Christopher St John Sprigg (1907- 1937) was born in London to a literate family of writers, journalists and editors. The youngest of three children, Sprigg attended Catholic boarding school for ten years, until a downturn in family finances prompted a departure from schooling at age 15. He immediately became a trainee reporter at the Yorkshire Observer where his father was then literary editor, and father and son lodged together in a boarding house in Bradford. He kept wry observations about the residents, “two old ladies in the boarding house who used to put on their hats, gloves & prayer books to listen to the BBC Church Service in their room on Sundays and who used to send invitations by the maid to the next door bedroom inviting them to teas”. No doubt these experiences provided background for his first detective novel Crime in Kensington, with its genteel Garden Hotel and comic residents Miss Geranium, who receives messages from the prophet Ezekiel, and Miss Mumby, owner of the ‘tracker’ cat Socrates.
In 1925 Sprigg joined his older brother Theo as the editing team of Airways magazine. During this time Sprigg also produced technical books and air adventures stores for Popular Flying magazine. He had a fondness for noms-de-plumes, writing adventure stores under the names ‘Arthur Cave’ and ‘Icarus’, using ‘St John Lewis’ for articles in Airways, and ‘Christopher Beaumont’ for his book reviews.
Over a three year period, Sprigg wrote several more detective stores stories including Fatality in Fleet Street, The Perfect Alibi and Death of an Airman. and Death of a Queen. In 1935, he joined the Communist party and focused on Marxist writings. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he drove an ambulance to Spain and joined the International Brigade. After four weeks of training and poorly armed, his unit was thrown into the Battle of the Jarama River in February 1937. He was killed in the first day of fighting, along with more than half of his battalion.
Until recently Christopher St John Sprigg was largely remembered for his Marxist writing and poetry, all of which was published posthumously under the name Christopher Caudwell. The reprinting of Death of an Airman by the British Library in 2015 has helped revive interest in his fiction.