As Richard Creasey takes up his father’s cudgels with the new Dr Palfrey book, Eternity’s Sunrise, Crime Time talks to him about following a famous father…
Dad was John Creasey, recently described by Barry Forshaw in a foreword to ‘Eternity’s Sunrise’, my new Dr Palfrey novel, as ‘one of the most esteemed names in crime fiction’.
So it’s not surprising that I’ve been asked repeatedly: ‘What’s it like to have such a famous father?"
The honest answer? I have no idea. He’s the only dad I ever had. But the question invariably triggers me to reflect that he died too young. He was 64, I was 29.
I cannot but think that had he lived just four more years, he’d have seen me emerge from the complicated chrysalis of youth to become an award-winning documentary boss in UK television. He’d have been astonished because I am severely ‘dyslexic’, which in those days was spelt with four letters – ‘lazy’. Dad, in desperation, took me on as his assistant and wrote his books in longhand so I could type them and in so doing witness at first hand his extraordinary ability to ‘write on the fly’.
And had my father lived longer? I might have persuaded him to cull whole series’ (although not Dr Palfrey) in order to focus attention on his top fifty stories.
Dad knew he’d written far too many books far too fast. But he had no choice – there was a war on, and because of his polio leg he could take no active part in it. Dad therefore penned escapist entertainment at breakneck speed – 20,000 words a day, 36 full length books in one year – for the boys at the front and their families back home.
Characters’ hair, clothes and even their names would change from chapter to chapter. These gremlins buried Dad’s better books from view. But the fifty or so best are hidden treasures.
Take ‘Meet The Baron’ for example. Christmas, 1935. Three years after the publication of his first book, my father – 27 years old and out of work as he so often was – had become a temporary postman. The job ended on Christmas Eve. He cycled several miles through driving snow to his home, using just one peddle because of his polio leg. Hungry and exhausted Dad stopped to buy fish and chips wrapped – as they were in those days – in newspaper. While scooping up some chips he spotted an advert for the £1500 Cracksman Competition for Crime Writers. The entry deadline was 31st December.
To meet the deadline, 100,000 words had to be written in just six days.
My father began ‘Meet the Baron’ that night and delivered the manuscript with five minutes in hand.
And that’s how it all started. Dad won first prize and the money enabled him to become a full time author. ‘Meet The Baron’ has often been reprinted but never needed re-editing.
If you want to read more reminiscences about my Dad then please badger Barry Forshaw, who kindly concluded his forward to Eternity’s Sunrise: "bringing back Dr Palfrey was a very good idea…"
Eternity’s Sunrise is published by Endeavour Press; see: