James Hadley Chase was born René Brabazon Raymond on December 24, 1906, in London, England. After completing his education at King’s School in Rochester, Kent, he left home and began selling encyclopedias door-to-door. Later he worked as a traveler for the book wholesaler Simpkin, Marshall in London. It was at this time that he wrote his highly successful first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939; revised, 1961; also known as The Villain and the Virgin). The book is said to have sold more than 1 million copies in five years. It became one of the best-selling mysteries ever written and was made into a film in 1951. Four of Chase’s other novels were made into films between 1951 and 1959. Chase later served as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force and became an editor of the Royal Air Force journal. He married Sylvia Ray, with whom he had one son.
Although Chase set most of his novels in the United States, he made very few visits there, and then only to New Orleans and Florida. He preferred to learn about the United States from encyclopedias, slang dictionaries, and maps. Chase was reticent about his life and career, believing that his readers were uninterested in his personal affairs and asked only that he conscientiously write entertaining novels. If his books were selling well, he did not bother with interviews or the critics’ responses. Chase died in Switzerland in 1985.