29 May 2024

Creasey’s Characters: The Baron

At Christmas 1935, John Creasey was out of work and so was working as a temporary postman. After Christmas dinner he suddenly remembered that he had started writing a book for the Cracksman competition for a cash prize. All he had done so far was one chapter. He began Chapter Two that night and by New Year’s Eve he had finished the book and cycled the nine miles to London to deliver the manuscript with just five minutes to spare. The book was Meet the Baron. Creasey won first prize for it and his career as a crime writer was assured overnight.

The series had an unbroken run for 35 years but the character of The Baron, John Mannering, gradually changed as the series progressed. We meet John Mannering when he is an elegant man about town with an income totally inadequate to support his extravagant lifestyle. Crime appears to be his only viable option. Once he has secured himself financially, he begins concentrating on robberies with purer motives, such as helping widows who are being victimised by dodgy stockbrokers or lawyers. He develops from the gentleman thief stealing precious stones for personal gain, into a Robin Hood character robbing from the rich to help the poor. Sometimes he even works as an undercover agent. Eventually he becomes the owner of Quinns, a Mayfair antique shop, and begins consulting for Scotland Yard about precious stones and objets d’art.

The Baron is a complex, morally ambiguous character who clearly loves the thrill of the crime, and the more violent side of his adventures. In the early stages of the series, The Baron has a cat and mouse relationship with his policeman nemesis, Inspector William Bristow, who is determined to bring him to justice but also quite likes him. When The Baron turns straight, they become friends and work on solving crimes together.

See the full list of The Baron titles here.