British author Dame Beryl Bainbridge dies

The British novelist, dramatist and theatre critic, Dame Beryl Bainbridge has died aged 75.

Born in Liverpool in 1934, she worked as an actress and began writing after a disastrous marriage and relationship left her a single mother with three young children. Her first novel Harriet said was rejected many times and not published until 1972, four years after her third novel, Another part of the wood was published. In 1974 she won the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Bottle factory outing and in 1977 the Whitbread Prize for Injury time. Three of her 18 novels were short listed for the Booker Prize. Her slim novels are all urban black comedies, which highlight isolated eccentrics sometimes with violence, but often absurdity. Her last four novels have been based on historical events, Every man for himself, published in 1996 concerns the Titanic disaster, and Master Georgie is set during the Crimean War. Three of her novels were adapted to film. Beryl Bainbridge spent her life in Liverpool; she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.

It is again very sad to know this is the end of such a prolific, wonderful entertaining body of work. If you have never read one of Beryl Bainbridge’ s novels, please start now, you will definitely not be disappointed, and I can guarantee you will want to read more.

Sources: Wikipedia

Writer Alan Sillitoe dies

The English writer Alan Sillitoe has died aged 82. Born in Nottingham, to a working class family he left school at 14 to work in the Raleigh cycle factory. Four years later he joined the RAF where he became a wireless operator. At 21 he was pensioned off from the RAF as he was ill with tuberculosis, and after this he spent the next seven years in France and Spain. His first novel about a young factory worker was published in 1958, titled Saturday night and Sunday Morning, and this became a best seller. It was produced as a film in 1960, for which he wrote the screenplay. With the success of this novel and film, Alan Sillitoe became known as another of England’s angry young men, joining playwright John Osborne and writer John Braine. He went on to write numerous novels, essays, poetry, plays, translations and some children’s books. He also wrote another three screenplays, the most successful was The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner based on his short story and released in 1962.

His last novel titled A Man of His Time was published in 2005.

Sources: Guardian, Wikipedia

Crime writer Dick Francis dies

Dick Francis, the prolific crime writer has died aged 89. He was one of the most popular crime novelists, with all his novels based in and around the horse-racing sport. The son of a jockey and stable manager, after leaving the RAF in 1946 he became a much celebrated winning jockey. From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. After a serious fall he retired and began a sixteen year career as a racing correspondent for the Sunday Express. His first novel Dead Cert was published in 1962 and was an instant success, from then 39 other crime novels followed and one collection of short stories. Whip Hand published in 1979 was the Edgar Award Gold Dagger winner and Come to Grief published in 1995 was another Edgar Award winner. His last three novels were co-written with his son Felix Francis, the most recent being Even Money.

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia

Robert B Parker, crime novelist dies

The prolific, bestselling American crime novelist Robert B Parker has died aged 77.

He received his Masters degree in English Literature in 1957 and began working in advertising, followed by a PhD in English literature from Boston University.  Leaving academia, he became a teacher. His first novel was published in 1971 and he became a full time writer in 1979, with by then, five published novels. He is best known for his Spenser novels, about a tough street wise private investigator. There have been 38 published novels in this series – Promised Land, his fourth Spenser novel received the Best Novel Award in 1977. Parker also developed four other character-based series including a western series. Appaloosa, published in 2005 was recently released as a motion picture. He also wrote some young adult fiction and several works of non-fiction. Brimstone, published in 2009, is the most recent novel received by Wellington City Libraries.

Miep Gies dies

Miep Gies, who helped Anne Frank hide, died January 11 at the age of 100. She was the last survivor of a small group of people who helped the Jewish family hide from the Nazis during World War II. It was Miep who found Anne’s diary after the family’s hiding place was discovered and they were deported to concentration camps. She never read the diary and kept it for safe keeping and handed it to Anne’s father Otto after the war.

Ada Nally, WCL’s Multicultural Customer Specialist said on hearing of Gies’ death

I will never forget my school trip as a ten year old to the secret annex. Anne’s description of her hiding place came alive as we passed the bookcase which hid the staircase leading to Anne’s living areas. The pictures of famous Hollywood movie stars at that time are still on her bedroom wall. I have read Anne’s diary several times and still prefer to read it in Dutch.

Did you know that the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam is not the museum, the canals or dare I say the red light district? It is the Anne Frank museum.

The Anne Frank exhibition will tour New Zealand this year, starting at Te Papa in February. For more details:

Anne Frank’s story to the world is a warning of the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination, and is an assertion of the values of freedom, equal rights and democracy. Wellington City Libraries holds several copies of the diary and other books about Anne Frank, including Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies –  click on the links to the left for details.

March 21 is Race Relations Day and Wellington City Libraries will host a festival of cultures at Johnsonville library, book displays and continue with Earth People at several libraries. For more information visit our Earth people blog in February and March. The theme this year is: “It’s About Us: Whanau”.

