Robert Barnard Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Robert Barnard was born on November 23, 1936, in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, England. His father was a farm laborer turned writer who wrote what Barnard calls “very sub-Barbara Cartland” romance stories for weekly magazines. At Balliol College, Oxford, Barnard initially read history but soon changed to English. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in 1959, worked in the Fabian Society bookstore, and then took a post as lecturer at the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia, in 1961.

During Barnard’s five years in Australia, he met and married Mary Louise Tabor, and read deeply in the Victorian period, specializing in Charles Dickens, the Brontës, and Elizabeth Gaskell. He began to write for academic journals, then attempted a comic novel, but the plot never developed. He next wrote a crime novel concerning Nazi looting, using standard detective-fiction structure. It was rejected by publishers, but a Collins editor encouraged him to send another manuscript. Collins then published his first mystery, Death of an Old Goat (1974). This first mystery, set in Australia, reflects his distaste for teaching there and especially for the snobbish British visiting professors with its numerous satirical portraits. In the novel, bumbling police Inspector Royale investigates the murder of visiting professor Bellville-Smith.

Barnard’s wife wished to move to Europe, so in 1966, he accepted a position at the University...

(The entire section is 540 words.)