Gavin Lyall

Gavin Lyall

Gavin Tudor Lyall (May 9 1932 - January 18 2003) was a English author of espionage thrillers.


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 Officer in 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 director for the BBC's "Tonight" programme. In 1958, he married the author Katharine Whitehorn, with whom he was to have two sons.

Lyall lived in Hampstead and 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 Desert and in Greece. It was an immediate success; P.G. Wodehouse said of it, "Terrific: when better novels of suspense are written, lead me to them." [Guardian obituary, "infra."] Lyall then left journalism in 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 Liechtenstein were 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 Cyprus and 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”. [ [ 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. [ [ 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 service in the years leading up to World War I.

Lyall died of cancer in 2003.


*"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)


*,3604,878937,00.html The Guardian]
* [,,1-45-549709,00.html The Times]
* [ Daily Telegraph]
* [ New York Times]


*cite book
last = Murphy
first = Bruce F.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1999
title = Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery
publisher = Palgrave Macmillan
location =
id = ISBN 031229414X

*cite book
last = Pederson
first = Jay P.
authorlink =
coauthors = Kathleen Gregory Klein
year = 1996
title = St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers
publisher = St James Press
location =
id = ISBN 1558621784

*cite book
last = DeAndrea
first = William L
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1997
title = Encyclopedia Mysteriosa
publisher = Hungry Minds
location =
id = ISBN 0028616782

* [ Petri Liukkonen Author's Calendar]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Most Dangerous Game (Gavin Lyall novel) — infobox Book | name = The Most Dangerous Game title orig = translator = image caption = First edition cover author = Gavin Lyall cover artist = country = United Kingdom language = English series = genre = Spy, Thriller, Novel publisher = Hodder… …   Wikipedia

  • The Secret Servant (Gavin Lyall novel) — Infobox Book name = The Secret Servant title orig = translator = image caption = 1990 UK paperback cover author = Gavin Lyall illustrator = cover artist = country = United Kingdom language = English series = Harry Maxim subject = genre = Thriller …   Wikipedia

  • Лайл, Гэвин — Гэвин Лайл Gavin Tudor Lyall Дата рождения: 9 мая 1932(1932 05 09) Дата смерти: 18 января 2003(2003 01 18) (70 лет) …   Википедия

  • Midnight Plus One —   …   Wikipedia

  • The Wrong Side of the Sky — Infobox Book name = The Wrong Side of the Sky title orig = translator = image caption = 1991 UK paperback cover author = Gavin Lyall illustrator = cover artist = country = United Kingdom language = English series = subject = genre = Thriller… …   Wikipedia

  • The Crocus List — Infobox Book name = Crocus List title orig = translator = image caption = 1993 UK paperback cover author = Gavin Lyall illustrator = cover artist = country = United Kingdom language = English series = Harry Maxim genre = Thriller novel, Spy Novel …   Wikipedia

  • P. G. Wodehouse — Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse KBE Wodehouse in 1904 (aged 23). Born 15 October 1881(1881 10 15) Guildford, Surrey, England, UK …   Wikipedia

  • The Most Dangerous Game — This article is about the short story by Richard Connell. For the film, see The Most Dangerous Game (film). For the novel by Gavin Lyall, see The Most Dangerous Game (Gavin Lyall novel). The Most Dangerous Game , also published as The Hounds of… …   Wikipedia

  • Moon Zero Two — film poster Directed by Roy Ward Baker Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • Gold Dagger — The Gold Dagger Award was an award given annually by the Crime Writers Association for the best crime novel of the year. For its first five years, the organization s top honor was known as the Crossed Red Herring Award. From 1995 to 2002 the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”