Science Fiction & Fantasy writer, Robert Holdstock dies

The British born writer Robert Holdstock has died suddenly, aged 61 from an E-Coli infection.

He began writing full time in 1976, after using his Master of Science in Medical Zoology working as a researcher for the Medical Research Council in London. He began his writing career with many published short stories and novellas. His first science fiction novel Eye Among the Blind was published in 1976. His break through fantasy novel, Mythago Wood, which was published in 1984, began as a novella published in 1981. This title became his most popular book, drawing on English folklore and Celtic myth.

The sequel Avilion was published in 2009. He also wrote the Merlin Codex series of three novels, six other novels and a collection of short stories.

Legendary writer Keith Waterhouse dies

The novelist, playwright, Fleet Street columnist and social commentator Keith Waterhouse has died at the age of 80. He worked for 35 years, until 1986 as a columnist in the Daily Mirror and then until this year for the Mail newspaper. He never missed a deadline and his columns were always witty, at times satirical, but always contained pertinent social comment. He was also prolific novelist and playwright, his most famous play being Billy Liar, with the film version being released in 1959. He also wrote for television, notably The Frost Report and the Worzel Gummidge series. Wellington City Libraries holds 17 of his novels and many collections of his newspaper columns. His comic novels include Mrs. Pooter’s Diary, Bimbo, Palace Pier and his last, Good Grief.

Western writer Elmer Kelton dies

The much acclaimed prolific Western writer Elmer Kelton has died aged 83. He began his career as a journalist after serving in the United States Army during World War II. He was farm and ranch editor for the San Angelo Standard-Times for 15 years, then spent 22 years as editor of Livestock Weekly.  His first short story was published 1948 and his first novel Hot Iron in 1955. From then he published over 60 fiction and non-fiction titles. His novel, The good old boys was published in 1978 and was made into a television movie in 1995. He received numerous awards for his fiction, the most acclaimed being, The time it never rained, published in 1974, The man who rode Midnight published in 1988 and most recently Way of the Coyote published in 2002.

Elmer Kelton was more than a typical Western writer, with most of his novels set in recent times with characters facing the problems of modern day range life.

New Zealand poet Alistair Campbell dies at 84

It’s love isn’t it?‘ was released in 2008 a year after the death of  his wife and poet Meg Campbell, and now, a year later, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell has passed away.

The reading of this anthology in 2008 was a bittersweet pleasure in that Alistair had assembled the poems himself, placing the similarly themed poems of Meg’s on every facing page beside one of his.

The order of these poems would change so that where previously one of Alistair’s led now it was Meg’s. At some point in the list of contents at the front of the book the author is no longer stated and it is up to the reader to decide which poem belongs to which author, which narrative to which person. That sometimes this seems impossible is tribute to the strong, undeniable thread that ran between them.

John O’Connor wrote that, ‘Campbell’s oeuvre is vital, and varied in subject, voice and structure…’ and even the assembly of an anthology by Campbell becomes personal, structurally creative and heartbreakingly revealing.

The dark lord of Savaiki : collected poems,’ is a good place to start for insight into all the periods of this great writer’s work. It contains poems about love, Kapiti, Gallipoli, his Polynesian ancestors, madness and Meg…

R.I.P David Carradine

Actor David Carradine died on the 3rd of June in Bangkok, Thailand, aged 72 years.

Carradine was the eldest son of legendary character actor John Carradine. He was born in Hollywood and educated at San Francisco State College, where he studied music theory and composition. It was while writing music for the Drama Department’s annual revues that he discovered his own passion for the stage, joining a Shakespearean repertory company and learning his craft on his feet.

His first break came when he was cast opposite Barbara Hershey in ‘Boxcar Bertha‘, but he would go on to become best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine (‘Grasshopper’), a Shaolin priest travelling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series “Kung Fu,” which aired in 1972-75.  His subsequent career included more than 100 feature films, including the cult movie ‘Death Race 2000‘ as well as a return to TV, playing the grandson of his original character in ‘Kung Fu: The Legend Continues’ (1993-1997).

Carradine received the Best Actor Award from the National Board of Film Review as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Woody Guthrie in ‘Bound for Glory‘ (1976)  and won critical acclaim for his work as Cole Younger in ‘The Long Riders‘ (1980), and a second Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role in ‘North & South‘ (1985).

While Carradine spent the majority of the 80’s & 90’s in low budget B movies Quentin Tarantino resurrected his career in 2003, casting him as the title character in ‘Kill Bill, Vol. 1‘, & ‘Kill Bill, Vol. 2‘, where his portrayal of ‘Bill’ the sinister sword wielding head of a team of crack assassins, gained him a new cult following & his fourth Golden Globe nomination.