- Gavin Lyall
Lyall was born in
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, as the son of a local accountant, and educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham. After completing his two years of National Service, 1951 to 1953, as a Pilot Officerin the Royal Air Force, he went to Pembroke College, Cambridge University, graduating in 1956 with honours in English.
He worked briefly as a reporter for the "
Birmingham Gazette", " Picture Post" and " Sunday Graphic" newspapers and then as a film directorfor the BBC's "Tonight" programme. In 1958, he married the author Katharine Whitehorn, with whom he was to have two sons.
Lyall lived in
Hampsteadand enjoyed sailing on the Thames in his motor cruiser. From 1959 to 1962 he was a newspaper reporter and the aviation correspondent for the "Sunday Times". His first novel, "The Wrong Side of the Sky", was published in 1961, drawing from his personal experiences in the Libyan Desertand in Greece. It was an immediate success; P.G. Wodehousesaid of it, "Terrific: when better novels of suspense are written, lead me to them." [Guardian obituary, "infra."] Lyall then left journalismin 1963 to become a full-time author.
Lyall's first seven novels in the 1960s and early 1970s were action thrillers with different settings around the world. "The Most Dangerous Game" (1963) was set in Finnish Lapland, and was meticulously researched with local details. The film rights to "Midnight Plus One" (1965), in which an ex-spy is hired to drive a millionaire to
Liechtensteinwere purchased by actor Steve McQueen, who had planned to adapt it to the cinema before he died. "Shooting Script" (1966) is about a former RAF pilot hired to fly a camera plane for a filming company is set around the Caribbean. The protagonists of "Judas Country" (1975) are again former RAF pilots, and the setting is now in Cyprusand the Middle East.
Lyall is credited as co-writer (together with Frank Hardman and Martin Davison) of the original story on which the screenplay of the 1969 science-fiction film "
Moon Zero Two" is based.
Lyall won the British
Crime Writers' Association's Silver Dagger award in both 1964 and 1965. In 1966-67 he was Chairman of the British Crime Writers Association. Lyall was not a prolific author, attributing his slow pace to obsession with technical accuracy. According to a British newspaper, “he spent many nights in his kitchen at Primrose Hill, north London, experimenting to see if one could, in fact, cast bullets from lead melted in a saucepan, or whether the muzzle flash of a revolver fired across a saucer of petrol really would ignite a fire”. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&targetRule=10&xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F01%2F21%2Fdb2101.xml Gavin Lyall - Telegraph ] ] He eventually published the results of his research in a series of pamphlets for the Crime Writers' Association in the 1970s.Lyall signed a contract in 1964 by the investments group Booker similar to one they had signed with Ian Fleming. In return for a lump payment of £25,000 and an annual salary, they and Lyall subsequently split his royalties, 51-49. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&targetRule=10&xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F01%2F21%2Fdb2101.xml Gavin Lyall - Telegraph ] ]
Up to the publication in 1975 of "Judas Country", Lyall's work falls into two groups. The aviation thrillers ("The Wrong Side Of The Sky", "The Most Dangerous Game", "Shooting Script", and "Judas Country"), and what might be called "Euro-thrillers" revolving around international crime in Europe ("Midnight Plus One", "Venus With Pistol", and "Blame The Dead"). All these books were written in the first person, with a sardonic style reminiscent of the "hard-boiled private-eye" genre. Despite the commercial success of his work, Lyall began to feel that he was falling into a predicable pattern, and abandoned both his earlier genres, and the first-person narrative, for his “Harry Maxim" series of espionage thrillers beginning with "The Secret Servant" published in 1980. This book, originally developed for a proposed
BBC TV Series, featured Major Harry Maxim, an SAS officer assigned as a security adviser to 10 Downing Street, and was followed by three sequels with the same central cast of characters. In the 1990s Lyall changed literary direction once again, and wrote four semi-historical thrillers about the fledgling British secret servicein the years leading up to World War I.
Lyall died of
The Wrong Side of the Sky" (1961)
*"The Most Dangerous Game" (1963)
Midnight Plus One" (1965)
Shooting Script" (1966)
Venus With Pistol" (1969)
*"Freedom's Battle: The War in the Air 1939-1945" (1971)
Blame the Dead" (1973)
Judas Country" (1975)
*"Operation Warboard: How to Fight World War II Battles in Miniature" (1976) non-fiction, in collaboration with his son Bernard Lyall
*"The Secret Servant" (1980)
The Conduct of Major Maxim" (1982)
The Crocus List" (1985)
Uncle Target" (1988)
Spy's Honour" (1993)
Flight from Honour" (1996)
All Honourable Men" (1997)
Honourable Intentions" (1999)
* http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,878937,00.html The Guardian]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-45-549709,00.html The Times]
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&targetRule=10&xml=%2Fnews%2F2003%2F01%2F21%2Fdb2101.xml Daily Telegraph]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9900EFD61330F931A15752C0A9659C8B63 New York Times]
last = Murphy
first = Bruce F.
year = 1999
title = Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery
publisher = Palgrave Macmillan
id = ISBN 031229414X
last = Pederson
first = Jay P.
coauthors = Kathleen Gregory Klein
year = 1996
title = St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers
publisher = St James Press
id = ISBN 1558621784
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first = William L
year = 1997
title = Encyclopedia Mysteriosa
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* [http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/glyall.htm Petri Liukkonen Author's Calendar]
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