Saturday, 13 August 2011

Robert Robinson R.I.P.


Robert Robinson has just died, news I was sorry to learn. In my youth, he seemed to be a fixture on TV, often as a quizmaster, but sometimes involved with documentaries. He was also a very regular presence on radio, both on news programmes and the 'Brain of Britain' quiz.

I only came across him once in person, when he was guest speaker at a CWA annual conference. However, one thing that many people didn't know about him was that, at the tender age of 29, in 1956, he published a detective novel, called Landscape with Dead Dons.

Robinson was born in Liverpool (you'd never guess from his accent) and educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where no doubt he had plenty of opportunities to develop the confident and urbane persona that was to become so familiar. His novel is rather in the school of Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin, both of whom lavished praise on it.

As a mystery, it's not exactly The ABC Murders, but it was a high-spirited and amusing debut, and my old green Penguin copy has a blurb which says: 'May he write more.' But although he produced one or two further novels, he never returned to the detective genre, although perhaps he'd have been well suited to it, had he been at work during the Golden Age. So his book remains an agreeable curiosity, a small part of the legacy of a highly successful man.

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I didn't know Robinson had written a crime novel. Now I'm curious about the story :-). Sad to hear of his passing.

Anonymous said...

Another sad loss. Shamefully I'd almost forgotten him, tho' I used particularly to enjoy his relaxed (but never lazy) chairmanship of Radio 4's "Stop the Week" - a civilised programme that used to irritate the more "progressive" critics and BBC executives!
I remember reading 'Dead Dons' but nothing about the story. I'll have to see if it's still lurking on a bookshelf somewhere.

aguja said...

Oh, that's sad. I remember him, but only in the television roles. I did not know that he had written a detective novel.

He was almost an institution in his time. Thank you for the post, Martin.

Scriptor Senex said...

He was a real gentlemen and a great loss.