Elleston Trevor

By Peter Haining

If the rest of Michael Hervey's career was something of an anticlimax, quite the reverse was the case for Elleston Trevor, who cut his literary teeth writing crime and mystery paperbacks, but ended his days feted as the author of the secret service novels about British agent Quiller, described by The Times as 'one of the most consistently high-selling after Ian Fleming's 007'. At the end of his life, living in Arizona, Trevor rarely granted interviews and, when he did, denied his earlier work and insisted on talking only about recent projects. The author was born Trevor Dudley Smith (1920-1995) in Bromley, Kent, and suffered and unhappy childhood as the only son of alcoholic parents. After leaving school, he joined the RAF and, although he was not allowed to fly because of an eye defect that made him hypersensitive to sunlight, he performed valuable service working as an engineer on Spitfires as well as beginning his literary career writing short stories for the 'Yankee Magazines' published by Gerald G. Swan. It was Swan who published his first novels, all crime stories, starting with Now Try the Morgue (1944), featuring a gunman-gangster character glorying in the name of Raz Berry!

     After marrying Jonquil Burgess, an author of children's books, the couple settled down in Brighton to write and Trevor produced his first best-seller, The Big Pick-Up (1955), a story written as a challenge to J.B. Priestley, who had grumbled that 'all sorts of terrible people are writing war stories for the money'. Trevor had never been deterred by a personal lack of experience of any subject, and it is a fact that this book became accepted as the definitive novel of the wartime evacuation from Dunkirk. Several more successful war novels followed before Trevor was inspired to follow the success of John le Carre's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. He selected the pseudonym Adam Hall from the telephone directory, wrote The Quiller Memorandum in a matter of months and did so well from the sale of the film rights and a subsequent TV series that he was able to move to America and remain there for the rest of his life, completing a total of over 80 books. In all the obituaries that marked his death at age 75 in 1995, it was specifically stated that his first novel had been A Chorus of Echoes published in 1950. Raz Berry and Elleston Trevor's other hard-boiled characters had blown away on the winds of time.

  The Classic Era of Crime Fiction

Last modified: Saturday, January 08, 2005

The above text was taken from The Classic Era of Crime Fiction, 2002 (209 pages). For the purposes of this web page I have selected only the two paragraphs that refer to Elleston Trevor. The book is comprised of eight chapters and the reference to Trevor appears in Chapter 7: The Mean Streets of Crime Noir.