Image of A. E. W. Mason


Lifetime: 1865 - 1948 Passed: ≈ 75 years ago





A. E. W. Mason

Alfred Edward Woodley Mason was an English author and politician. He is best remembered for his 1902 novel of courage and cowardice in wartime, The Four Feathers and is also known as the creator of Inspector Hanaud, a French detective who was an early template for Agatha Christie's famous Hercule Poirot. 

His prolific output in short stories and novels were frequently made and remade into films during his lifetime; though many of the silent versions have been lost or forgotten, the productions of Fire Over England (1937) and The Four Feathers (1939) remain enduring classics of British cinema. 

Mason was born in Camberwell. He studied at Dulwich College and graduated from Trinity College, Oxford, in 1888. He was a contemporary of fellow Liberal Anthony Hope, who went on to write the adventure novel The Prisoner of Zenda. He was an actor before he became a writer, and took the role of Major Plechanoff in the premiere of George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man in 1894.He was also an avid cricket player. 

His first novel, A Romance of Wastdale, was published in 1895. He was the author of more than 30 books, including At The Villa Rose (1910), a mystery novel in which he introduced his French detective, Inspector Hanaud; Hanaud's career in six novels spanned from before World War I to after World War II. 

His best-known book is The Four Feathers, which has been made into several films (see below). Many consider it his masterpiece. Other books are The House of the Arrow (1924), No Other Tiger (1927), The Prisoner in the Opal (1929) and Fire Over England (1937). He contributed a short story, "The Conjurer", to The Queen's Book of the Red Cross. 

Mason was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Coventry in the 1906 general election. He served only a single term in Parliament, retiring at the next general election in January 1910. 

His first play was the four-act comedy Marjory Strode. Mason wrote three plays that were produced and presented by Sir George Alexander in St James's Theatre. He wrote, "I had three plays produced by George Alexander; one a failure, Colonel Smith, one which made a moderate profit, Open Windows, and one which was a considerable success, The Witness for the Defence. The light farce Colonel Smith opened on 23 April 1909. The Witness for the Defence opened on 1 February 1911, starring Sir George Alexander as Henry Thresk. In 1913 Mason's problem play Open Windows opened on the evening of 11 March, starring Sydney Valentine as Phillip Hammond, Irene Vanbrugh as Cynthia Herrick, Sir George Alexander as John Herrick, with Rosalie Toller as Elsie Herrick. 

Mason served with the Manchester Regiment in the First World War, being promoted Captain in December 1914. He transferred to the General List (reservists) in 1915 and the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1917 with the rank of Major. His military career included work in naval intelligence, serving in Spain and Mexico, where he set up counter-espionage networks on behalf of the British government. 

Mason turned to non-fiction as well; he wrote a biography of Sir Francis Drake (1941), whose piratical exploits for the Queen figure in Fire Over England. He was working on a non-fiction book about Admiral Robert Blake when he died in 1948. 

Mason had been offered a knighthood but reportedly declined it, declaring that such honours meant little to a childless man.

Books by A. E. W. Mason

 At the Villa Rose Cover image

At the Villa Rose

Crime Fiction Novel
Detective Mystery

At the Villa Rose is a 1910 detective novel by the British writer A. E. W. Mason, the first to feature his character Inspector Hanaud. The story became Mason's most successful novel of his lifetime. It was adapted by him as a stage play in 1920, and...

Running Water Cover image

Running Water

Romance Fiction Novel
Rescue Glaciers Mountains

Running Water is a 1907 adventure novel by the British writer A.E.W. Mason.

The Four Feathers Cover image

The Four Feathers

Adventure Action Fiction Novel
Love War Friendship

The Four Feathers is a 1902 adventure novel by British writer A. E. W. Mason that has inspired many films of the same title. In December 1901, Cornhill Magazine announced the title as one of two new serial stories to be published in the forthcoming y...

The Witness for the Defence Cover image

The Witness for the Defence

Romance Crime
Murder Truth Mystery Court Thriller Justice Suspense

It follows the story of a young woman, Mary, who is on trial for murder. Mary's only hope for acquittal is the testimony of a mysterious stranger who claims to have witnessed the crime. But as the trial progresses, the truth becomes increasingly elus...

The Affair at the Semiramis Hotel Cover image

The Affair at the Semiramis Hotel

Romance Fiction
Detective Mystery Thriller Greed Desire Betrayal Dangerous Secret Twists Consequences Intriguing

In the heart of London, the Semiramis Hotel stands as an elegant oasis, where the rich and influential gather to indulge in lavish pleasures. Behind its opulent façade, however, lies a labyrinth of secrets waiting to be unraveled. When the renowned...