A longtime admirer of the classical mystery story in the tradition of Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, and Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Shaffer won lasting fame for his popular and wildly successful satirical send-up of the cozy genre, Sleuth (pr., pb. 1970). The play, which ran for more than twenty-three hundred performances in London’s West End, and for more than two thousand performances on Broadway, garnered a Tony Award and an Edgar Award for the best play of 1970. The film of the play, for which Shaffer wrote the screenplay, also won an Edgar Award and secured Oscar nominations for both principal actors Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier (Olivier won a New York Critics’ award for his role). Sleuth has been called one of the best examples of the comedy-thriller ever written.
Shaffer, who despite the enthusiastic reception of Sleuth never achieved quite the level of name recognition as his twin brother Peter Shaffer (author of such works as Amadeus, 1980; The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1964; and Equus, 1973), nonetheless became quite respected for his film work with director Alfred Hitchcock. He won Edgar Awards for his screenplays of Frenzy (1972) and Death on the Nile (1978). Shaffer also won the Grand Prix from the Oxford and from the Miami film festivals for the screenplay of his own play Absolution (1978), and won the Grand Prix for his film script of the critically acclaimed play he cowrote with Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man (1973).