John Dickson Carr (November 30, 1906 – February 27, 1977) was an American author of detective stories, who also published using the pseudonyms Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn.
Carr is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of so-called “Golden Age” mysteries, complex, plot-driven stories in which the puzzle is paramount. He was influenced in this regard by the works of Gaston Leroux and by the Father Brown stories of G. K. Chesterton.
He was a master of so-called locked room mystery, in which a detective solves apparently impossible crimes. The Dr. Fell mystery The Hollow Man (1935), usually considered Carr’s masterpiece, was selected during 1981 as the best locked-room mystery of all time by a panel of 17 mystery authors and reviewers. He was also an author of historical mystery.
A resident of England for a number of years, Carr is often grouped among “British-style” mystery writers. Most (though not all) of his novels had English settings, especially country villages and estates, and English characters. His two best-known fictional detective characters were English.
The son of Wooda Nicholas Carr, a U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania, Carr graduated from The Hill School in Pottstown during 1925 and Haverford College during 1929. During the early 1930s, he relocated to England, where he married an Englishwoman. He began his mystery-writing career there, returning to the United States as an internationally known author during 1948.
During 1950, his biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle earned Carr the first of his two Special Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America; the second was awarded during 1970, in recognition of his 40-year career as a mystery writer. He was also presented the MWA’s Grand Master award during 1963. Carr was one of only two Americans ever admitted to the British Detection Club.
During early spring 1963, while living in Mamaroneck, New York, Carr suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his left side. He continued to write using one hand, and for several years contributed a regular column of mystery and detective book reviews, “The Jury Box”, to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Carr eventually relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, and he died there of lung cancer during 1977.
Carr also wrote many radio scripts, particularly for the Suspense radio anthology series in America and for its UK equivalent Appointment With Fear introduced by Valentine Dyall, as well as many other dramas for the BBC, and some screenplays. His 1943 half-hour radio play Cabin B-13 was expanded into a series on CBS during 1948-49 for which Carr wrote all 25 scripts, basing some on earlier works or re-presenting devices that Chesterton had used.
The 1943 play Cabin B-13 was also expanded into the script for the 1953 movie Dangerous Crossing, directed by Joseph M. Newman and featuring Michael Rennie and Jeanne Crain. Carr worked extensively for BBC Radio during World War II, writing both mystery stories and propaganda scripts. During the late 1940s he hosted Murder by Experts transmitted by Mutual radio.
He introduced works by other mystery writers who were the week’s guest writers. The show originated from Mutual’s main station WOR in NY. Many of these shows are available for free listening or downloading at the Internet Archive.
Carr’s works were the basis for several movies, including The Man With a Cloak (1951) and Dangerous Crossing (1953). The Emperor’s Snuffbox was filmed as That Woman Opposite (1957), and La chambre ardente (1962) was a loose adaptation of The Burning Court.
Various Carr stories formed the basis for episodes of television series, particularly those without recurring characters such as General Motors Presents. During 1956, the television series Colonel March Of Scotland Yard, featuring Boris Karloff as Colonel March, was based on Carr’s character and his stories and was broadcast for 26 episodes.