Clive King

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Clive King
Born David Clive King
(1924-04-24) 24 April 1924 (age 90)
Richmond, Surrey, UK
Nationality British
Education King's School, Rochester (1933–41)
Alma mater Downing College, Cambridge (1941–43)
School of Oriental and African Studies, London (1966–7)
Genre Children's Literature, Historical Fiction
Notable works Stig of the Dump (1963)
Cover of Stig of the Dump

David Clive King (born 24 April 1924) is an English author best known for his children's book Stig of the Dump (1962).[1] He served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the last years of World War II and then worked for the British Council in a wide range of overseas postings, from which he later drew inspiration for his novels.[2]

Clive King was born in Richmond, London, England in April 1924 and grew up in Ash, Kent. He was educated at The King's School, Rochester, Kent 1933–41 and then Downing College, Cambridge, where he obtained a B.A. in English. He served as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve 1943–46, which took him to the Arctic, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Malaysia and Japan, where he saw the then recent devastation of Hiroshima.[3]

After the war, he began working as an officer of the British Council and was posted to Amsterdam as an Administrative Officer (1948–50). Subsequent postings for the British Council included: Belfast as a Student Welfare Officer (1950–51); Aleppo, Syria as a Lecturer (1951–54); Damascus as a Visiting Professor to the University (1954–55); Beirut as Lecturer and Director of Studies (1960–66); Madras as an Education Officer (1971–73). He also served as a Warden for East Sussex Country Council from 1955–60. He attended the London School of Oriental and African Studies from 1966–7, then served as an Education Advisor for the East Pakistan Education Centre in Dhaka from 1967–71.[2]

Clive King started writing as a child, stating that his first story was a script for a western film written in 1930.[4] He had articles published in both his school and college magazines before his first book, Hamid of Aleppo, was published by Macmillan & Co, NY in 1958. He wrote three more novels for children, The Town That went South (1959), Stig of the Dump (1962) and The 22 Letters (1966) before deciding to become a full-time writer in 1973.[5]

He went on to write twelve further novels between 1973 and 1995 but it is for Stig of the Dump, which was twice adapted for television and continues to be taught in British schools, for which he is best known.

As a popular children's author he was invited to Children's Literature Summer Camps for members of the Puffin Book Club, run by Colony Holidays (predecessor to ATE Superweeks) along with other popular children's authors such as Ian Serraillier and Joan Aiken.[6]

Clive King has been married twice, has three children and lives in Norfolk.[7]


King himself acknowledged the influence of his itinerant career in his writing: "Each of the things which I have written has been inspired by a particular place which I have visited or lived in. The settings are always as authentic as possible and they determine the action."[8] These influences are noticeable in the settings for The Night The Water Came (relief operations on a tropical island), Snakes and Snakes (India), and The 22 Letters (the Middle East).[2]

Stig of the Dump[edit]

Main article: Stig of the Dump

Clive King's best-known novel is Stig of the Dump (1963), illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, which follows the adventures of a boy who discovers a Stone-Age cave-dweller living at the bottom of a disused chalk pit (which has been used as an unofficial rubbish dump) in Kent. The concept is unusual in that it does not involve any of the common fantasy devices such as time-slip or magic.[9] The book has reprinted many times and has been adapted for television.[10][11]

The 22 Letters[edit]

Cover of The 22 Letters

The 22 Letters (1966), illustrated by Richard Kennedy, was the 250th title published by Puffin Books.[12]

Set in the eastern Mediterranean world of the 15th century BC, the story follows the adventures of the three sons of a Phoenician master builder through three loosely linked stories in which they travel to Egypt (Sinai), to the court of King Minos (Crete) and north to Ugarit. They return and save the city from invasion with the help of the three inventions they find or discover: celestial navigation, horsemanship and alphabetic writing. In its time, The 22 Letters was considered, at over 300 pages, to be very long for a children's book although the scholarship and scope was admired.[9][13]



  • Hamid of Aleppo, illustrated by Giovenetti. New York, Macmillan (1958)
  • The Town That Went South, illustrated by Maurice Bartlett. New York, Macmillan (1959); London, Penguin (1961)
  • Stig of the Dump, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. London, Penguin, (1963)
  • The 22 Letters, illustrated by Richard Kennedy. London, Hamish Hamilton,(1966); New York, Coward McCann (1967); ISBN 978-0-14-030250-9
  • The Night the Water Came, illustrated by Mark Peppé. London, Longman, (1973); New York, Crowell (1979)
  • Snakes and Snakes, illustrated by Richard Kennedy. London, Kestrel (1975)
  • Me and My Million. London Kestrel,(1976); New York, Crowell, (1979)
  • The Inner Ring series, illustrated by Jacqueline Atkinson. London, Benn (1976)
    • The Accident
    • First Day Out
    • High Jacks, Low Jacks
    • The Secret
  • The Devil's Cut, illustrated by Val Biro. London, Hodder and Stoughton (1978)
  • Ninny's Boat, illustrated by Ian Newsham. London, Kestrel (1980);New York, Macmillan (1981)
  • The Sound of Propellors (1986)
  • The Seashore People (1987)
  • A Touch of Class (1995)


  • Poles Apart (produced London, 1975)
  • The World of Light (produced London, 1976)
  • Good Snakes, Bad Snakes (1977)


The Birds from Africa, illustrated by Diana Groves. London, Macdonald, 1980


  1. ^ "King, Clive". WorldCat Identities. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Crouch, Marcus, King, (David) Clive in Twentieth Century Children's Writers, ed. Kirkpatrick, D. L., Macmillan, 2nd edition (1983) p430-1
  3. ^ Puffin Books: Author biography
  4. ^ Puffin Books: Author interview
  5. ^ Clive King bibliography
  6. ^
  7. ^ Penguin Books: Author biography
  8. ^ Clive King in Kirkpatrick (ed.), D. L. (1978). Twentieth Century Children's Writers. London: Macmillan. p. 693. ISBN 0-333-23414-6. 
  9. ^ a b Hammond, Graham in Kirkpatrick (ed.), D. L. (1978). Twentieth Century Children's Writers. London: Macmillan. p. 693. 
  10. ^ "Little Gems – Stig of the Dump". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  11. ^ "Derby – Around Derby – Derbyshire in TV and Film". BBC. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  12. ^ Nettell, Stephanie (September 1991). Kaye Webb and Puffin's 50th (70). 
  13. ^ The Best Children's Books. 1966. 

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