James Hadley Chase (real name René Brabazon Raymond) was born in London in 1906 and started his career as a bookseller. Following the depression, prohibition and the climate of Chicago gangsters in America just prior to the Second World War, Chase’s book trade experience made him realise that there was a big demand for gangster stories.
So with the aid of a dictionary of American slang and reference books on the American underworld he wrote his first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, over six weekends. The book achieved remarkable popularity and became one of the best-sold books of the decade. It was a stage play in London’s West End, was filmed in 1948 and in 1971 was remade by Robert Aldrich as The Grissom Gang.
Chase was heavily influenced by the American crime and gangster scene and his earlier books fell within that genre, with many of them based in the US despite the fact that he only went there late in his life; much of his detail coming from encyclopaedias, maps and dictionaries.
Hailed as the ‘thriller maestro of the generation’, Chase’s books (many of which were adapted to films) were all fast moving tales of murder, intrigue, blackmail and espionage. He had an enormous following worldwide and in all wrote ninety books that were translated and published throughout Europe, India, Japan, Africa and Latin Americas.
He died in 1985.
Author photo © Viviane Dunk