John Creasey was born in Southfields, Surrey, to a working-class family. He was the seventh of nine children of Ruth and Joseph Creasey, a poor coach maker. Creasey was educated at Fulham Elementary School and Sloane School, both in London. From 1923 to 1935 he worked various clerical, factory, and sales jobs while trying to establish himself as a writer. After a number of rejections, Creasey's first book was published in 1930. His first crime novel, Seven Times Seven, was published in January, 1932 by Melrose. It was a story about a gang of criminals. In 1935 he became a full-time writer. In 1937 alone, twenty-nine of his books were published. A phenomenally fast writer, he once suggested that he could be shut up in a glass-box and write there a whole book.
The Gideon's Way television series was produced from 1964 to 1966 in the UK, based on the Commander George Gideon character. From 1965 to 1966 a television version of Creasey's The Baron character was produced, starring Steve Forrest as The Baron. Between 1967 and 1971 the BBC produced a radio version of Creasey's Roger West stories with actor Patrick Allen in the title role as Scotland YardChief Inspector Roger "Handsome" West, with Allen's real-life wife Sarah Lawson playing the role of West's wife Janet.
In 1938, he created the character The Toff with the first novel Introducing the Toff. The Toff series would continue for 59 novels from 1938 to 1978. The Toff was The Honourable Richard Rollison. He is an aristocrat and an amateur sleuth and detective. "Toff" is a British slang expression for an aristocrat.
During World War II, he created the character of Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, a British secret service agent, who forms Z5, a secret underground group that owes its allegiance to the Allies. The first novel of the Dr. Palfrey 34-book series was Traitor's Doom, published in 1942 by John Long Ltd., while the last was The Whirlwind in 1979.
In 1962, Creasey won an Edgar Award for Best Novel, from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), for Gideon's Fire, written under the pseudonym J. J. Marric. In 1969 he received the MWA's greatest honor, the Grand Master Award.
Several movies have been made based on John Creasey novels: Salute the Toff (1952, also known as Brighthaven Express in the USA), Hammer the Toff (1952), John Ford's Gideon's Day (1958, also known as Gideon of Scotland Yard in the USA), released by Columbia Pictures, and Cat and Mouse (1958, also known as The Desperate Men in the USA), written as Michael Halliday.
In 2007, his family transferred all of Creasey's copyrights and other legal rights to Owatonna Media. Owatonna Media on-sold these copyrights to Coolabi Plc in 2009, but retained a master licence in radio and audio rights. These rights are commercially licensed in the UK and abroad.
John's son Richard is a distinguished television producer, having served both in the private sector and at the BBC, and as the British producer of 'Patrick Watson''s worldwide Canadian television documentary series The Struggle for Democracy
Crime Writers' Association (CWA)
In 1953, John Creasey founded the Crime Writers' Association (CWA) in the UK. The CWA New Blood Dagger is awarded in his memory, for first books by previously unpublished writers; sponsored by BBC Audiobooks, it includes a prize of £1000. This award was known previously as the John Creasey Memorial Dagger.
His pseudonyms include:
Henry St. John Cooper
Robert Caine Frazer
Henry St. John
Westerns under the names of Ken Ranger, Tex Riley, William K. Reilly, and Jimmy Wilde. Romantic novels under the names of Margaret Cooke, M.E. Cooke, and Elise Fecamps.
As well as being an author, Creasey was a committed Liberal party member though he later became an independent. He said that he had been organising Liberal street-corner meetings from the age of 12. At the time of the 1945 general election Creasey was Chairman of the local Liberal Association in Bournemouth where his publicity and writing skills were instrumental in helping the Liberals to an atypical second place. He was adopted as prospective parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth West in 1946 and appeared on the platform at the 1947 Liberal Assembly, which was held in Bournemouth.
He fought Bournemouth West in the 1950 general election, coming third. He became increasingly unhappy with the party through the 1950s though and disagreed so much with the party's policy concerning the Suez Crisis he resigned his membership. However after the Orpington by-election success of 1962 and impressed with Jo Grimond's leadership of the party he seemed to be reviving his Liberal activity. By January 1966 however, he had founded the All Party Alliance, a pressure group which sought to unite the best people from all parties.
Creasey fought by-elections as an independent in support of this idea in 1967 at Nuneaton, Brierley Hill and Manchester Gorton. He also fought Oldham West during the by-election of June 1968. He did well for an independent with the first-past-the-post system, having limited resources and often little time to campaign.
In Oldham West he beat his old party's candidate into fourth place. He could not seem to shed his affection for the Liberal party however, congratulating Birmingham Ladywood by-election victor Wallace Lawler in July 1969 and attending the 1969 party assembly albeit to promote All Party Alliance aims.