|Born||22 February 1896|
|Died||26 June 1951 55) (aged|
|Occupation||Policeman and novelist|
Reginald Evelyn Peter Southouse-Cheyney (22 February 1896 – 26 June 1951) was a British crime fiction writer who flourished between 1936 and 1951. Cheyney is perhaps best known for his short stories and novels about agent/detective Lemmy Caution, which, starting in 1953, were adapted into a series of French movies, all starring Eddie Constantine (however, the best known of these – the 1965 science fiction film Alphaville – was not directly based on a Cheyney novel). Another popular creation was the private detective Slim Callaghan who also appeared in a series of novels and subsequent film adaptations.
Although out of print for many years, Cheyney's novels have never been difficult to find second-hand. Several of them have recently been made available as e-books.
Peter Cheyney was born in Whitechapel 1896, the youngest of five children, and educated at the Mercers' School in the City of London.  He began to write skits for the theatre as a teenager, but this ended when the First World War began. In 1915 he enlisted in the British Army as a volunteer, in 1916 was wounded on active service and published two volumes of poetry, Poems of Love and War and To Corona and Other Poems. The next year, 1917, his military service ended. 
Starting in the late 1920s, Cheyney worked for the Metropolitan Police as a police reporter and crime investigator. Until he became successful as a crime novelist, he was often quite poor. It is said that he got his start through a bet; when Cheyney remarked that anyone could write a book in the idiom of the American thriller, he was wagered five pounds that he could not. Cheyney sold his first story as the result of this bet. 
Cheyney wrote his first novel, the Lemmy Caution thriller This Man Is Dangerous in 1936 and followed it with the first Slim Callaghan novel, The Urgent Hangman in 1938. The immediate success of these two novels assured him of a flourishing new career, and Cheyney abandoned his work as a freelance investigator. Sales were brisk; in 1946 alone, 1,524,785 copies of his books were sold worldwide. 
A meticulous researcher, he kept a massive set of files on criminal activity in London, but these were destroyed during the Blitz in 1941; he however, soon began to replace his collection of clippings. He dictated his work. Typically he would "act out" his stories for his secretary, Miss Sprauge, who would copy them down in shorthand and type them up later.
The Caution books read very much like what they are: pulp stories written in ersatz American by a British writer. With the private detective Slim Callaghan however, he invented a non-American who is based in Cheyney's home territory of London.
Callaghan in the first book works from Chancery Lane in a Marlowe-type shabby office and he has difficulty paying the bills. However, unlike Marlowe, Callaghan is ambitious and after a success helping a rich female client, he is able to make the step up to having his own agency, with a fancy office and pretty secretary, in swanky Berkeley Square.
Subsequent novels in the series follow very much the tried and tested pattern. Callaghan's services are sought by rich and attractive female client. The Lady in question is, of course naturally involved in some upsetting business (often blackmail) that precludes going to police. Callaghan meets the lady, likes what he sees (Cheyney appears to have studied women's fashion for he never fails to describe in detail every lady's clothes and jewellery), is nonchalant and impudent, which simultaneously both upsets and attracts lady. The Lady of course is either afraid to tell all facts or is being deliberately misleading and Callaghan must work out truth for himself.
Callaghan begins his investigating, in Marlowe-style, by putting himself about and stirring up trouble, which attracts the attention of a number of people (including at least one shady nightclub owner) involved in the puzzle who supply him with enough pieces to get the whole picture and to plan strategy.
During these cases (usually over a period of days) Callaghan will push himself to the limit. He will get no sleep, drink continually ('three fingers of straight whisky'), and drive his Jaguar long distances (to Torquay or Weymouth to visit refined clients, and then back to London all in the same night) as part of his overall plan.
At the same time, he will meet a string of attractive women who will, of course, throw themselves at him during the story--but he however only has eyes for his refined client--hand out and receive beatings, tamper with evidence, and outsmart both criminals and the police until the case is solved and his refined client is extricated from trouble and danger. Only then (to the chagrin of his secretary, who has a long-standing crush) will he reap the dual reward of favours from the refined client, accompanied by a substantial cheque.
Cheyney's "Dark" series was widely praised during World War II for bringing more realism to espionage fiction. In their casual brutality and general "grubbiness," the "Dark" novels seem to have foreshadowed much of the Cold War fiction of the mid to late 1960s. Anthony Boucher placed these later works in the context of Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad.
The characterisation of Ernest Guelvada in the "Dark" series is one of the high points of Cheyney's career. A cheerfully sadistic war operative whose objective is to deplete the ranks of opposing forces in a leisurely but thorough fashion, the loquacious Guelvada still finds the time to dress immaculately, drink immoderate amounts of alcohol and remain a counter agent.
Cheyney published one volume of short stories, advice to critics and a few poems in No Ordinary Cheyney (London: Faber and Faber, 1948).
Cheyney makes a cameo appearance in the Dennis Wheatley/J.G. Links "dossier" mystery "Herewith the Clues," published in 1939. He appears as man-of-fortune William Benson, one of the suspects.
