I’ve mentioned Margaret Yorke before in this blog, partly in connection with that Thirties parody Gory Knight. That book was co-written by a successful novelist called Margaret Rivers Larminie, who happened to be Margaret’s first cousin, once removed. Margaret’s maiden name was Larminie, and when she published her first novel in 1957, she used another family name, Margaret Yorke, as a pseudonym, to avoid confusion with her famous relative.
Margaret’s debut, Summer Flight, was not a crime novel, and she only turned to the genre when she created Patrick Grant, a likeable amateur detective who was to appear in five novels, starting with Dead in the Morning in 1970. She told me that the later Grant stories ‘were set in places I'd been to and Silent Witness was inspired when I was on a skiing holiday. Outside the window in the hotel where I was staying, a chair lift, empty at such an early hour, descended and rose while we were having breakfast and I said to my friends, “What if a body came down on a lift?” It all arose from that.’
In 1974, she published a splendid novel of suspense, No Medals for the Major, which earned much critical acclaim – from H.R.F. Keating and Edmund Crispin, among others. She didn’t make as much money from it as she deserved, as her publishers soon went out of business, but her writing became increasingly serious, often dealing with complex social themes. She says, ‘Cause for Concern, my last novel, is about mothers being battered by their sons. I know of two cases here, in one of which I twice called the police. My difficulty was to devise a set-up totally unlike those I knew about...’
The authentic tang of Margaret Yorke’s work earned her the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for a career of outstanding achievement, in 1999. Margaret is now in her 80s, and contentedly retired. I don’t think she has any plans to write any more novels, but those she has published are well worth seeking out. In addition to No Medals for the Major, I specially recommend The Cost of Silence and Devil’s Work.