Author. Known as the "The Prince of Thriller Writers", he was born in South London, the eldest of three children and the son and grandson of wine merchants. Like men such as Chandler, Wodehouse and Shackleton, he was educated at Dulwich College, but was removed at an early age to become a naval cadet on "HMS Worcester". After that, he spent a year in Germany studying viniculture, before joining the family business. During the First World War, he served as a second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in Flanders and France, but was gassed and sent back to hospital in England. After the Armistice, he married Nancy Robinson and returned to the family business, becoming the sole proprietor on his father's death in 1926. By 1931, however, his marriage was over and his business on the verge of bankruptcy. He made two fresh starts, divorcing Nancy and marrying Joan Johnstone, and beginning a new career as a writer. His first book was rejected by the publishers, but he went on to produce sixty more, including many thrillers, often with an historical background, although he is best known for a series of novels with the theme of black magic, the best known of which are "The Devil Rides Out", and "To the Devil a Daughter". During the Second World War, he was the only civilian to be given a commission directly on to the Joint Planning Staff, with the rank of Wing Commander. His last novel appeared in 1973, after which he wrote his autobiography in three parts, the last two of which appeared after his death. He was cremated at Putney Vale and his ashes were buried at Brookwood, under a tree near the entrance to the cemetery.
Bio by: Iain MacFarlaine