Rupert Croft-Cooke

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Rupert Croft-Cooke (30 June 1903 – 10 June 1979)[1] was an English writer, a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction, including screenplays and biographies under his own name and detective stories under the pseudonym of Leo Bruce. Fearing continued persecution in the UK for homosexuality, he spent fifteen years in Morocco.

Life[edit]

Born on 20 June 1903, in Edenbridge, Kent, Croft-Cooke was educated at Tonbridge School and Wellington College. At the age of seventeen, he was working as a private tutor in Paris. He spent two years in Buenos Aires, where he founded the journal La Estrella. In 1925 he returned to London and began a career as a freelance journalist and writer. His work appeared in a variety of magazines, including New Writing, Adelphi, and the English Review. In the late 1920s the American magazine Poetry published several of his plays. He was also a radio broadcaster on psychology. In 1930 he spent a year in Germany. In 1940 he joined the British Army and served in Africa and India until 1946. He later wrote several books about his military experiences. From 1947 to 1953 he was a book reviewer for The Sketch.[2]

Croft-Cooke was a homosexual, which brought him into conflict with the laws of his time. In 1953, at a time when the Home Office was seeking to clamp down on homosexuality, he was sent to prison for six months on conviction for acts of indecency. Croft-Cooke's secretary and companian, Joseph Alexander, had met two Navy cooks, Harold Altoft and Ronald Charles Dennis, in the Fitzroy Tavern near Tottenham Court Road in London, and invited them to spend the weekend at Croft-Cooke's house in Ticehurst, East Sussex. During the weekend, they consumed food and alcohol and had sex with both Croft-Cooke and his assistant. On their way home from the weekend, they got drunk and assaulted two men, one of whom was a policeman. They were arrested and agreed to testify against Croft-Cooke to get immunity from prosecution for the assault charges.[3]

The case of Croft-Cooke was discussed by the Committee who produced the Wolfenden report into changing the law on prostitution and homosexuality, specifically by Philip Allen, a civil servant testifying on behalf of the Home Office. Allen described Croft-Cooke and Alexander as attempting to "interfere" with the sailors, who "resisted" the advances. Michael Graham-Harrison, a junior Home Office civil servant, attempted to correct Allen's rhetorical overreaching, noting that the sailors were "picked up in a place frequented by homosexuals" and arguing that he did "not think anybody could believe for a moment that they did not know what they were going for".[3]

Croft-Cooke went to Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton Prison and later wrote about the British penal system in The Verdict of You All (1955).[4]

The 1957 war film Seven Thunders was based on his novel. He also wrote for television, including an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He is best known today for the detective stories he wrote under the name of Leo Bruce. His detectives were called Carolus Deene and Sergeant Beef.[5]

From 1953 to 1968 he lived in Morocco before moving on to live in a number of other countries, Tunisia, Cyprus, West Germany and Ireland.[4]

Croft-Cooke died in 1979 in Bournemouth.[2]

Major publications as Rupert Croft-Cooke[edit]

  • God in Ruins (1936)
  • Darts (1938)
  • How to Get More Out of Life (1938)
  • Major Road Ahead (ed. 1939)
  • The Circus Book (ed. 1947)
  • Rudyard Kipling (1948)
  • How to Enjoy Travel Abroad (1948)
  • Cities with Noel Barber (1952)
  • Buffalo Bill with W.S. Meadmore (1952)
  • Sherry (1955)
  • Port (1957)
  • Smiling Damned Villain (1959)
  • English Cooking, a New Approach (1960)
  • Madeira (1961)
  • Cooking for Pleasure (1962)
  • Bosie: The Story of Lord Alfred Douglas (1963)
  • Tales of a Wicked Uncle (1963)
  • St. George for England (1966)
  • Wine and Other Drinks (1966)
  • Feasting With Panthers: A New Consideration of Some Late Victorian Writers (1967)
  • Exotic Food (1969)
  • The Unrecorded Life of Oscar Wilde (1972)
  • Circus: A World History with Peter Cotes (1976)
  • The Sawdust Ring with W.S. Meadmore (?)

