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Dorothy L. Sayers (Dorothy Leigh Sayers) Biography

(1893–1957), (Dorothy Leigh Sayers), Whose Body?, The Documents in the Case, Unnatural Death, The Dawson Pedigree

British detective novelist, born in Oxford, the daughter of the headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral choir school, educated at Somerville College, Oxford. She published two volumes of verse while teaching modern languages at a girls' school in Hull; in 1921 she moved to London and worked as a copy-writer for Benson's advertising agency (where she considerably influenced the style of contemporary advertising), marrying a journalist, O. A. Fleming (18811950), in 1926. Her first detective story, Whose Body? (1923), introduced her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, who appears in all her novels with the exception of The Documents in the Case (1930; in collaboration with Robert Eustace). Of the ten other Wimsey novels the best are perhaps Unnatural Death (1927; US title The Dawson Pedigree), Strong Poison (1930), The Five Red Herrings (1931; US title Suspicious Characters), and Have His Carcase (1932), though all exhibit ingenious plotting and well-researched backgrounds and have, too, an intellectual weight which is rare in the genre. In later works—Gaudy Night (1935) and Busman's Honeymoon (1937)—she tried, in her words, to make the detective story ‘more a novel of manners than a crossword puzzle’, but critics have found these long-winded and snobbish. She also wrote a number of detective short stories (Lord Peter Views the Body, 1928; Hangman's Holiday, 1933; In the Teeth of the Evidence, 1939), and edited several collections of crime stories (Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror, 3 volumes, 192834; US title The Omnibus of Crime: Tales of Detection, 1936): the introductions are excellent short discussions of the genre. She also wrote religious plays, mainly for broadcasting, and her learning, wit, and pugnacious personality made her a formidable theological polemicist. Her last years were devoted to a translation of Dante's Divina Commedia (3 volumes, 194962). See J. Hitchman, Such a Strange Lady: An Introduction to Dorothy L. Sayers (1975) and J. Brabazon, Dorothy L. Sayers: the Life of a Courageous Woman (1981).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography