Crime and the Cultural Landscape: A Series on Detective Fiction

Dorothy Leigh Sayers

The Nine Tailors (1893-1957)

Background

  • Born in 1893 in Oxford England; her father, a clergyman and schoolmaster.
  • Married a journalist, Oswald Atherton "Mac" Fleming in 1926 (d. 1950); had one son.
  • Educated at Somerville College, Oxford University; earned first class honors in 1915 and B.A. (with honors), M.A., and B.C. L., all in 1920.

Career

  • Taught modern languages at Hull High School for Girls in Yorkshire, England (1915-17) and Ecole des Roches, a boy's school in Normandy, France (1919-20; also wroked as an editor for Blackwell's in Oxford (1917-19) and as an advertising copywriter for Benson's in London (1922-29).
  • Became a full-time writer in 1931 and remained so throughout her life.
  • Wrote eleven novels and twenty-one short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsy.
  • Though best known for her crime novels featuring Lord Peter, was a prolific writer in many genres; wrote extensively about the mystery novel as a genre.
  • Many of her Lord Peter Wimsy stories adapted for BBC radio and television; Busman's Honeymoon adapted as a movie (1940) and released in the U.S. under the title, The Haunted Honeymoon.
  • Served as a vicar's warden at St. Thomas's and later St. Paul's in London during the last years of her life.

The Crime Novels

Whose Body (1923)
Clouds of Witness (1925)
Unnatural Death (1927)
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
(with Robert Eustace) The Documents in the Case (1930)
Strong Poison (1930)
Suspicious Characters (1972)
(with members of the Detection Club) The Floating Admiral (1931)
Have His Carcase (1932)
Murder Must Advertise: A Detective Story (1933)
(with members of the Detection Club) Ask a Policeman (1933)
The Nine Tailors (1934)
Gaudy Night (1935)
(with members of the Detection Club) Six Against Scotland Yard (1936)
Busman's Honeymoon: A Love Story With Detective Interruptions (1937)
(with members of the Detection Club) Double Death: A Murder Story (1939)
(with Jill Paton) Thrones, Dominations (1998)

In addition to her crime novels, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote numerous poems, short story collections, plays, and essays on literary, educational, and religious topics. She also completed several ambitious translations including one of Dante's Divine Comedy and another of the Song of Roland.

Biographical Sources, Critical Sources and Reviews

  • For critical and biographical information, see the following Gale publications:  Contemporary Authors, Volumes 104 and 119; Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volume 60; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 36: British Novelists 1890-1929: Modernists, Volume 77: British Mystery Writers, 1920-1939, Volume 100: Modern British Essayists: Second Series; and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Volumes 2 and 15 [contains portrait].   Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.
  • Other print resources:
    Obituaries from the Times, 1951-1960, Compiled by Frank C. Roberts, Reading, England, 1979.
    New York Times obituary, December 19, 1957
    Dorothy L. Sayers, A Biography, James Brabazon, New York 1981.
    Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life, David Coomes, New York, 1992.
    Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, Barbara Reynolds, New York, 1993.
    The Seven Deadly Sins in the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers, Janice Brown, Kent State University Press, Ohio, 2000.
  • Other sides of Dorothy Sayers:
    Writer and Theologian--in "Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians

    In support of learning --the text of "The Lost Tools of Learning"
    In support of learning Latin
    In support of home schooling

    "Dorothy Sayers' Poison Is a Treat for Chemists," by Richard Severo, New York Times, October 31, 1981

    New York Times online archive
    Reviews of some of the critical biographies listed above:
    "The Lady and the Pinkerton," by Mary Cantwell, August 23, 1989, a review of James Brabazon's biography
    "Mysteries of a Passionate Intellect," by Sara Maitland, October 25, 1992, a review of David Coomes biography
    "Murder, She Wrote," by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, October 17, 1993, a review of Barbara Reynold's biography


Retired Discussion Series



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