Novels, Poetry & Plays:

  • Songs of a Sussex Tramp [Poetry] (1922)
  • Tonbridge School [Poetry] (1922). Published in aid of the school's war memorial fund
  • Songs South of the Line [Poetry] (1925)
  • The Telegram [Radio play] (1926)
  • Twenty Poems from the Spanish of Becquer (1927)
  • Some Poems (1929)
  • Banquo's Chair [Play] (1930)
  • Troubador (1930)
  • Give Him the Earth (1930)
  • Tap Three Times [Play] (1931)
  • Night Out (1932)
  • Cosmopolis (1932)
  • Release the Lions (1933)
  • Deliberate Accident [Play] (1934)
  • Picaro (1934)
  • Shoulder the Sky (1934)
  • Blind Gunner (1935)
  • Crusade (1936)
  • Kingdom Come (1936)
  • Rule Britannia (1938)
  • Pharaoh With His Wagons [Short Stories] (1938)
  • Same Way Home (1940)
  • Glorious (1940)
  • Octopus (1946)
  • Ladies Gay (1946)
  • Miss Allick (1947)
  • Wilkie (1948)
  • A Football for the Brigadier and other Stories [Short Stories] (1950)
  • Brass Farthing (1950)
  • Three Names for Nicholas (1951)
  • Nine Days with Edward (1952)
  • Harvest Moon (1953)
  • Fall of Man (1955)
  • Seven Thunders (1955)
  • A Few Gypsies [Short Stories] (1955)
  • Barbary Night (1958)
  • Thief (1961)
  • Clash by Night (1962)
  • Paper Albatross (1965)
  • Three in a Cell (1968)
  • Wolf From the Door (1969)
  • Exiles (1970)
  • While the Iron's Hot (1971)
  • Under the Rose Garden (1971)
  • Nasty Piece of Work (1973)
  • Conduct Unbecoming (1975)

'The Sensual World' - Series of Autobiography:

  • The Moon in My Pocket (1948)
  • The Life for Me (1952)
  • The Blood-Red Island (1953)
  • The Verdict of You All (1955)
  • The Tangerine House (1956)
  • The Gardens of Camelot (1959)
  • The Quest for Quixote (1959)
  • The Altar in the Loft (1960)
  • The Drums of Morning (1961)
  • The Glittering Pastures (1962)
  • The Numbers Came (1963)
  • The Last of Spring (1964)
  • The Wintry Sea (1964)
  • The Gorgeous East (1965)
  • The Purple Streak (1966)
  • The Wild Hills (1966)
  • The Happy Highways (1967)
  • The Ghost of June (1968)
  • The Sound of Revelry (1969)
  • The Licentious Soldiery (1971)
  • The Dogs of Peace (1973)
  • The Caves of Hercules (1974)
  • The Long Way Home (1974)
  • The Green, Green Grass (1977)

Supplementary:

  • The World is Young (1937)
  • The Man in Europe Street (1938)
  • The Circus Has No Home (1941)

Short fiction:

  • An Eye for an Eye. Everybody's Weekly, 25 June 1932
  • Politeness Pays. Everybody's Weekly, 10 December 1932
  • Mr Smith's Hallucinations. Daily Herald, 25 December 1933
  • Publicity. Daily Herald, 8 November 1934
  • Headlines. Everybody's Weekly, 11 August 1936
  • The Uninvited Guest. Everybody's Weekly, 10 May 1938
  • The Late Mr Trilbert. The Sketch, 5 July 1939
  • Combat. Falkirk Herald, 3 January 1940. Reprinted: Linlithgowshire Gazette, 5 January 1940
  • The Line Went Dead. The Tatler, 21 December 1960

Short non-fiction:

  • What the Prince Will See in Chile. Yorkshire Post, 7 September 1925
  • South America. Yorkshire Post, 15 October 1930
  • Freedom for Sale. Northern Daily Mail, 24 November 1934
  • Talking about Freedom. Northern Daily Mail, 27 April 1935
  • Perils of Philanthropy. Northern Daily Mail, 25 January 1936. Reprinted, Montrose Review, 7 February 1936
  • A Protest against Placards. Northern Daily Mail, 26 September 1936
  • The Tyranny of Uniforms. (Portsmouth) Evening News, 17 September 1937. Reprinted: Motherwell Times, 22 October 1937
  • Freedom on the Continent. Linlithgowshire Gazette, 15 April 1938
  • The Man in Europe Street. Midland Daily Telegraph, 11 October 1938
  • Freedom is in Danger. Falkirk Herald, 28 February 1940. Reprinted: Northern Daily Mail, 25 March 1940
  • Paradise for Busybodies. Falkirk Herald, 18 June 1941
  • Freedom of the Seas. Dumfries and Galloway Standard & Advertiser, 17 December 1941. Also published: Falkirk Herald, 17 December 1941
  • Living in a Tent. Dumfries and Galloway Standard & Advertiser, 1 July 1944
  • The Lesser Freedom. Dumfries and Galloway Standard & Advertiser, 12 May 1945
  • The Tyranny of Time. Northern Daily Mail, 20 December 1945
  • H E Bates. The Sketch, 21 May 1952

Major publications as Leo Bruce[edit]

Under the name of Leo Bruce, one series of novels featured Sergeant Beef, a British police officer; a second featured Carolus Deene, senior history master at the fictional Queen's School, Newminster, as an amateur detective. Most Leo Bruce books are now out of print.

