Famous for publishing over 600 crime and science fiction novels, he created memorable characters such as The Toff and Commander George Gideon of Scotland Yard. The latter character was the inspiration for both a television series and a movie.
He worked several factory jobs before becoming a writer. He published his first book, Seven Times Seven, in 1932.
He wrote under 28 different pseudonyms.
He grew up in Surrey, England as the second youngest of eight siblings born to a working-class family.
His work inspired the 1958 drama, Gideon of Scotland Yard, which was directed by John Ford.