Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013 3:14 pm by M. in    No comments
Very sad news to report today. Robert Barnard (1936-2013), crime writer, professor, critic and also Brontë scholar and two-times Brontë Society chairman has died.
Robert Barnard was born in Essex, England in 1936. His father was a writer of weekly magazines’ women’s romances. Barnard attended Oxford and studied history before changing his focus to English. He worked for five years as a lecturer in English in Australia, where he also met his wife. The couple headed next to Norway where Barnard remained for many years as a professor of English. Finally, in 1983, he gave up his dual existence as academic and mystery writer and devoted himself full-time to writing. He and his wife Louise, a librarian, lived in Leeds, England. (Source)
He was a prolific writer (with over fifty books published) creating several detectives, including Perry Trethowan and Charlie Peace. It was precisely a Perry Trethowan novel which included his first literary approach to the Brontës in his The Case of the Missing Brontë (1983) (which was recently reissued by the Scribner imprint of Simon & Schuster):
Scotland Yard Superintendent Perry Trethowan is enjoying a vacation evening at a cozy Yorkshire pub when an old woman shows him an original, unpublished Brontë manuscript. Trethowan agrees to engage in a little literary detective work, but he doesn't realize that for a criminal the manuscript is motive for theft, torture--and murder.
Haworth was featured in a Charlie Peace novel, The Corpse at the Haworth Tandoori (1998):
The body of a young man, almost naked, in the car park behind one of Haworth’s many eating establishments marks the beginning of the case, and it is his identity that is the first puzzle for DC Charlie Peace and his superior Detective Superintendent Oddie.
But before long the puzzle that most concerns them is the nature of the close-knit artistic community where Declan O’Hearn had acted as odd-job boy. The little knot of people seem to be united less by their ability as painters than by a common worship of the distinguished artist Ranulph Byatt, who has not only brought them together, but seems to prefer the adulation of his inferiors to the judgement of his equals.Peace, searching for clues, soon starts to wonder if there isn’t a sinister reason for this. And as the search for the killer gathers pace, Peace and Oddie uncover a series of dark secrets on the harsh Haworth landscape.

His crime fiction brought him numerous awards: Edgar Award nominations for best novel, 1981, for Death of a Literary Widow, for best critical study, 1981, for A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie, and five others, all from Mystery Writers of America; Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, Crime Writers Association lifetime achievement award, 2003; Crime Writers Association Short Story Award, 2006, for Sins of Scarlet...

In 2000, the British Library asked Robert Barnard to write an Emily Brontë volume for their Writers' Lives series but, without a doubt, his opera magna in Brontë studies was the publication of A Brontë Encyclopedia (authored with his wife, Louise Barnard), which - we can confidently say - became a cornerstone for modern Brontë scholarship.
Robert and Louise Barnard's A Brontë Encyclopedia is an A- Z encyclopedia of the most notable literary family of the 19th century highlighting original literary insights and the significant people and places that influenced the Brontes' lives.
• Comprises approximately 2,000 alphabetically arranged entries
• Defines and describes the Brontes' fictional characters and settings
• Incorporates original literary judgements and analyses of characters and motives
• Includes coverage of Charlotte's unfinished novels and her and Branwell's juvenile writings
• Features over 60 illustrations
Rest in Peace, Mr Barnard.

EDIT:
Richard Wilcocks posts on the Brontë Parsonage Blog a brief tribute. More tributes on Mystery Fanfare, Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine ...

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