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Read by Richard Mitchley (Unabridged: 1hr 12mins)
Francis Marion Crawford, an only child, was born on 2nd August 1854 at Bagni di Lucca, Italy. He was a nephew to Julia Ward Howe, the American poet and writer of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’.
Crawford was educated at St Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire and then on to Cambridge University, the University of Heidelberg and the University of Rome.
In 1879 he went to India, to study Sanskrit and then to edit The Indian Herald. In 1881 he returned to America to continue his Sanskrit studies at Harvard University.
His family became increasingly concerned about his employment prospects. After an attempt at a singing career as a baritone was ruled out, he was encouraged to write.
In December 1882 his first novel, ‘Mr Isaacs’, was published and was an immediate hit as was his second novel ‘Dr Claudius’ in 1883.
In October 1884 he married Elizabeth Berdan and encouraged by his excellent start to a literary career they returned to Sant Agnello, Italy to make a permanent home, buying the Villa Renzi that then became Villa Crawford.
In the late 1890s, Crawford began work on his historical works which would later include ‘Corleone’, in 1897, the first major treatment of the Mafia in literature.
Crawford is also exceedingly popular and anthologized as a short story writer of bizarre and creepy tales.
In 1908 came his classic ‘The Screaming Skull’. Without doubt its unsettling nature is heightened as the reader/listener is drawn into to the story by its narrator. Everything is explained and plausible until, of course, it isn’t.
Francis Marion Crawford died at Sorrento on Good Friday 1909 at Villa Crawford of a heart attack.