W.J. Burley Books

W.J. Burley is a British author born in 1914 and who died in 2002. The crime writer is best known for detective Charles Wycliffe, a character that populates the majority of Burley’s work.

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Born in Falmouth in Cornwall, Burley began writing and publishing his crime novels when he was in his early fifties. Before taking to writing, Burley worked for a number of Gas Companies as a senior manager. After acquiring his degree at Balliol College in Oxford, Burley became a teacher.

A student of Zoology, Burley had the opportunity to teach at institutions like Newquay Grammar School and Richmond and East Sheen County Grammar school, occupying the role of head of biology in some cases. Burley officially retired at the age of sixty. By this point in time, he had begun to make a name for himself as a crime novelist.

W.J. Burley was living in Holywell in Cornwall by the time of his death.

W.J. Burley Books into Movies

Burley’s crime novels about superintendent Charles Wycliffe were adapted into a television series constituting 38 episodes. The pilot of the show, which was simply called Wycliffe, aired late in 1993.

Filmed in Cornwall and broadcast on the ITV Network, the show starred Jack Shepherd as Wycliffe. Each episode saw Wycliffe put his abilities to the test in light of a new murder investigation. Designed to be a conventional whodunit series, the Television Show maintained a very typical tone during its earlier episodes, bringing to the fro quirky characters and unexpected plots.

However, as the seasons wore on, the internal politics of the police took center stage. The television show was a great blessing for Burley, allowing him to achieve a level of financial comfort and stability he hadn’t known before.

Burley’s fans have never appreciated the fact that the Wycliffe Television show eventually surpassed the novels on which it was based, with Burley’s work becoming overshadowed by its small screen adaptation.

That didn’t stop Burley from proceeding with the Wycliffe series of novels. And in the years since his death, the focus began to shift away from Jack Shepherd’s interpretation of Wycliffe to the character Burley wrote in his books.

Best W.J. Burley Books

Burley wasn’t the strongest writer when his books first hit the shelves. However, even his worst critics agree that abilities grew with the passing of time, with some of the best books the author has delivered including the following:

Wycliffe and the Four Jacks: David Cleeve was a bestselling author that enjoyed the fruits of his success. His opulent house, situated in Cornwall, spoke volumes about the fortune he had garnered. However, the luxury hid a man fighting to escape a nightmare.

David Cleeve was the target of a sinister warning: a jack of Diamonds playing card that was delivered to him at regular intervals. It wasn’t until the card arrived torn in half that David was finally murdered.

The murder finds Chief Superintendent Wycliffe on Holiday nearby; naturally, the investigation draws him in, and he soon identifies a number of mysteries that must be resolved before David’s murderer can be brought to justice.

Burley isn’t an amazing writer. This book doesn’t change that opinion. However, it definitely proves his significant ability as a storyteller. The plot is well crafted and the overall story well paced. The fact that Burley uses so many clumsy similes doesn’t detract from the entertainment value of the book.

Very prominent in this book are Burley’s own prejudices which manifest with almost all his major characters. It is an element that has been present in most of the Wycliffe books.

Wycliffe and the Winsor Blue: Edwin Garland’s heart attack and subsequent death don’t attract any notable suspicion. However, the death of his son, shot on the evening of his funeral, raises eyebrows. There is no obvious motive for the murder and Chief Superintendent Wycliffe doesn’t find any significant clues in Edwin’s mischievously contrived will.

Wycliffe soon learns that the answers to his questions might lie with an artist’s pigment called Winsor Blue.

Anyone who has read W.J Burley knows that he has a few misogynistic prejudices that tend to permeate his work. This book is no different, though the sexism isn’t too prominent. There are also a surprising number of syntax and grammar errors.

Though, according to Burley, that is an intentional choice designed to set his work apart.