Thirteen (1949)
- The Disappearances of Uncle David (1949)
- Change With Me (1950)
- Mother Goes Gay (1950)
- Cause Unknown (1950)
- Mystery on Wheels (1951)
- The House Over the Tunnel (1951)
- Adventure For Nine (1951)
- Ben on the Job (1952)
- Number Nineteen (1952)
- The Double Crime (1953)
- The Mystery of the Map (1953)
- Money Walks (1953)
- Castle of Fear (1954)
- Bob Hits the Headlines (1954)
- The Caravan Adventure (1955)
Under the pseudonym Anthony Swift
- Murder at a Police Station (1943)
- November the Ninth at Kersea (1944)
- Interrupted Honeymoon (1945)
- The Tale of A Hat (A Romance of the Thames) Pearson's Magazine issue 172 April 1910
- Down the Green Stairs and Other Stories (1943)
- Waiting for the Police and Other Short Stories (1943)
- The Twist and Other Stories (1944)
- The Haunted Lake and Other Stories (1945)
- The Invisible Companion and Other Stories (1946)
- Midnight Adventure and Other Stories (1946)
- Number 17 (1926)
- Enchantment (1927)
- Philomel (1932)
- In Edwards's Introduction to the 2014 reissue of Mystery in White. A Christmas Crime Storey (London: British Library, ).
- Lewis Melville, "Farjeon, Benjamin Leopold (1838–1903)", rev. William Baker. ODNB, Oxford University Press, 2004 Retrieved 21 November 2014, pay-walled.
- Obituary in The Independent, 14 August 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- Publisher's biographical note in the Penguin Crime edition of the novelized No. 17.
- IMDb. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- gadetection site. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- As Sotto la neve Polillo Editore site Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- Drei Raben Verlag Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- Bordman, Gerald Martin. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1914–1930. Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Krueger, Christine L. Encyclopedia of British Writers, 19th Century. Infobase Publishing, 2003.