Hugh Pentecost was born Judson Pentecost Philips in Northfield, Massachusetts, on August 10, 1903. His father, Arthur Philips, was an opera singer and his mother, Fredericko Pentecost, was an actress. A great-uncle, the original Hugh Pentecost, was a criminal lawyer in New York City at the start of the twentieth century. Educated in England and the United States, Pentecost received a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University in 1925. He began his career as a writer while still in school, selling the first story he ever wrote, “Room 23,” to Flynn’s during his junior year in college. He was employed as a reporter by the New York Tribune in 1926 and simultaneously wrote stories for a variety of magazines, ranging from Black Mask to Collier’s and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
In addition to his constant productivity as a writer, Pentecost followed a variety of other careers. From 1949 to 1956 he served as co-owner and editor of the Harlem Valley Times (Amenia, New York). He also served as a political columnist and book reviewer on the Lakeville Journal (Lakeville, Connecticut). In 1951, he was married to the actress Norma Burton. Their son completed his family, which included one daughter and two sons from a previous marriage. Pentecost served as founder and director of the Sharon Playhouse (Sharon, Connecticut) from 1951 to 1972. He also worked as a radio talk-show host for WTOR in Torrington, Connecticut, from 1970 to 1976. All these experiences find their way into Pentecost’s mystery plots.
Widely respected by his peers, Pentecost served as president of the Mystery Writers of America. In 1973 (fifty years after his first published work), Pentecost received the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award. In 1982, he was again honored, as the recipient of the Nero Wolfe Award. In addition to his many novels and short stories, Pentecost wrote scripts for both radio and television. He died in March, 1989.