Kyril Bonfiglioli

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Kyril Bonfiglioli (born Cyril Emmanuel George Bonfiglioli; 29 May 1928 – 3 March 1985) was an English art-dealer, magazine editor and comic novelist. His eccentric and witty Mortdecai novels have attained cult status since his death.


Bonfiglioli was born in Eastbourne on the south coast of England to an Italo-Slovene father, Emmanuel Bonfiglioli, and English mother, Dorothy née Pallett. His mother and brother died in an air raid when he was 14. Having served in the British Army from 1947 to 1954, and been widowed, he applied to Balliol College, Oxford, where he took his degree. After his divorce from his second wife he lived in Silverdale in Lancashire, then Jersey and Ireland. He edited Science Fantasy magazine for a period from 1964 to 1966, appointed by David Warburton of Roberts and Vinter Ltd.; and the successor Impulse for its first few issues in 1966 before handing the reins to Harry Harrison. He died in Jersey of cirrhosis in 1985, having had five children.[1][2]

He described himself as "an accomplished fencer, a fair shot with most weapons and a serial marrier of beautiful women ... abstemious in all things except drink, food, tobacco and talking ... and loved and respected by all who knew him slightly."[1][3]

Charlie Mortdecai novels[edit]

Bonfiglioli wrote four books featuring Charlie Mortdecai, three of which were published in his lifetime, and one posthumously as completed by the satirist and literary mimic Craig Brown. Charlie Mortdecai is the fictional art dealer anti-hero of the series. His character resembles, among other things, an amoral Bertie Wooster with occasional psychopathic tendencies. His Mortdecai comic-thriller trilogy won critical plaudits back in the 1970s and early 1980s. The dry satire and black humour of the books were favourably reviewed by The New Yorker and others. The books are still in print and have been translated into several languages.

Don't Point That Thing At Me was awarded the 1973 CWA New Blood Dagger for the best crime novel by a hitherto unpublished writer.

Bonfiglioli's style and narrative technique have been favourably compared to those of P. G. Wodehouse. Mortdecai and his manservant Jock Strapp bear a fun-house mirror relation to Wodehouse's Wooster and Jeeves. The author makes a nod to this comparison by having Mortdecai reference Wodehouse in the novels. Actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are among those who are fans of his work.[2] Hugh Laurie praised "the excellent Kyril Bonfigliolo" [sic] in the afternotes of his book The Gun Seller.[4]

The three original books, published out of chronological order:

Reissued (Penguin, 2015 ISBN 978-0-241-97267-0) as film tie-in under title Mortdecai
  • After You With The Pistol (Secker and Warburg, 1979), Book Two
  • Something Nasty In The Woodshed (Macmillan, 1976), Book Three

Anthologised in:

An historical prequel about one of Charlie's Dutch ancestors:

  • All the Tea in China (Secker and Warburg, 1978)

The posthumously completed sequel:

Bonfiglioli's second wife Margaret wrote and compiled a posthumous anthology of works and anecdotes, called The Mortdecai ABC (London: Penguin / Viking, 2001), ISBN 0-670-91084-8.

2015 film[edit]

Mortdecai, a film based on the books directed by David Koepp and starring Johnny Depp in the title role, was released in January 2015. The film was a box office bomb, and received overwhelmingly negative reviews.[5][6] The Rotten Tomatoes aggregated rating for the movie stands at just 12%.[7]


  1. ^ a b Carey, Leo (20 September 2004). "The Genuine Article: the strange case of Kyril Bonfiglioli". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Don’t Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli". Sunday Times. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  3. ^ Bonfiglioli, Kyril. "After you with the Pistol", Penguin Books, 2014 edition, p. i (first page, publishers preface).
  4. ^ Hugh Laurie, The Gunseller, Washington Square Press, 1996, p. 345.
  5. ^ "'Mortdecai' Is One Of Johnny Depp's Worst Flops Ever". 25 January 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  6. ^ Stephanie Garcia (26 January 2015). "Mortdecai becomes Johnny Depp's fifth consecutive movie to flop at the box office - News - Films". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  7. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: Mortdecai

External links[edit]