Francis King

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Francis King

Francis King.jpg
BornFrancis Henry King
(1923-03-04)4 March 1923
Adelboden, Switzerland
Died3 July 2011(2011-07-03) (aged 88)
Short story writer
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

Francis Henry King CBE (4 March 1923 – 3 July 2011)[1] was a British novelist and short story writer. He worked for the British Council for 15 years, with positions in Europe and Japan. For 25 years he was a chief book reviewer for the Sunday Telegraph, and for 10 years its theatre critic.[2]

Early life and Council career[edit]

King was born on 4 March 1923 in Adelboden, Switzerland, to a father in the Indian Civil Service, brought up in British India and sent back to England when his father was dying. As a boy, he was shunted around among aunts and uncles.

He was educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford. During the Second World War he was a conscientious objector and left Oxford to work on the land.[3]

After completing his degree in 1949, King worked for the British Council. His positions with them took him to Italy, Salonika, and finally Kyoto. While he was in Greece he met the uninhibited writer Anne Cumming, who was also working for the British Council. She enjoyed observing his homosexual adventures.[4] In 1964 he resigned to write full-time, by when he had already published nine novels, as well as poetry and a memoir.

Literary career[edit]

He won the W. Somerset Maugham Prize for his novel The Dividing Stream (1951)[5] and also won the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Prize. In 2000, he was awarded the Golden PEN Award by English PEN for "a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature".[6]

His 1956 book The Firewalkers was published pseudonymously under the name Frank Cauldwell.

From 1986 to 1989 he was President of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers and oldest human rights organisation. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was appointed an Officer (OBE) of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 and a Commander of the Order (CBE) in 1985.[1] In 2003, his novel The Nick of Time was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Personal life[edit]

King came out as homosexual in the 1970s. After his long-term partner had died from AIDS in 1988, he described their relationship in Yesterday Came Suddenly (1993). King suffered a stroke in 2005.


Francis King died on 3 July 2011, at the age of 88.[2]


  • To the Dark Tower (1946) - novel
  • Never Again (1948) - novel
  • An Air That Kills (1948) - novel
  • The Dividing Stream (1951) - novel (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award)
  • Rod of Incantation (1952) - poems
  • The Dark Glasses (1954) - novel
  • The Firewalkers: a Memoir (1956) (written under the name Frank Cauldwell)
  • The Man on the Rock (1957) - novel
  • The Widow (1957) - novel
  • So Hurt and Humiliated (1959) - short story collection (#1 of 4)
  • The Custom House (1961) - novel
  • The Japanese Umbrella and Other Stories (1964) - short story collection (#2 of 4)
  • The Last of the Pleasure Gardens (1965) - novel
  • The Waves Behind the Boat (1967) - novel
  • Robert de Montesquiou by Philippe Julian (1967) – translator, along with John Haylock
  • The Brighton Belle and Other Stories (1968) - short story collection (#3 of 4)
  • The Domestic Animal (1970) - novel (revised version of the suppressed 1969 edition)
  • Flights (1973) - novel
  • A Game of Patience (1974) - novel
  • The Needle (1975) - novel
  • E.M. Forster and his World (1978) – a biography of the author of A Passage to India and Howards End
  • Act of Darkness (1983) - novel
  • Voices in an Empty Room (1984) - novel
  • Frozen Music (1987) - novella
  • Visiting Cards (1990) - novel
  • Punishments (1989) - novel
  • The Ant Colony (1992) - novel
  • Yesterday Came Suddenly (1993) – autobiography
  • Ash on an old man's sleeve (1996) - novel
  • Dead Letters (1998) - novel
  • The Nick of Time (2002) novel
  • The Sunlight on the Garden (2005) – short story collection (#4 of 4)
  • With My Little Eye (2007) - novel
  • Cold Snap (2009) - novel


  1. ^ a b Ion Trewin and Jonathan Fryer, "Obituary: Francis King", The Guardian, 3 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Obituary of Francis King", The Daily Telegraph, 5 July 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  3. ^ Ian Patterson, "Pacifists and Conscientious Objectors", in Adam Piette and Mark Rawlinson, The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature (Edinburgh University Press, 2012, ISBN 0748638741), p. 313
  4. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines, "Cumming, (Felicity) Anne (1917–1993)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, October 2009 retrieved 11 April 2017
  5. ^ "Somerset Maugham Award: Past Winners". The Society of Authors. Archived from the original on 26 June 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Golden Pen Award, official website". English PEN. Archived from the original on 21 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by International President of PEN International
Succeeded by