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The son of a chartered surveyor, he was educated at Dulwich College and Wadham College, Oxford, where he got a first-class honours degree in English. He then joined the BBC as a trainee and worked for BBC Radio and London Weekend Television before devoting most of his time to writing from the late 1970s. He is married with three children and lives in Arundel, West Sussex, England.
Radio and television career
While with the BBC, Brett produced the first episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as many episodes of cult comedy series The Burkiss Way, comedy series I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and comedy panel game Just a Minute. In the mid-1990s, Brett wrote and hosted Foul Play, a radio panel game in which well-known writers of detective fiction were challenged to solve a dramatised mystery. Moving into television, Brett was responsible for producing End of Part One and the television revival of The Glums for LWT.
Brett wrote several sitcoms, most notably BBC Radio 4's After Henry, No Commitments and Smelling of Roses. After Henry was later produced on television for ITV. He has written episodes of the BBC radio detective drama Baldi (2000).
In 1987 the Nigel Molesworth character created by Geoffrey Willans was reprised for a four-part BBC Radio 4 series Molesworth. Written by Simon Brett, the series portrayed Molesworth in middle age, still surrounded by many of the characters from his youth. Molesworth was played by Willie Rushton, with Penelope Nice as his wife Louise, and Clive Swift as the now aged ex-headmaster Grimes.
Mystery writing career
Brett has written four series of detective novels (Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering, and Blotto & Twinks). Most of these novels are in the "Golden Age" tradition of detective fiction, entertaining the reader through humour, eccentric characters and intricate plot twists. He has also written several mystery plays and some non-series novels, of which A Shock to the System (1984) is probably best known due to the filmed version starring Michael Caine as the business executive who takes revenge after being passed over for promotion.
Brett has written several books about Charles Paris, an unhappily separated (but not divorced, more than 30 years on), moderately successful character actor with a slight drinking problem who gets entangled in various crimes, and finds himself in the role of unwilling amateur detective. There are 19 novels featuring this character.
- Cast, In Order of Disappearance (1975)
- So Much Blood (1976)
- Star Trap (1977)
- An Amateur Corpse (1978)
- A Comedian Dies (1979)
- The Dead Side of the Mic (1980)
- Situation Tragedy (1981)
- Murder Unprompted (1982)
- Murder in the Title (1983)
- Not Dead, Only Resting (1984)
- Dead Giveaway (1985)
- What Bloody Man Is That? (1987)
- A Series of Murders (1989)
- Corporate Bodies (1991)
- A Reconstructed Corpse (1993)
- Sicken and So Die (1995)
- Dead Room Farce (1998)
- A Decent Interval (2013)
- The Cinderella Killer (2014)
Bill Nighy played Paris in a series of BBC Radio productions. The first, an adaptation of So Much Blood for the Saturday Play in 1999, was recorded on location at its Edinburgh Fringe setting. A Series of Murders followed as another Saturday Play in 2004, leading into a number of half-hour serials which began with Sicken and So Die (2006) and continued with Murder Unprompted (2007) and The Dead Side of the Mike (2008), with So Much Blood apparently happening between the last two serials. These serials have all been updated from the novels, and adapted to deal with continuity problems caused by the adaptations being made out of order in relation to the books, with later adaptations featuring more far-reaching changes to the central mysteries.
Cast, In Order of Disappearance, again starring Nighy as Paris, began airing on Friday 29 January 2010 on BBC Radio 4. From 26 February, its slot was taken for three weeks by an original series from Brett. A three-hour I Did It My Way programme featuring Brett's work was rebroadcast by BBC Radio 7 on Saturday 20 February 2010, including a repeat of A Series of Murders.
This was followed by Murder in the Title (2010) which aired weekly from 22 November – 13 December 2010. Nighy returned to the role in A Reconstructed Corpse (2012). Other recurring cast members include Jon Glover as Charles's agent Maurice, and Suzanne Burden as his estranged wife Frances. On 5 December 2012 a 4-part adaptation of An Amateur Corpse began on Radio 4 - Nighy and Burden again played Charles and Frances. A tenth story starring Bill Nighy as Charles began broadcast on 25 June 2014 - this 4-part adaptation of Corporate Bodies also stars Suzanne Burden as Frances.
List of radio adaptations with Bill Nighy as Charles: Saturday plays
- 1999 So Much Blood (recorded on location at Edinburgh Fringe)
- 2004 A Series of Murders
Half-hour 4-part serials
- 2006 Sicken and So Die
- 2007 Murder Unprompted
- 2008 The Dead Side of the Mic (So Much Blood set between last 2 serials)
- 2010 Cast In Order of Disappearance ( began on 29 January)
- 2010 Murder in the Title (began on 22 November)
- 2012 A Reconstructed Corpse
- 2012 An Amateur Corpse (began on 5 December)
- 2014 Corporate Bodies (began on 25 June)
- 2016 A Decent Interval (9, 16, 23 and 30 March)
- 2016 The Cinderella Killer (began on 2 December)
Mrs Pargeter is a widow with a shadowy past who, with a little help from her dead husband's friends, is able to solve uncanny mysteries. The Mrs Pargeter novels include:
- A Nice Class of Corpse (1986)
- Mrs, Presumed Dead (1988)
- Mrs Pargeter's Package (1990)
- Mrs Pargeter's Pound of Flesh (1992)
- Mrs Pargeter's Plot (1996)
- Mrs Pargeter's Point of Honour (1999)
- Mrs Pargeter's Principle (2015)
Fethering is a fictitious village on England's south coast (adjacent to Tarring). It is the place of residence of amateur sleuths Carole Seddon, a retired civil servant and her neighbour, Jude Nichols, whose origins are obscure. Seventeen Fethering mysteries have been published so far:
- The Body on the Beach (2000)
- Death on the Downs (2001)
- The Torso in the Town (2002)
- Murder in the Museum (2003)
- The Hanging in the Hotel (2004)
- The Witness at the Wedding (2005)
- The Stabbing in the Stables (2006)
- Death Under the Dryer (2007)
- Blood at the Bookies (2008)
- Poisoning at the Pub (2009)
- The Shooting in the Shop (2010)
- Bones Under the Beach Hut (2011)
- Guns in the Gallery (2011)
- Corpse on the Court (2012)
- Strangling on the Stage (2013)
- The Tomb in Turkey (2014)
- The Killing In The Cafe (2015)
Since 2011, Brett's Fethering series has been published by Severn House.
Blotto and Twinks
Farcical whodunnits set just after the First World War and featuring the handsome and dim "Blotto" and his beautiful and clever sister "Twinks", both from a ducal family.
- Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King's Daughter (2009)
- Blotto, Twinks and the Dead Dowager Duchess (2010)
- Blotto, Twinks and the Rodents of the Riviera (2011)
- Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger's Moll (2012)
- Blotto, Twinks and the Riddle of the Sphinx (July 2013)
- Blotto, Twinks and the Heir to the Tsar (July 2015)
- Murder in Play (1994)
- Mr Quigley's Revenge (1995)
- Silhouette (1998)
- The Tale of Little Red Riding Hood (1998)
- Sleeping Beauty (1999)
- Putting the Kettle on (2002)
- A Bad Dream (2005)
- Quirks (2009)
- Murder with Ghosts (2015)