Dornford Yates was the pseudonym of the British novelist Cecil William Mercer (1885-1960). His novels and short stories, some humourous and some thrillers were best-sellers in the period between the two World Wars. Mercer was called to the bar in 1909 and worked there for several years. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he joined the County of London Yeomanry and was commissioned Second Lieutenant. Yates originally wrote short stories for the monthly magazines, and many of his works began as stories in the Windsor Magazine before being collected together in book form. However, his first known published work, Temporary Insanity, appeared in Punch in May 1910, and his second, Like a Tale that is Told appeared in the Red Magazine in July 1910. Amongst his other works are The Brother of Daphne (1914), The Courts of Idleness (1920), Berry and Co. (1921), The Stolen March (1926) and Blind Corner (1927).
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Born Cecil William Mercer into a middle class Victorian family with many Victorian skeletons in the closet, including the conviction for embezzlement from a law firm and subsequent suicide of his great-uncle, Yates' parents somehow scraped together enough money to send him to Harrow. The son of a solicitor, he qualified as a barrister whilst still finding timeto contribute stories to the Windsor Magazine. After the first world war hegave up legal work in favour of writing, which had become his great passion, and completed somethirty books. These rangedfrom light- hearted farce to adventure thrillers. For the former, he created the 'Berry' books which established Yates' reputation as a writer of witty, upper-crust romances. For the latter, he created ther character Richard Chandos, who recounts the adventures of Jonah Mansel, a classic gentleman sleuth. As a consequence of his education and experience, Yates' books feature the genteel life, a nostalgic glimpse at Edwardian decadence and a number of swindling solicitors. In his hey day, and as testament to hisfine writing, Dornford Yates' work was placed in the bestseller list. Indeed, 'Berry' is one of the great comic creations of twentieth century fiction; the 'Chandos' titles also beingsuccessfully adapted for television. Along with Sapper and John Buchan, Yates dominated the adventure book market of the inter war years. Finding the English climate utterly unbearable, Yates chose to live in the French Pyrenees for eighteen years, before moving on to Rhodesia where he died in 1960. 'Mr Yates can be recommended to anyone who thinks the British take themselves too seriously.' - Punch 'We appreciate fine writing when we come across it, and a wit that is ageless united to a courtesy that is extinct'-Cyril Connolly
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