1st Edition

Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books

By David Whittle Copyright 2007
    336 Pages
    by Routledge

    328 Pages
    by Routledge

    Under his real name, Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978) wrote concert music and the scores for almost 50 feature films, including some of the most enduring British comedies of the twentieth century, amongst them a number in the series started by Doctor in the House and the first six Carry On films. Under the pseudonym of Edmund Crispin he enjoyed equal success as an author, writing nine highly acclaimed detective novels and a number of short crime stories, as well as compiling anthologies of science fiction which helped to increase the profile of the genre. A close friend of both Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis, Montgomery did much to encourage their work. In this first biography of Montgomery, David Whittle draws on interviews with people who knew the writer and composer. These interviews, together with in-depth research, provide great insight into the development of Montgomery as a crime fiction writer and as a composer in the ever-demanding world of films. During the late 1950s and early '60s these demands were to prove too much for Montgomery. Alcoholism combined with the onset of osteoporosis and a retreat into a semi-reclusive lifestyle resulted in him writing and composing virtually nothing during the last 15 years of his life. David Whittle examines the reasons for Montgomery's early and rapid decline in this thoroughly researched and engagingly written biography.

    Contents: Introduction; Daydreaming child with nice manners: 1921-1928; An intellectual snob: 1928-1940; A seminal moment: 1940-1943; What a bloody business: 1943-1945; You mustn't mind if I pay for it: music and novels 1945-1952; It ought to go off all right: music 1948-1950; I still think it isn't half bad: music 1951-1952; The home of lost corpses: novels 1947-1948; Mania for needless impostures: novels 1950-1953; A genuine unforced enthusiasm: films 1948-1962; Complicated by downright panic: films 1958-1962; Much engrossed with doom: anthologies 1954-1966; I've become an immobilist: 1950-1962; A sort of slack sabbatical: 1962-1976; A full scale replica of Chatsworth: 1962-1976; Slightly low water: 1959-1970; High time I was under new management: 1957-1976; The bonelessness of the short-distance funner: 1974-1978; Postcript; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.


    David Whittle was Head Chorister at Peterborough Cathedral and studied Music at the University of Nottingham where he completed a PhD on Bruce Montgomery. He has contributed to publications such as The New Dictionary of National Biography, The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing and Irish Musical Studies. He is Director of Music at Leicester Grammar School, UK.

    'This brilliant biography marks the crown of David Whittle's years of research. Bruce Montgomery was a man of more than one career. He wrote the film music for Doctor in the House and many other film scores followed. By the late 1950s, he was writing four scores a year - with much other music of serious beauty. Examples of many scores are printed in these pages. As Edmund Crispin, Bruce was famed for a series of detective stories almost unique in tone. And with his friends Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest, he was responsible for elevating the reputation of science fiction. Yet there was trouble ahead. By the mid-sixties, his diverse gifts were spent. Success had come too easily, too early. This melancholy story is brought to life with mastery and an admirable compassion.' Brian W. Aldiss OBE 'Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books is a fine volume. It is extensively researched and is written in an approachable style.' MusicWeb ’... a positive critical appraisal...’ Church Times ’... an excellent biography of Montgomery...’ Mythprint ’Whittle presents a richly detailed biography of a personable and gifted man... The main body of the text is laid out in short and specific chapters, which, together with the material in the appendices and clear writing style, make this an excellent and wide-ranging research tool as well as an interesting read. The novels of Edmund Crispin still enjoy a considerable audience (many, if not all, are currently in print), so it can only be hoped that the work of Bruce Montgomery may enjoy closer attention as a result of David Whittle’s book, especially as the field of film musicology grows.’ Music and Letters