Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Nicholas Blake, detective novelist

Former Poet Laureate's other identity

Cecil Day-Lewis adopted Nicholas Blake as a pseudonym
Cecil Day-Lewis adopted Nicholas
Blake as a pseudonym
Crime writer Nicholas Blake wrote 20 highly regarded detective novels, 15 of them featuring his likeable amateur sleuth Nigel Strangeways.

Many novelists would be happy with achieving this much during their lifetime, but for Nicholas Blake, it was only part of his story.

For Blake was actually the poet, professor and publisher Cecil Day-Lewis - born on this day in 1904 in Ireland - who was Poet Laureate from 1968 until his death in 1972.

In 1935 Day-Lewis decided to increase his income from poetry by trying his hand at writing a detective novel.

His first novel, A Question of Proof, which he published under his pseudonym Nicholas Blake, introduced Nigel Strangeways, an amateur investigator and gentleman detective who, as the nephew of an assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, had access to official crime investigation resources.

From the mid 1930s onwards Day-Lewis was able to earn a living by writing as Nicholas Blake while continuing to write poetry, working in publishing and lecturing at Cambridge University.

The Vintage edition of
A Question of Proof
His novel Minute for Murder is set against the background of his experience of working for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War and his novel Head of a Traveller has a principal character who is a well-known poet suffering from writer’s block, whose best poetry writing days are long behind him.

Critics regard his 1938 novel, The Beast Must Die, as perhaps his best work because it skilfully combines a twisting and intriguing narrative with a subtle study of the nature of private and public morality.

Day-Lewis died in 1972 at the home of his friends Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard.  He left four children by two marriages, including the actor, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, who donated his father's archive to the Bodleian Library.

A Question of Proof (Vintage Publishing) is available fromor


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