Simon Nash is the pseudonym of the late Raymond Chapman, Professor of English at the University of London and non-stipendiary priest in the Anglican diocese of Southwark. The name was formed from the maiden names of his two grandmothers. He wrote the first of his five detective novels, Dead of a Counterplot to submit to a competition arranged by the publisher Collins, which hoped to find a new writer to carry on the established tradition of dons and detective fiction which includes Michael Innes (pseudonym of J.I.M. Stewart). The novel did not win the competition but it was picked up by Geoffrey Bles and was published in 1962.
Over the following four years Chapman wrote four more novels as Simon Nash, before the demands of an academic career overtook his novel writing. All five of the Simon Nash novels feature Adam Ludlow, an academic and literary scholar who gets drawn into murder situations and solves them by a mixture of deduction and applying apparently irrelevant special knowledge. Ludlow’s skill as a literary critic becomes demonstrably ‘useful’ in reading clues and understanding character traits and motives. His method follows the traditional style of an amateur detective who solves the mystery but keeps amicable relations with the police officer investigating it. A number of suspects are followed through the story, with dropping of clues, and ending with a confrontation of the murderer in a sudden explanation.
While Chapman did not have a long career writing as Simon Nash he did have some impact as a writer of stories that are archetypes of the academic-as-detective subgenre. Most notably Killed By Scandal (1962), a tale of murder and intrigue in an amateur dramatics society, is among the ninety crime and detective novels named by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor in their influential Catalogue of Crime, first published in 1971. Killed by Scandal was also republished by Garland in 1983 as one of the ‘Fifty Classics of Crime Fiction 1960-75’. The other three Simon Nash novels are Death over Deep Water (1964), Dead Woman’s Ditch (1964) and Unhallowed Murder (1966). All five novels were republished in the United States by Harper Row in 1985.
Among Chapman’s many other books are The Victorian Debate; English Literature and Society 1832-1901 (1968), Linguistics and Literature (1973), The Language of English Literature (1982), The Language of Thomas Hardy (1990), and Forms of Speech in Victorian Fiction (1994). He also wrote several books on Anglican liturgy. He died on 5 November 2013, aged 89.