Robert Bruce Montgomery Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Edmund Crispin is the pen name of Robert Bruce Montgomery. Crispin was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire, England, on October 2, 1921, the fourth child and only son of Robert Ernest Montgomery, a onetime secretary to the High Commissioner for India, and Marion Blackwood (née Jarvie) Montgomery. Reared in the country, Crispin attended the Merchant Taylors’ School in Moor Park and went on to study modern languages at St. John’s College, at Oxford University. Early interests in both music and writing flourished while Crispin was at Oxford, and he participated in all aspects of the university’s musical life, eventually becoming the organist and choirmaster for St. John’s College.

It was also at Oxford that Crispin first turned his hand to detective fiction, writing the first of his Gervase Fen novels, The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944), while still an undergraduate. After earning his degree in 1943, Crispin taught school for several years before becoming a full-time writer and composer. The success of his Gervase Fen series, which includes nine novels and two collections of short stories, led to Crispin’s appointment as the crime-fiction reviewer for the London Sunday Times, a position he held for several years.

As a composer, Crispin’s works (published under the name Bruce Montgomery) include songs, choral pieces, and a number of film scores, the best known of which are those he wrote for several of the popular “Carry On” comedies. Indeed, for the last two-and-a-half decades of his life, Crispin worked primarily as a composer, editor, and critic; there was a twenty-five year gap between the publication of The Long Divorce (1951) and the final Fen novel, The Glimpses of the Moon (1977). Crispin spent those years living quietly in Devon, where he died in 1978.