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Born Cecil William Mercer, into a middle class Victorian family with many skeletons in the closet, including his great-uncle's conviction for embezzlement from a law firm and subsequent suicide, Yates' parents somehow scraped enough money together to send him to Harrow. The son of a solicitor, he qualified as a barrister whilst still finding time to contribute stories to the 'Windsor Magazine'. After the First World War, however, he gave up legal work in favour of writing full time. It had become his great passion, and he went on to complete some thirty books. These ranged from light-hearted farce to adventure thrillers. The 'Berry' series established Yates' reputation as a writer of witty, upper-crust romances and he was also very successful with the thriller genre though the character Richard Chandos, who recounts the adventures of Jonah Mansel, a classic gentleman sleuth. As a consequence of his education and experience, Yates' books encompass the genteel life; a nostalgic glimpse at Edwardian decadence and a number of swindling solicitors, and he regularly featured in bestseller lists and was greatly admired by both readers and fellow authors. Along with Sapper and John Buchan, Yates dominated the adventure book market of the inter-war years. Indeed, 'Berry' is one of the great comic creations of twentieth century fiction; and the 'Chandos' titles were later successfully adapted for television. Eventually finding the English climate utterly unbearable, Yates chose to live in the French Pyrenees for eighteen years, before moving on to Rhodesia, as it then was, where he died in 1960.
Mr Yates can be recommended to anyone who thinks the British take themselves too seriously. -- Punch