Alan Burns (author)

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For other people named Alan Burns, see Alan Burns (disambiguation).

Alan Burns (29 December 1929 – 23 December 2013)[1][2][3] was an English author. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a libel lawyer for the London Daily Express.[3]


Merchant Taylors' School

Burns was born in London, the second of his parents three sons.[4] He attended Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood, and subsequently did national service from 1949 to 1951 in the Royal Army Education Corps.[4] He studied law at Middle Temple, and was called to the bar in 1956. He was assistant legal manager at Beaverbrook Newspapers from 1959 to 1962. He later taught creative writing at various educational institutions, including the University of East Anglia, Norwich, the City Literary Institute, London, the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Lancaster University.[5] Burns was the University of East Anglia's first writer-in-residence. Aspiring writers who came under his tutelage included Ian McEwan.[6]


Burns published eight novels, two books of nonfiction, and a play.[5] His major works include Europe After the Rain, Celebrations, Babel, and Dreamerika! A Surrealist Fantasy. From the 1960s on, he was associated with the loosely-constituted circle of experimental British writers influenced by Rayner Heppenstall that includes Stefan Themerson, Eva Figes, Ann Quin and its informal leader, B. S. Johnson.

In 1982 he co-edited (with Charles Sugnet) The Imagination on Trial: British and American writers discuss their working methods, which the Washington Post "Book World" called "diverting, iconoclastic, and compulsively readable".[7] The book included interviews with 11 authors (as well as Burns himself): J. G. Ballard, Eva Figes, John Gardner, Wilson Harris, John Hawkes, B. S. Johnson, Tom Mallin, Michael Moorcock, Grace Paley, Ishmael Reed, and Alan Sillitoe.

Angus Wilson called Burns "one of the two or three most interesting new novelists working in England."[8] Burns died in London, aged 83.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Buster in New Writers 1 (Calder, 1961)
  • Europe After the Rain (Calder, 1965)
  • Celebrations (1967) (Calder and Boyars, 1967)
  • Babel (Calder and Boyars, 1969)
  • Dreamerika! A Surrealist Fantasy (Calder and Boyars, 1972)
  • To Deprave and Corrupt: Pornography, Its Causes, Its Forms, Its Effects (Davis-Poynter, 1972)
  • The Angry Brigade: A Documentary Novel (Allison & Busby, 1973)
  • The Day Daddy Died (Allison & Busby, 1981)
  • The Imagination on Trial: British and American writers discuss their working methods (eds. Burns and Charles Sugnet; Allison & Busby, 1982)
  • Revolutions of the Night (Allison & Busby, 1986)


  1. ^ "Alan Burns – Death Record".
  2. ^ "R.I.P." Ansible 319, February 2014.
  3. ^ a b Reginald, Robert; Menville, Douglas; Burgess, Mary A. (2010). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist. Wildside Press LLC. p. 838. ISBN 9780941028776. 
  4. ^ a b Peter Burns, "Alan Burns obituary", The Guardian, 13 January 2014.
  5. ^ a b Robert Nye, Alan Burns Biography,
  6. ^ Ian McEwan (1995). "Class Work". 
  7. ^ Washington Post "Book World", 4 July 1982.
  8. ^ The Guardian. 30 April 1970. 

Further reading[edit]

  • O'Brien, John (July 1997). "Wilson Harris/Alan Burns". Review of Contemporary Fiction v.17 (2): pages 108–215. ISBN 9781564781611. 
  • Schinele, Jinnie. Off-Centre Stages: Fringe Theatre at the Open Space and the Round House 1968-1983. University of Hertfordshire Press, 2005. ISBN 9781902806433
  • Online interview.

External links[edit]