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E. C. Bentley (10 July 1875 – 30 March 1956) was a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century, and the inventor of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics. One of the best known is this (1905):
- Sir Christopher Wren
- Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
- If anyone calls
- Say I am designing St. Paul's."
Born in London, and educated at St Paul's School and Merton College, Oxford, Edmund's father John Edmund Bentley, was professionally a civil servant but was also a rugby union international having played in the first ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871. Bentley worked as a journalist on several newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph. His first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners (1905), popularized the clerihew form; it was followed by two other collections, in 1929 and 1939. His detective novel, Trent's Last Case (1913), was much praised, numbering Dorothy L. Sayers among its admirers, and with its labyrinthine and mystifying plotting can be seen as the first truly modern mystery. It was adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952. The success of the work inspired him, after 23 years, to write a sequel, Trent's Own Case (1936). There was also a book of Trent short stories, Trent Intervenes. Several of his books were reprinted in the early 2000s by House of Stratus.
From 1936 until 1949 Bentley was president of the Detection Club and contributed to both of their radio serials broadcast in 1930 and 1931 and published in 1983 as The Scoop and Behind The Screen. In 1950 he contributed the Introduction to a Constable & Co omnibus edition of Damon Runyon's "stories of the bandits of Broadway", which was republished by Penguin Books in 1990 as On Broadway.
He died in 1956 in London at the age of 80. His son Nicolas Bentley was a famous illustrator.
Phonographic recordings of his work "Recordings for the Blind" are heard in the movie Places in the Heart, by the character Mr. Will.
- Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction, T. J. Binyon (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 0-19-219223-X [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] pp. 57–58