Richard Austin Freeman (1862-1943) was born in London. He studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital and then entered the Colonial Service. He was assigned to a post in Accra on the Gold Coast of Africa. During his time in Africa he contracted blackwater fever which forced him to return to London. Unable to find a permanent medical position, he decided to try his hand at writing fiction. His first stories were written in collaboration with Dr. John James Pitcairn, the medical officer at Holloway Prison, using the pen name Clifford Ashdown. In 1907 the first Dr. Thorndyke novel "The Red Thumb Mark" was published. He served as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corp during World War I. He continued writing up until his death, writing parts of "Mr. Polton Explains" in a bomb shelter in 1939 at the age of 77.