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Alfred Gordon Clark

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Name  Alfred Clark

Role  Judge
Alfred Gordon Clark httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumb4
Died  August 25, 1958, Surrey, United Kingdom
Education  New College, Oxford, Rugby School
Books  Tragedy at law, An English murder, With a Bare Bodkin, Suicide Excepted, Tenant for Death

Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark (4 September 1900 – 25 August 1958) was an English judge and crime writer under the pseudonym Cyril Hare.


Life and work

Gordon Clark was born in Mickleham, Surrey, the third son of Henry Herbert Gordon Clark of Mickleham Hall, a merchant in the wine and spirit trade, Matthew Clark & Sons being the family firm. The socialist politician Susan Lawrence was his aunt. He was educated at St Aubyn's, Rottingdean and Rugby. He read History at New College, Oxford (where he heard William Archibald Spooner say in a sermon that 'now we see through a dark glassly') and graduated with a First. He then studied law and was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1924.

Gordon Clark's pseudonym was a mixture of Hare Court, where he worked in the chambers of Roland Oliver, and Cyril Mansions, Battersea, where he lived after marrying Mary Barbara Lawrence (daughter of Sir William Lawrence, 3rd Baronet) in 1933. They had one son, Charles Philip Gordon Clark (clergyman, later dry stone waller), and two daughters, Alexandra Mary Gordon Clark (Lady Wedgwood FSA, architectural historian, see Wedgwood baronets) and Cecilia Mary Gordon Clark (Cecilia Snell, musician, who married Roderick Snell).

As a young man and during the early days of the Second World War, Gordon Clark toured as a judge's marshal, an experience he used in Tragedy at Law. Between 1942 and 1945 he worked at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. At the beginning of the war he served a short time at the Ministry of Economic Warfare, and the wartime civil service with many temporary members appears in With a Bare Bodkin. In 1950 he was appointed county court judge in Surrey. His best-known novel is Tragedy at Law, in which he drew on his legal expertise and in which he introduced Francis Pettigrew, a not very successful barrister who in this and four other novels just happens to elucidate aspects of the crime. His professional detective (they appeared together in three novels, and only one has neither of them present) was a large and realistic police officer, Inspector Mallett, with a vast appetite.

Tragedy at Law has never been out of print, and Marcel Berlins described it in 1999 as "still among the best whodunnits set in the legal world." P. D. James went further and wrote that it "is generally acknowledged to be the best detective story set in that fascinating world." It appeared at no. 85 in The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. Of his other full-length novels, Suicide Excepted shows a man committing an almost perfect murder, only to find that a quirk of the insurance laws deprives him of the reward.

Cyril Hare's short stories were mostly written for the London Evening Standard. Among them, The Story of Hermione, in which the eponymous character grows rich from the all too convenient deaths of several relatives, has been called one of the most chilling short stories ever written; Sister Bessie describes vividly the agonies of a blackmail victim and the desperate crimes he commits in the hope of freeing himself from his tormentor. Miss Burnside's Dilemma describes the predicament of a person who uncovers a piece of unscrupulous, but entirely legal chicanery by someone she had previously admired.

Having suffered from tuberculosis shortly after the Second World War Gordon Clark was never again in full health and died at his home near Box Hill, Surrey at the age of only 57.



  • Tenant for Death (1937), adapted from the play Murder In Daylesford Gardens
  • Death Is No Sportsman (1938)
  • Suicide Excepted (1939)
  • Tragedy at Law (1942)
  • With a Bare Bodkin (1946)
  • The Magic Bottle, a children's book (1946)
  • When the Wind Blows (US title The Wind Blows Death, 1949)
  • An English Murder (1951)
  • That Yew Tree's Shade (US title Death Walks the Woods, 1954)
  • He Should Have Died Hereafter (US title and also title of some UK reprints Untimely Death, 1958)

  • Miss Burnside's Dilemma
  • Name of Smith
  • Murderers' Luck
  • The Tragedy of Young Macintyre
  • Where There's a Will
  • Death of a Blackmailer
  • The Story of Hermione''
  • The Old Flame
  • As the Inspector Said ...
  • Death among Friends
  • A Surprise for Christmas
  • I Never Forget a Face
  • A Life for a Life
  • A Very Useful Relationship
  • Line out of Order
  • Monday's Child
  • Tuesday's Child
  • Wednesday's Child
  • Thursday's Child
  • Friday's Child
  • Saturday's Child
  • The Death of Amy Robsart
  • The Euthanasia of Hilary's Aunt
  • Weight and See
  • It Takes Two ....Evening Standard, 29 November 1949
  • Sister Bessie.Evening Standard, 23 December 1949. Collected as Sister Bessie or Your Old Leech
  • Spare the Rod and Spoil the Crime.Evening Standard, 24 January 1951
  • The Will.Evening Standard, 6 December 1951
  • Accident.Evening Standard, 21 June 1952
  • The Markhampton Miracle.Evening Standard, 17 October 1952
  • This Side up with Care.Evening Standard, 8 July 1954
  • Dropper's Delight.Evening Standard, 13 April 1954
  • The Rivals.Evening Standard, 14 July 1955
  • The Man from Pannonia.Evening Standard, 30 September 1955
  • The Magnifying Glass.Evening Standard, 10 March 1956
  • The Ruling Passion.Evening Standard, 25 July 1956
  • The Man in the Silk Pyjamas.Evening Standard, 15 August 1956. Collected as The Heel
  • Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare (US title Death among Friends, 1959, edited by Michael Gilbert)'

  • Murder at Warbeck Hall BBC Light Programme, 27 January 1948 (Episode 2 in a series of plays by members of The Detection Club)

  • Murder In Daylesford Gardens (1929). Revised as The Noose Is Cut (1935)
  • The House of Warbeck (1955). Adapted from An English Murder
  • References

    Alfred Gordon Clark Wikipedia

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