British poet, biographer, social historian, crime novelist, and critic, born in London, the brother of A. J. A. Symons; he worked as an advertising copywriter before the Second World War, but in 1945 became a freelance writer and critic. He founded and edited Twentieth Century Verse (1937–9), an important magazine which published most of the young poets outside the immediate Auden circle. He published several collections of verse (Confessions about X, 1939; The Second Man, 1943; The Object of an Affair, 1974), and wrote much on poetry of the 1930s. The subjects of his biographies include his brother (1950), Dickens (1951), Carlyle (1952), Horatio Bottomley (1955), Poe (1978), and Doyle (1979), while among his works on British social history in the 1920s and 1930s are The General Strike: A Historical Portrait (1957) and The Thirties: A Dream Revolved (1960; revised 1975), together with many articles. He wrote on true crime (A Reasonable Doubt: Some Criminal Cases Re-examined, 1960; Crime and Detection: An Illustrated History from 1840, 1966, US title A Pictorial History of Crime), and prolifically on crime fiction, which he reviewed for the Sunday Times for a number of years: Bloody Murder (1972, revised 1985; US title Mortal Consequences) is an authoritative history of the genre. His first work of crime fiction, The Immaterial Murder Case (1945), an accomplished parody of the detective genre, was followed by many novels and short stories. The Man Who Killed Himself (1967) and The Plot against Roger Rider (1973) are highly ingenious detective stories, but his best novels are perhaps those which combine crime with a critical view of contemporary society (The Colour of Murder, 1957; The End of Solomon Grundy, 1964; The Players and the Game, 1972; and Playing Happy Families, 1994), or of late Victorian hypocrisy (The Blackheath Poisonings, 1978; Sweet Adelaide, 1980; and The Detling Murders, 1982, US title The Detling Secret). The autobiographical Notes from Another Country (1972) deals with his early life.