The Crime Writers' Association

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Robert Richardson R.I.P.

The CWA announces with great sadness the death of author Robert Richardson, one of the most popular and respected figures in the CWA over recent decades. Uniquely, Robert served two distinct terms as Chair of the CWA; in 1993-1994 and 2006-2007, and was well-known at conferences and chapter meetings for his warm wit, generosity, and welcoming jocular personality.

Robert and his wife Sheila were stalwarts of the CWA and personal friends to many members. Robert’s long association with the CWA began back in the 1980s, and members last met him officially in March 2020 at the last meeting of the CWA’s Northern Chapter before the pandemic, when former Chair and personal friend Martin Edwards had the pleasure of presenting him with a Red Herring award in recognition of his distinguished service to the CWA and its members over the decades.

A journalist by profession, Robert moved from writing whodunits featuring an amateur sleuth to novels of psychological suspense. His first crime novel, The Latimer Mercy (1985), won the John Creasey Memorial Award for the best debut of the year. Firmly in the classic detective story tradition, it featured Augustus Maltravers, an intelligent and likeable character, who returned in five more novels, described by Martin Edwards as offering ‘a combination of wit and ingenuity that is no less agreeable because it is reminiscent of an earlier generation of crime writing’. The Book of the Dead (1989), set in Cumbria, contains a lengthy – and well-wrought – Sherlockian pastiche.

Later novels broke free of the conventions of the traditional whodunit: The Hand of Strange Children (1993), was nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger, and is an example of the ‘who-was-dun-in’ type of crime novel, where the identities of the murder victims described at the beginning of the book are as uncertain as the identity of their killer. Two further standalone mysteries followed.

Robert remained active in the CWA even after he’d stopped writing mystery novels. He appointed an archivist for the Association, and was a famous figure at CWA conferences, setting a witty and amusing competition which always caused much hilarity. He was a member of the Midlands Chapter and latterly the Northern Chapter. Robert’s welcoming of new members at such gatherings endeared him to many, and for years no CWA conference was complete without him and his lovely wife Sheila. He will be much missed.

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This article is largely compiled from a longer obituary by Martin Edwards, which will appear in the October edition of CWA members’ magazine Red Herrings.