Gavin Lyall
  • Gavin Lyall

  • Date of birth: May 09, 1932
  • Died: January 18, 2003
  • Born: in Birmingham, The United Kingdom.

  • Description: Gavin was born and educated in Birmingham. For two years he served as a RAF pilot before going up to Cambridge, where he edited Varsity, the university newspaper. After working for Picture Post, the Sunday Graphic and the BBC, he began his first novel, The Wrong Side of the Sky, published in 1961. After four years as Air Correspondent to the Sunday Times, he resigned to write books full time. He was married to the well-known journalist Katherine Whitehorn and they lived in London with their children.

    Lyall won the British Crime Writers' Association's Silver Dagger award in both 1964 and 1965. In 1966-67 he was Chairman of the British Crime Writers Association. He was not a prolific author, attributing his slow pace to obsession with technical accuracy. According to a British newspaper, “he spent many nights in his kitchen at Primrose Hill, north London, experimenting to see if one could, in fact, cast bullets from lead melted in a saucepan, or whether the muzzle flash of a revolver fired across a saucer of petrol really would ignite a fire”.

    He eventually published the results of his research in a series of pamphlets for the Crime Writers' Association in the 1970s. Lyall signed a contract in 1964 by the investments group Booker similar to one they had signed with Ian Fleming. In return for a lump payment of £25,000 and an annual salary, they and Lyall subsequently split his royalties, 51-49.

    Up to the publication in 1975 of Judas Country, Lyall's work falls into two groups. The aviation thrillers (The Wrong Side Of The Sky, The Most Dangerous Game, Shooting Script, and Judas Country), and what might be called "Euro-thrillers" revolving around international crime in Europe (Midnight Plus One, Venus With Pistol, and Blame The Dead).

    All these books were written in the first person, with a sardonic style reminiscent of the "hard-boiled private-eye" genre. Despite the commercial success of his work, Lyall began to feel that he was falling into a predictable pattern, and abandoned both his earlier genres, and the first-person narrative, for his “Harry Maxim" series of espionage thrillers beginning with The Secret Servant published in 1980. This book, originally developed for a proposed BBC TV Series, featured Major Harry Maxim, an SAS officer assigned as a security adviser to 10 Downing Street, and was followed by three sequels with the same central cast of characters.

    In the 1990s Lyall changed literary direction once again, and wrote four semi-historical thrillers about the fledgling British secret service in the years leading up to World War I.

    Gavin Lyall died of cancer in 2003.