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Croft-Cooke (Leo Bruce)
Life Span: Born
20th June 1903, Edenbridge; Died 10th June 1979,
Star Sign: Gemini
Famous As: British
writer and playwright
were Lucy and Hubert Bruce Cooke. His father worked
for the London Stock Exchange. He went to Tonbridge
School and Wellington College (later to become
Wrekin College). At 17 he moved to France and
then at 19 he moved to Argentina which he wrote
about in his travel book The World is Young. He
was the founder of the weekly La Estrella which
he edited in Argentina from 1923 to 1924.
Croft-Cooke was an antiquarian bookseller
from 1929 to 1931.At 27 he went to live in Germany
and then in 1931 he moved to Switzerland and he
became a lecturer at the English Institute Montana,
Zugerberg. At 29 he spent a year in Spain. In
1940 he joined the Intelligence Corps serving
in the Madagascar campaign and was in Queen Alexandra's
Own Regiment and the Gurkha Rifles.
Croft-Cooke became a captain (as Field Security
Officer) in 1944. In 1945 he was an instructor
at the Intelligence School at Karachi. From 1947
to 1953 he was a book critic for The Sketch.
He wrote over 80 books covering a variety of subjects.
A number were autobiographical, with one book
often covering just a few years of his life. Some
were about circuses and gypsy life, and some were
about food and drink.. He also wrote crime and
detective stories, mostly under the pseudonym
Leo Bruce. As Leo Bruce he created two series
of novels. One series had the main character Sergeant
William Beef, a village policeman. The other series
had the main character Carolus Deene, a school
& Relationships: In 1943 Croft-Cooke
was posted to Bombay and he soon realised that
life in the ranks there was not going to be comfortable
so he applied for a commission. He was posted
to an Officers' Training School in the small town
of Belgaum. At one of the town's two cinemas that
showed English films a 16-year-old Indian called
Joseph Sussainathan served soft drinks behind
the bar. He attached himself to Rupert Croft-Cooke
and decided that he would follow him wherever
he went. Joseph Sussainathan first became a civilian
clerk in Rupert Croft-Cooke's Field Security Section
after following him to Delhi. In the evenings
he took classes in shorthand and typing with the
aim of becoming Rupert Croft-Cooke's secretary
when he went back with him to Britain.
In 1951 he moved into a small Georgian house in
the Sussex village of Ticehurst and he spent some
time restoring the house to its former unembellished
simplicity. His Indian secretary
, Joseph Alexander
(previously Sussainathan) also lived in the house.
The book The Life for Me is a description of life
at the house and includes a number of photographs.
It was at this house that the two Royal Navy cooks
Harold Altoft and Ronald Dennis spent a weekend.
It was also here where police came to arrest Rupert
Croft-Cooke and Joseph Alexander at two o'clock
on a Sunday morning. The charge was that they
had each committed an act of gross indecency with
another male person. Altoft and Dennis were named
on the warrant.
The subsequent trial that started on 8th. October
1953 brought Rupert Croft-Cooke to public notice.
He was defended by 'Khaki' Roberts who was to
be the prosecution counsel at the magistrates
court in the Montagu/Pitt-Rivers/Wildeblood Case
a few weeks later.
"In England most people
with any detached understanding of the matter
consider that archaic laws against homosexuality,
which make illegal the sexual association of two
adult men in the privacy of a house, should long
since have been abolished. But whether legal or
illegal homosexuality is held in general dis-esteem,
and since mud always sticks, I realized, not without
some amusement, that even after the charges had
been thrown out I should never escape from the
reputation of a homosexual. This did not greatly
disturb me, but it was a categorization which
I should share, after all, with Shakespeare and
Michelangelo and about a third of the writers
and artists and musicians who have embellished
human life, and with a rather greater proportion
of the world's heroes in war, exploration, politics,
and sport. But although for myself I should not
mind, should even enjoy the irony of this, I could
see that for my friends it must set a problem.
They could either remain my friends and stand
by me in this increasingly difficult time and
take the risk of being associated with me in the
public mind, or they could pass by me on the other
The Verdict of You All, (1955), page 29.
At the trial Compton Mackenzie
and Patrick (Lord) Kinross took the stand as character
witnesses. Notwithstanding this Rupert Croft-Cooke
was sentenced to nine months in prison and Joseph
Alexander was sentenced to three months in prison.
"I did not, as I have said, mind in the least
being thought a homosexual. I might have been
irritated by any suggestion that I was a homosexual
of the inverted, effeminate type, but that would
have been because it reflected on my manhood,
not because it reflected on my morals."
The Verdict of You All, (1955), page 68.
In fact Rupert Croft-Cooke spent six months in
prison from October 1953 to April 1954. The sentence
began in Wormwood Scrubs but he was transferred
to Brixton Prison in January 1954. While at Brixton
he was visited by his old friend Tom Driberg.
After a short time Rupert Croft-Cooke was returned
to Wormwood Scrubs for the rest of his sentence.
Three days after his release on 10th. April he
had a visit from a stranger warning him that he
could easily find himself charged and convicted
again if he wrote about how his previous conviction
had been brought about. Rupert Croft-Cooke went
to Morocco and wrote about the events in The Verdict
of You All, (1955). Joseph Alexander had been
sentenced to three months prison at the end of
the trial and had gone to Brixton.
Rupert Croft-Cooke wrote that he felt that his
conviction and imprisonment did not hinder his
career. Indeed he wrote that he was glad that
it had all happened because he had learnt a great
deal of the best and worst of human nature. "It
has been the most immensely worthwhile experience
in my life". (The Verdict of You All, chapter
14, section 7.) Nearly sixty of his books were
published over the next two decades.
Rupert Croft-Cooke and Joseph Alexander left Britain
in April 1954 and drove through France, ending
up at Cadiz in Spain. In order to get in and out
of Gibralter Rupert Croft-Cooke needed to get
his visa renewed and had to take the circuitous
route to Gibralter via Tangier. It was during
the brief stopover in Tangier that he decided
that this was where he would live. He and Joseph
Alexander took up residence in Tangier in October
1954. Their life in Morocco with a commentary
on the many other writers and artists that stayed
or passed that way is described in The Tangerine
House, (1956) and The Caves of Hercules, (1974).
They stayed in Morocco until 1968 when the European
colonial and cosmopolitan lifestyle was disappearing.
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