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Creasey, John 1908–1973

Creasey was a British crime novelist. The most prolific contributor to the genre, Creasey published more than 550 crime novels during his career. He was financially if not critically successful, his novels selling millions of copies in twenty-six languages. Creasey won the Edgar of the Mystery Writers of America in 1962 for Gideon's Fire. He published under thirteen pseudonyms throughout his writing career; among these the best known are J. J. Marric, Gordon Ashe, Michael Halliday, Anthony Morton, and Jeremy York. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.; obituary, Vols. 41-44, rev. ed.)

Anthony Boucher

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 350

[Creasey's books about George Gideon of Scotland Yard written under the J. J. Marric pseudonym] are marked by the technically dazzling handling of a large number of plots in small compass—in [the case of "Gideon's Fire"], arson, child-rape, murder, domestic and financial fraud, to name only the most prominent—each of them developed as fully as the average crime writer could do in a single-minded novel.

They are further distinguished by the facts that the crimes involved have a solid real-life plausibility, that Gideon himself is an interesting and believable man, and that the author has a good novelist's acute understanding of the small interplays of character and personality, whether the relationship be between a detective and his superior officer, or a widow and her half-perceptive, half-callous child. All of the Creasey avatars are skilled at telling an exciting story; Marric, in addition, can write—and he's never done better than in this splendid new book. (p. 26)

Anthony Boucher, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1961 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 22, 1961.

A wave of midgets is at present invading the Science Fiction field. In [The Famine] Mr. Creasey's well-known Dr. Palfrey of Z5 (an international peacekeeping organization) has to cope with world-wide infestation by a race of rapidly breeding midgets (period of gestation nine days!) with gargantuan appetites, rather mysteriously produced by an accidental nuclear explosion in a South American republic. Dr. Palfrey is hardly impressive in his efforts to save Earth's rapidly devastated food supplies and the ethics of his solution are more than a little dubious. Credibility level low and writing lower still. (p. 292)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1967; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), April 16, 1967.

Among the many different kinds of thriller written by "J. J. Marric" under one name or another, [Creasey's] straight-forward manly Scotland Yard stories of Commander Gideon are the most efficient and convincing; and [Gideon's Power] is another, principally concerned with engineered power failures. (p. 1018)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1969; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), September 18, 1969.

Julian Symons

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J. J. Marric is one of the many pseudonyms used by John Creasey…. The early books about Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard's C.I.D. are the best things in Creasey's large output. A C.I.D. Inspector who once lived next door to Creasey asked, "Why don't you show us as we are? You don't have to put in the dull part." The portrait of Gideon is an attempt to show a fully rounded character—excellent up to a point but marred in the end by excessive hero worship, and lack of humor. Apart from Gideon, the strengths of the books are those of other Creasey work, an apparently inexhaustible flow of ideas and the ability to generate excitement in describing action. The weaknesses are again characteristic, lack of the imagination necessary to vary a formula once it has been established,… and a level of writing that at its best is no more than flatly realistic. The first Gideon books were pioneering works in the form of the police novel, and they promised more than Marric has been able to perform. (p. 206)

Creasey's Gideon books, written as J. J. Marric, are his best work…. His stories are notable for the ingenuity of the ideas with which he overflows, and also for his very slight attention to sex and his total avoidance of cruelty. Unfortunately the writing of the books is never equal to their often clever conception, and his people think and behave with a schoolboyish naiveté. (p. 212)

Julian Symons, in his Mortal Consequences: A History—From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (copyright © 1972 by Julian Symons; reprinted by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.), Harper, 1972.

William Vivian Butler

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Fact and fiction remain uneasy bedfellows in The Masters of Bow Street, John Creasey's massive … family saga about the generations of struggle preceding the creation of the Metropolitan Police Force by Sir Robert Peel. Creasey's normal output was eight to twelve books a year. Having stockpiled novels frantically for three years, he was free to devote the last twelve months of his life entirely to The Masters of Bow Street. It was almost as if subconsciously he knew he was dying, and planned this book as a spectacular farewell.

That, surely, is how it should be judged: as a massive, bravura spectacular, a last-minute bombe surprise to round-off the incredible forty-year, six-hundred book feast which Creasey has given his fans. Here, in full display, are all the elements that made old Creasey Creasey: the driving narrative, the subtly understated heroics, the simple humanity, the strident small-1 liberalism, the all-embracing love of London—and, above all, the dogged vulnerable heroes, outwardly stalwart warriors, inwardly chronic worriers, badly needing (and inevitably finding) ministering-angel heroines to help them through.

I have revelled in this Creasey world far too often in my life to feel anything but misty-eyed at its sudden, marathon final appearance in fancy dress. An excited blurb calls The Masters of Bow Street "a great multigenerational master-piece" and I simply can't bring myself to disagree. Under pressure from a grateful memory of all those years of Creasey fiction, it seems downright churlish not to concede one fact. (p. 344)

William Vivian Butler, in The Spectator (© 1975 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), March 22, 1975.

Newgate Callendar

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The Creasey formula [consists] of a fairly rat-tat-tat style—short sentences, lots of padding, emphasis on plot gimmicks, very little in the way of characterization. "Let's Kill Uncle Lionel" is typical of the species…. [It] is a Supt. Folly mystery. Folly is the fat Scotland Yard operative who is only too clearly patterned after John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell.

In this book, however, Folly doesn't enter until almost halfway through. There is a great deal of preliminary stuff before the murder occurs. Finally, things get down to a traditional, almost Agatha Christie-like British mystery….

"Let's Kill Uncle Lionel" is not badly written. It is hastily and sloppily written, but at least Creasey has some expertise. (p. 38)

Newgate Callendar, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by the New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 11, 1976.