Sergeant Beef series[edit]

  • Case for Three Detectives (1936) ISBN 0-89733-033-1: An example of the locked room type of murder mystery, this book spoofs three famous fictional detectives, Lord Peter Wimsey, as Sir Simon Plimsoll, Hercule Poirot as Monsieur Amer Picon, and Father Brown, under the name of Monsignor Smith.
  • Case Without a Corpse (1937)
  • Case With Four Clowns (1939)
  • Case With No Conclusion (1939)
  • Case With Ropes and Rings (1940)
  • Case For Sergeant Beef (1947)
  • Neck and Neck (1951)
  • Cold Blood (1952)

Short Stories[edit]

Collection

  • Murder in Miniature The Short Stories of Leo Bruce (Ed. B.A. Pike)
  • Clue in the Mustard Evening Standard, 24 March 1950
  • Holiday Task Evening Standard, 16 May 1950
  • Murder in Miniature Evening Standard, 6 September 1950
  • The Doctor's Wife Evening Standard, 11 October 1950
  • Beef and the Spider Evening Standard, 18 November 1950
  • Summons to Death
  • The Chicken and the Egg
  • On the Spot (Inspector Simler story)
  • Blunt Instrument
  • I, Said the Sparrow
  • A Piece of Paper Evening Standard, 28 January 1952
  • Letter of the Law (Abel Ziccary story) Evening Standard, 30 September 1952
  • A Glass of Sherry Evening Standard, October 1952
  • The Scene of the Crime Evening Standard, October 1952
  • Murder in Reverse Evening Standard, December 1952
  • Woman in the Taxi Evening Standard, January 1953
  • The Nine-Fifty-Five Evening Standard, 17 February 1953
  • Person or Persons Evening Standard, March 1953
  • The Wrong Moment Evening Standard, March 1953
  • A Box of Capsules Evening Standard, April 1953
  • Blind Witness Evening Standard, April 1953
  • Deceased Wife's Sister Evening Standard, April 1953
  • Riverside Night Evening Standard, April 1953
  • Rufus - and the Murderer. (London) Evening Standard, 24 August 1955
  • The Marsh Light
  • A Stiff Drink Aberdeen Evening Express, 12 August 1958
  • Into Thin Air
  • A Case for the Files

Uncollected Stories[edit]

Sergeant Beef[edit]

Carolus Deene series[edit]

  • At Death’s Door (1955)
  • Dead for a Ducat (1956)
  • Death of a Cold (1956)
  • Dead Man’s Shoes (1958)
  • A Louse for the Hangman (1958)
  • Our Jubilee Is Death (1959)
  • Furious Old Women (1960)
  • Jack on the Gallows Tree (1960)
  • Die All, Die Merrily (1961)
  • A Bone and a Hank of Hair (1961)
  • Nothing Like Blood (1962)
  • Such Is Death (1963)
  • Death in Albert Park (1964)
  • Death at Hallows End (1965) (reprinted in paperback by Academy Chicago Publishers, May 2008)
  • Death on the Black Sands (1966)
  • Death of a Commuter (1967)
  • Death at St. Asprey’s School (1967)
  • Death on Romney Marsh (1968)
  • Death with Blue Ribbon (1969)
  • Death on Allhallowe’en (1970)
  • Death by the Lake (1971)
  • Death in the Middle Watch (1974)
  • Death of a Bovver Boy (1974)

Further reading[edit]

Archival Sources[edit]

  • Rupert Croft-Cooke collection, 1930-1974 (4.5 linear feet) are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.[6]
  • Rupert Croft-Cooke Papers, 1956-1977 (1 linear feet) are housed at the Washington State University Libraries.[7]
  • Rupert Croft-Cooke collection at Exeter University Library Special Collections Department including newspaper cuttings, photographs and personal letters from 1920's to 1970's.[8]
  • Reading University Special collections archive[9]
  • Harry Ransom centre University of Texas at Austin.[10]
  • The Exeter University archive website also mentions several archives which hold material regarding Rupert Croft-Cooke: "University of Reading; Bodleian Library; University of Durham; University of Oxford; BBC Written Archives Centre; University of Texas (Harry Ransom Center, Austin), ..."[11]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]