Robert Barnard

Robert Barnard
Robert Barnard
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ROBERT Barnard, professor, scholar and an award winning crime writer, who was twice chairman of the Bronte Society and joint compiler of The Bronte Encyclopaedia, has died aged 76.

He made Leeds his adopted home in 1984 after several years abroad and became an enthusiastic member of the Bronte Society, based at Haworth Parsonage.

He was its vice-chairman and later chairman from 1996 to 1999, and again from 2002. In 2007, with his wife Louise, he compiled the encyclopaedia which the society regards as a cornerstone for modern Bronte scholarship.

He began writing crime novels in the 1970s, completing more than 40 books and short stories and was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2003 by the Crime Writers Association for a lifetime of achievement.

Despite his prolific output and being an acclaimed master of English mystery, often featuring upper-class or academic victims, his work was better known in the United States of America than in his native Britain.

Mr Barnard was born in Essex, and educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School before reading English at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked briefly for the Fabian Society and and as a Labour Party campaign worker during the 1959 General Election, which was won by the Conservatives. Afterwards, he taught adult education for a short period at Accrington Technical College, before moving to Australia in 1961 as a lecturer at New England University, in New South Wales.

During his six years there he began work on his first crime novel, Death of an Old Goat, which was published in 1974 after he had moved to Norway, as a lecturer at Bergen University. 
He later became professor of English literature at Tromsø University, 20 miles inside the Arctic Circle, where he set his 1980 novel, Death in a Cold Climate.

At one time he used to describe himself as the world’s most northerly mystery writer.

By 1984 having written a dozen novels, and critical studies of Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie of whom he was a devotee, he returned to Britain to concentrate on his fiction and chose to live in Yorkshire. He became an active member of the northern chapter of the Crime Writers’ Association and spent much of his time in Haworth and with the Brontë Society. His devotion to that family resulted in an illustrated biography of Emily Brontë for the British Library in 2000, along with the encyclopaedia.

He also wrote a solution to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the book that Dickens never completed.

Mr Barnard, a cheerful fellow who wrote with comic wit created three series of detectives, Peregrine Trethowan, Mike Oddie, and Charlie Peace named mischievously after a notorious 19th century murderer and burglar from Sheffield.

In 1990, by now settled in Leeds, he wrote A City of Strangers set in a fictional Yorkshire city called Sleate.

His last novel A Charitable Body was published last year in America where his books earned him six Edgar nominations.

He was also a popular speaker at conventions and conferences.

Ann Dinsdale, the Parsonage Collections Manager, said: “Bob Barnard’s vibrant personality and wicked sense of humour made him great company. He was a popular figure with staff at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and some of them have figured as characters in his novels. The Bronte Society was privileged to have enjoyed 20 years of Bob’s involvement and he will be sadly missed by many people.”

Mr Barnard died in a nursing home in Leeds following the rapid onset of dementia earlier this year.

He is survived by Louise his wife of 50 years, a librarian whom he met and married during his time in Australia.