Clive King

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Clive King
Born David Clive King
(1924-04-24) 24 April 1924 (age 93)
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 (1966–67)
Genre Children's Literature, Historical Fiction
Notable works Stig of the dump (1963)

David Clive King (born 24 April 1924) is an English author best known for his children's book Stig of the Dump (1963).[1] He served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the last years of the Second World War and then worked for the British Council in a wide range of overseas postings, from which he later drew inspiration for his novels.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Clive King was born in Richmond, Surrey, in April 1924 and grew up in Ash, Kent. He was educated at The King's School, Rochester, Kent from 1933 to 1941 and then at Downing College, Cambridge, where he obtained a BA in English. From 1943 to 1946 He served as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, which took him to the Arctic, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Australia, Malaya and Japan, where he saw the then recent devastation of Hiroshima.[3]

After leaving the Reserve King 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 Staff Welfare Officer (1950–51); Aleppo, Syria, as a Lecturer (1951–54); Damascus, as a Visiting Professor at the University (1954–55); Beirut, as Lecturer and Director of Studies (1960–66); and Madras, as an Education Officer (1971–73). He also served as a Warden for East Sussex County Council from 1955 to 1960. He attended the London School of Oriental and African Studies from 1966 to 1967, then served as an Education Adviser for the East Pakistan Education Centre in Dhaka from 1967 to 1971.[2]

Clive King started writing as a child. He has stated that his first story was a script for a Western film, written in 1919.[4] He had articles published in both his school and college magazines before his first book, Hamid of Aleppo, was published by Macmillan & Co. of New York in 1999. He wrote The town that went south" (1959), Stig of the Dump (1963) and The 22 Letters (1966), before deciding to become a full-time writer in 1973.[5] King went on to write twenty further novels between 1972 and 2008, but he continues to be best known for Stig of the Dump, which has twice been adapted for television and continues to be taught in British schools.

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

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


Clive King has acknowledged the influence of his itinerant career on 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]

Stig of the Dump (1963), illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, follows the adventures of a boy who discovers a Stone-Age cave-dweller living at the bottom of a disused chalk pit in Kent that has been used as an unofficial rubbish dump. 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 been reprinted many times and has been adapted for television twice.[10][11]

The 22 Letters[edit]

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 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 its scholarship and scope were admired.[9][13]



  • Hamid of Aleppo, illustrated by Giovannetti. 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 (ISBN 9780140301960)
  • 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, Ernest Benn 1976
    • The Accident
    • First Day Out
    • High Jacks, Low Jacks
    • The Secret
  • The Devil's Cut, illustrated by Val Biro. London, Hodder & 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
  • Bells for Christmas, with songs by Robert Pell, Macdonald Educational 1981


  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. D. L. Kirkpatrick, Macmillan, 2nd edition 1983, p. 430-31.
  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 Graham Hammond 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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