Wednesday 19 April 2023

The Quest for Jack Griffiths

I bet most readers of this blog, knowledgeable as they are, will not be overly familiar with the name of the crime writer Jack Griffiths. Yet I first came across his work at an impressionable age and as a result I haven't forgotten him. My introduction to the CWA was via an anthology edited by Herbert Harris and it included (as well as stories by the likes of Edmund Crispin and John Dickson  Carr) a tale from south east Asia, 'Two Heads are Better than One' by Jack Griffiths. 

In those days the anthologies did not include bios of the contributors - an omission I find close to inexplicable - and although I later came across other anthologies featuring short stories by Jack Griffiths, I knew nothing about him. Fast forward to recent months, and I established that he was a Welshman and a member of the clergy. I decided that I'd like to track down some info about him, and also to include his story 'Black Mamba' in my anthology of Welsh mysteries. Jamie Sturgeon and John Herrington gave me useful details and the British Library, who go to great pains to trace estates so that copyright permissions can be obtained and due payment made, traced Griffiths' daughter, Sian, with whom I've had the pleasure of speaking and corresponding. She also supplied the above photo of her father. He remains little-known by most crime fans, but I'm really pleased to draw his work to the attention of a new readership. And if you're curious, here's what I've learned about him.

Jack Edward Griffiths was born in Blaenclydach in south Wales in 1902. After studying as a mature student at Aberystwyth University, he was ordained in 1937, became a curate, and married a rector’s daughter in 1939. He served in the Territorial Army as a Captain Chaplain and served on hospital ships and overseas during the Second World War. Later, his ministry took him from Leighton, near Welshpool, to south east Asia; he and his wife sailed to Malaya in 1952 with the apparent intention of staying there long-term and he was Vicar of Penang from 1953-57. In 1960, the family returned to the Welsh Marches, and until retirement in 1975 he was responsible for the three Shropshire parishes of Easthope, Stanton Long, and Shipton, making his home in Easthope rectory, Much Wenlock. He died in nearby Bridgnorth in 1977.

Griffiths’ literary specialism was the short story; although he wrote several novels over the years, none of them seem to have found a publisher. He was writing fiction for the News Chronicle at least as early as 1934 and after joining the Crime Writers’ Association (for which he served as honorary chaplain), he became a regular contributor to the CWA’s annual anthology, which in the 1960s and 1970s focused mainly on reprinting stories that had already appeared in books and magazines. His interest in crime was also reflected in a spell as a special constable. 



Ron Smyth said...

I was not aware of Jack Griffiths but I'm a huge short story fan and I look forward to your Welsh crime collection.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Ron. He contributed to numerous CWA anthologies, the best source for his work if you enjoy 'Black Mamba'!