Kingsley Amis

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Sir Kingsley William Amis (16 April 1922 – 22 October 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. He was the father of the British novelist Martin Amis.

Biography[change | edit source]

Kingsley Amis was born in Clapham, South London, England. He went to school at the City of London School and St. John's College, Oxford. At Oxford, he met Philip Larkin and became friends. Amis served in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War.

Amis was a fan of jazz music. He liked the American musicians Sidney Bechet, Henry "Red" Allen and Pee Wee Russell.

His first novel Lucky Jim was very successfull. The novel won the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction. Lucky Jim was the first English novel that focused on an ordinary man as anti-hero. As a poet, Amis was a part of The Movement (anti-romantic poetry).

As a young man, Kingsley Amis was a member of the Communist Party. He left them when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956. After that, Amis became anti-communist, and conservative. He talks about his political change in the essay "Why Lucky Jim Turned Right" (1967).

Amis was an atheist. Novels such as The Green Man and The Anti-Death League were about the personality of a divine being. They were also about its relationship to death and dying.

Amis's novel The Old Devils won the Booker Prize in 1986. He received a knighthood in 1990.

Amis was married. The first time in 1948 to Hilary Bardwell and then to novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard in 1965. He divorced Howard in 1983. Amis spent his last years living with his first wife and her third husband. He had two sons and a daughter. His younger son was novelist Martin Amis. Martin wrote about his father's life and decline in his memoir Experience.

Science fiction[change | edit source]

Amis' interest in science fiction led to New Maps of Hell (1960). It was about how he felt about science fiction in literature. He liked the stories of Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. With the Sovietologist Robert Conquest, Amis produced the science fiction series Spectrum I–IV. This series got a lot of its ideas from the 1950s magazine Astounding Science Fiction. He wrote three science fiction novels. The Alteration was an alternate history novel set in a twentieth-century Britain. Russian Hide-and-Seek was an alternate history where Russia had conquered Britain after the Second World War. He also wrote the supernatural-horror novel The Green Man which the BBC adapted for television.

James Bond[change | edit source]

Amis wrote books about Ian Fleming's James Bond. He wrote the popular James Bond Dossier. Later, he wrote, The Book of Bond, or, Every Man His Own 007. It was a tongue-in-cheek how-to manual about being a spy like Bond. He wrote it under the name "Lt Col. William 'Bill' Tanner". Tanner was M's Chief of Staff in many of the Bond novels.

Other websites[change | edit source]