Anthony Berkeley / Francis Iles

A Short Biography

Anthony Berkeley / Francis Iles

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Anthony Berkeley was the pseudonym of Anthony Berkeley Cox (A.B. Cox), who also wrote as Francis Iles and A. Monmouth Platts. Born in Watford, England, on 5 July 1893, Cox was educated initially at Sherbourne School before attending University College London.

His first novel, The Layton Court Mystery, was published, ironically for someone with three pseudonyms, anonymously in 1925 by Herbert Jenkins. The book saw the debut of his main series character, Roger Sheringham, an amateur sleuth. His second character, Ambrose Chitterwick, featured in only three novels.
In Sheringham, he created a character that was not only somewhat rough around the edges but often blatantly offensive. The passage of time, however, seemed to mellow Sheringham and he evolved into a more rounded and likeable character. The key Sheringham title is The Poisoned Chocolates Case, which also features Chitterwick, and is a classic book.

Arguably, Berkeley's greatest novel was written as Francis Iles and was the first of three novels under that name. Malice Aforethought, published in 1931, is a masterpiece of golden age crime fiction. Despite knowing the identity of the killer from the outset the reader is held from start to finish, and it rightly secured Berkeley's place as a leading light in the genre.

Only one book was written as A Monmouth Platts, Cicely Disappears, which was published in 1927 and benefits from a particularly attractive dust wrapper. In the same year, Mr. Priestly's Problem was also published, this time under the name AB Cox. Berkeley also collaborated with fellow members of the Detection Club on The Floating Admiral and Ask a Policeman.

Berkeley was undeniably a key figure in the development of crime fiction, and as such, remains of great interest and importance today.

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© R.D. Collins 2004

Anthony Berkeley Bibliography

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