Mystery Monday: The Elusive Francis Vivian
Because writing is my second career, I appreciate learning about other authors who came to writing later in life. Enter Englishman Ernest Ashley, who was born in 1906 and until 1932, worked as a sign painter. Having dabbled in writing while working his “day job,” he became a successful short fiction writer for newspapers and magazines. Five years later, he created his pseudonym Francis Vivian, and a crime fiction novelist hit the streets.
His first book, a detective story, was Death at the Salutation. Five more books quickly came out, and in 1941 he wrote his first Inspector Gordon Knollis novel, The Death of Mr. Lomas. Ten more Knollis books would follow. All Vivian’s books were well-received although his work is largely forgotten today.
Apparently he was a research geek like me and enjoyed learning about any number of different fields. Much of what he learned ended up in his books. According to one colleague, “But what plots. He couldn’t write a straightforward tale of A killing B for complex motives and call it a day. A and B would also be involved in archery or black magic, or some subject which Ernest had researched to the nth degree, and you could be sure the denouement would depend on some fine point of archery or black magic.” Sounds like a fun read to me!
Vivian’s books are difficult to find (as his any photo of him), but the good news is that Dean Street Press has plans to publish the Knollis books (and with any luck some of the author’s other writings!)
Have you ever heard of this member of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction?