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Michael Gilbert biography



Michael Gilbert

(1912 - )

English mystery writer, whose career has spanned over 50 years. Gilbert have published thrillers, espionage and police procedural novels. His highly entertaining works have gained wide audience with their complex plotting, detailed settings, and well portrayed characters. Gilbert's work show the durability of the traditional detective novel in Britain.

Michael Gilbert was born in Lincolnshire. He was educated at St. Peter's School, Seaford, Sussex, Blundell's School (1926-31), and at University of London, earning LL.B. with honors in 1937. During World War II from 1939 to 1945 he served in the Royal Horse Artillery in North Africa and Europe. He was captured and imprisoned in North Africa, which experience he later used in the novel DEATH IN THE CAPTIVITY (1952). After the war Gilbert worked as a solicitor (1947-51), and became in 1952 a partner in the law firm of Trower, Still, and Kealing. In his early days as a London solicitor he became legal adviser to Raymond Chandler.

Gilbert was a founding member of the British Crime Writers Association. In 1988 he was named a Grand Master by the Myster Writers of America, and he won the Life Achievement Anthony Award at the 1990 Bouchercon in London. In 1980 Gilbert was knighted as a Commander in the Order of the British Empire. Besides crime novels Gilbert has written short stories and plays. Author' legal background has contributed to exellent novels about law, young solicitors, and courtroom procedures. Gilbert has also edited a book of legal anecdotes.

As a mystery novelist, Gilbert made his debut with CLOSE QUARTERS (1947). It introduced Inspector Hazelrigg, master of deduction, who is one of the earliest realistic British policemen in fiction. Red-faced, bulky inspector has an even disputation and more than 30 years of experience, ranging from cases involving fascist organizations attempting to subvert the British government in the late 1930s, to cases in his post-World War II specialty - black market. A cat in his office sometimes lies at his feet while he naps. The dedicated inspector has appeared in several mysteries set to the London underworld, the Soho trattorias and nightclubs, and the gangland down by the docks.

Another Gilbert's favorite series character, an insomniac solicitor Bohun, was first seen in the classic novel SMALLBONE DECEASED (1950). Bohun's background gives him many talents: he has been a medical student, an actuary, a research statistician, a soldier during WWII . Finally he has chosen a legal career at the office of Horniman, Birley, and Crane, a respectably firm of London solicitors. In THE CRACK IN THE TEACUP (1966) the hero was also a young solicitor and finds himself involved in a major campaign against racketeering.

In the postwar caper THE DOORS OPEN (1949), Gilbert made an excursion to the world of high finance. The book was written on a commuter train. In the story one of the protagonists, Paddy Yeatman-Carter, sees a man attempt suicide on a commuter train. When the man shows up dead next day, Paddy and his friend Nap Rumbold, a lawyer, become suspicious of the dead man's employers, an insurance company.

GAME WITHOUR RULES (1967), a collection of spy stories, appeared in the ultra-heroic age of agent fiction, but reflected more the Kim Philby and Profumo spy scandals of 1950's and early 1960's Britain. The central characers are muscular Calder and Behrens, who relies on his professional cover. They are gentleman-spies, who operate mainly in England, and in most cases try to stop upper-middle types pass secrets to the Soviets. THE NIGHT OF THE TWELFTH (1976) was partly based on Gilbert's experiences as a shoolmaster. The main plot concerns the torture-murders of schoolboys. Another plot involves the the son of the Israeli ambassador, who becomes a target for terrorists.

The courtroom drama THE QUEEN AGAINST KARL MULLEN (1991) dealt with the situation in South-Africa and anti-apartheid movement. The story was not written along the main vein of 'politically correct' stories. It presented an unlikable South African security-chief Karl Mullen, who has has come to England to try to extradite black writer-activist Jack Katanga, who's wanted back home for murdering a policeman. When Katanga suddenly dies, Mullen is the obvious suspect. Gilbert's ROLLER-COASTER (1993) returned to the character of Patrick Petrella, a Spanish-English Scotland Yard investigator. This time Petronella solves a murder case involving a police informer and uncovers a smuggling ring that stretches across the North Sea to the sleazier side of Amsterdam.

Patrick Petrella is a hardworking member of the Metropolitan Police, London. His first cases appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in the late 1950s. Petrella has progressed from a sergeant to a Detective Superintendent. Off duty he enjoys a glass of port and a good book. He is respected by his fellow officers and solved every type of crime. In ROLLER COASTER (1993) resigns when his own views conflict with the justice system. Petrella's attention to details and interest in people is seen already in the early story 'The Secon Skin' (1958).

In RING OF TERROR (1995) Gilbert broke new ground: a historical thriller set in the pre-WW I East End, with the theme of social class. The protagonist is admirable, ambitious, a bit naive Russian-speaking constable Luke Pagan. He investigates with his unorthodox partner, Joe Narrabone, an anarchist conspiracy after a series of violent events succeeds in spreading unease throughout Edwardian London. INTO BATTLE (1997) continued the story of Luke Pagan, who joins on the eve of World War I a brand new intelligence agency and goes into battle against a legion of German spies.

In 1997 appeared THE MAN WHO HATED BANKS AND OTHER MYSTERIES, a tribute to Gilbert's 50th anniversary as a published author. The collection of 18 stories featured four of his characters: Chief Inspector Hazlerigg, solicitor Henry Bohun, Inspector Patrick Petrella, and tough-guy Mercer. OVER AND OUT (1998) focused again on the life of Luke Pagan. The story is set in the years of the First World War, when the morale of the troops has gone down and large-scale desertion is becoming a real likelihood. Luke, working for the Intelligence Corps, is asked to investigate an organisation run by a Belgian traitor which encourages British soldiers to abandon the trenches and go over to the other side.

Information source: wikipedia