He died at age 55, after having fallen into a coma. He was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery in London.
From all accounts, Cheyney lived much like his characters, working too hard, living the fast and careless life with a breathtaking abandon that eventually caught up with him. In addition to his literary skills, "he was a fencer of repute, a golfer, a crack pistol-shot, and a jiu-jitsu expert." 
He joined the New Party (set up by Sir Oswald Mosley and precursor to the later British Union of Fascists or BUF) in 1931, heading its youth detachment, which protected public meetings. 
He was married three times: in 1919 to the stage actress Dorma Leigh (from whom he was divorced in 1931),  in 1934 to Kathleen Nora Walter Taberer, and in 1948 to Lauretta Theresa Singer.  He had no children.
A loose series grouping together several different protagonists:
A 1954 biography of Cheyney, Peter Cheyney: Prince of Hokum, was written by Michael Harrison. (London: N. Spearman, 1954.)
Cheyney published a semi-autobiographical volume, Making Crime Pay and after his death at least two biographical essays appeared in posthumous collections. An essay by Viola Garvin, "Peter Cheyney" appears in Velvet Johnnie a posthumous collection of Cheyney's short stories (London: Collins, 1952, pages 7–32). The other essay is anonymous. It appears in the Cheyney collection Calling Mr. Callaghan (London: Todd, 1953, pages 7–16).
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Can Ladies Kill? is a crime novel by British author Peter Cheyney first published in 1938 by William Collins, Sons & Co. Ltd. Set in San Francisco and featuring Cheyney's creation, G-Man Lemmy Caution, it belongs to the hardboiled school of crime writing.
Lemmy Caution is a fictional character created by British writer Peter Cheyney (1896–1951). Caution was first portrayed as a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, and in later stories as a private detective. Cheyney's first book with the character was published in 1936. When This Man Is Dangerous was released, Cheyney was working as a policeman, but the novel's success enabled him to become a professional author. Cheyney wrote eleven Lemmy Caution novels between 1936 and 1946. The Lemmy Caution radio series was broadcast in the 1940s in Australia and New Zealand.
Bernard Borderie was a French film director and screenwriter. His father, Raymond Borderie, was one of the producers of Les Enfants du Paradis.
Uneasy Terms is a 1948 British crime thriller film directed by Vernon Sewell and starring Michael Rennie, Moira Lister and Faith Brook. It is based on the 1946 novel of the same name by Peter Cheyney.
À toi de faire... mignonne, released in the US as Your Turn, Darling, is a French-Italian thriller film based on the 1941 novel Your Deal, My Lovely by Peter Cheyney. It came out ten years after La môme vert-de-gris which had been the first of film of this series.
The Women Couldn't Care Less or Dames Get Along is a 1954 French crime film directed by Bernard Borderie and starring Eddie Constantine, Nadia Gray and Dominique Wilms. It features Peter Cheyney's fictional American detective Lemmy Caution.
Meet Mr. Callaghan is a 1954 British crime drama film directed by Charles Saunders and starring Derrick De Marney. Based on the 1938 novel The Urgent Hangman by Peter Cheyney, which Cheyney had then turned into a play.
G-Man at the Yard is a 1946 thriller novel by the British writer Peter Cheyney. It is the final entry in the popular series of novels featuring the FBI agent Lemmy Caution. It was republished posthumously in 1953 following his death in 1951, now also including three short stories. Unlike many other novels by Cheyney it was never made into a film.
Your Deal, My Lovely is a 1941 thriller novel by the British writer Peter Cheyney. It is the seventh in his series of novels featuring the FBI agent Lemmy Caution. Much of the action takes place in wartime London. Caution is called in to investigate the disappearance of a prominent scientist.
Dark Duet is a 1942 spy thriller novel by the British writer Peter Cheyney. Cheyney had become known for his hardboiled crime thrillers featuring Lemmy Caution and Slim Callaghan, but this novel was his first fully-fledged espionage novel. The novel is set in wartime London, Lisbon and Ireland. It was published in the United States with the alternative title The Counterspy Murders.
Dance Without Music is a 1947 thriller novel by the British writer Peter Cheyney. While Cheyney had gained his reputation with series about two celebrated characters Lemmy Caution and Slim Callaghan, he also wrote several popular stand-alone novels about hardboiled private detectives such as this. It was serialised in Britain by The News of the World. In the United States it was published by Dodd Mead in 1948.
Slim Callaghan is a fictional London-based private detective created by the writer Peter Cheyney. Like another of Cheyney's characters, the FBI agent Lemmy Caution, he was constructed as a British response to the more hardboiled detectives of American fiction such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.
Sinister Errand is a 1945 spy thriller novel by the British writer Peter Cheyney. Cheyney known for his creations Lemmy Caution and Slim Callaghan, introduced a new character the half-American secret agent Michael Kells. It was followed by a sequel Ladies Won't Wait in 1951.