H. E. Bates was born in 1905 at Rushden in Northamptonshire and was educated at Kettering Grammar School. He worked as a journalist and clerk on a local newspaper before publishing his first book, The Two Sisters, when he was twenty. In the next fifteen years he acquired a distinguished reputation for his stories about English country life. During the Second World War he was a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F. and some of his stories of service life, The Greatest People in the World (1942), How Sleep the Brave (1943) and The Face of England (1953), were written under the pseudonym of 'Flying Officer X'. His subsequent novels of Burma, The Purple Plain and The Jacaranda Tree, and of India, The Scarlet Sword, stemmed directly or indirectly from his experience in the Eastern theatre of war. Perhaps one of his most famous works of fiction is the bestselling novel Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944).
In 1958 his writing took a new direction with the appearance of The Darling Buds of May, the first of the popular Larkin family novels, which was followed by A Breath of French Air (1959), When the Green Woods Laugh (1960), Oh! To Be in England (1963) and A Little of What You Fancy (1970). His autobiography appeared in three volumes, The Vanished World (1969), The Blossoming World (1971) and The World in Ripeness (1972). His last works included the novel, The Triple Echo (1971), and a collection of short stories, The Song of the Wren (1972). H. E. Bates also wrote miscellaneous works on gardening, essays on country life, several plays including The Day of Glory (1945), The Modern Short Story (1941) and a story for children, The White Admiral (1968). His works have been translated into sixteen languages. A posthumous collection of his stories, The Yellow Meads of Asphodel, appeared in 1976.
H. E. Bates was awarded the C.B.E. in 1973 and died in January 1974. He was married in 1931 and had four children.
Author photo © Mark Gerson
August 2010 Guest Editor Veronica Henry on The Darling Buds of May... The Larkins are a total contrast to the Corleones, but equally compelling. The characters and the setting are so wonderfully vivid – you can taste actually taste the strawberries and feel the sun on your back. And Ma Larkin is the ultimate domestic goddess –Bates’ descriptions of her legendary feasts leave your mouth watering.
At thirty-four, H.E. Bates was deemed too old for active service in WWII. But as a successful author, was commissioned by the nascent RAP Public Relations unit to publicise the bravery of the fighter pilots. Bates was posted to Oakington and Tangmere air bases where, over drinks with the pilots, he gathered their stories and wrote them as Flying Officer X. The stories convey the pilots' personal qualities and the forces that motivated them. They blend the action and suspense of aerial battles, the tragedy of friendships cut off too soon, and life enduring against all odds. Collected into one volume for the first time, along with five previously unpublished stories from the era, this is a remarkable collection. Includes an introduction by Patrick Bishop, bestselling author of Bomber Boys: Fighting Back 1940-1945
Published in 1970, The Triple Echo was Bates's last significant novella, but one which he described as taking twenty-five years to complete.Set in the 1940s, the wife of a war prisoner lives in desperate loneliness and fear on an isolated farmstead. She encounters a young farmboy completely out of his element as a soldier, and the two carve out a relationship in defiance of the war around them. His decision to escape the military and to dress as his lover's sister to avoid detection eventually leads to tragedy. In a late essay Bates discusses the long evolution of the story's plot, conceived in 1943 with two sisters and completed in 1968 with just one, in what Bates calls 'an exceptional example of stumbling and groping or, if you will, of my own prolonged stupidity.' A film version starring Oliver Reed, Brian Deacon, and Glenda Jackson was premiered in November 1972, and issued in the United States with the title Soldiers in Skirts.
The Day of the Tortoise, a novella published in 1961, is a touching tale of a brief interlude of pleasure in the stale existence of Fred Tomlinson, a man nearing his sixties. A bachelor, Fred shops, cleans, cooks, and otherwise indulges the eccentric demands of his three spinster sisters until a chance meeting with the fun-loving Kitty who, without the sisters' knowledge, begins to disrupt the household's long-established routines. Penniless, heavy-drinking, and pregnant by a married man, Kitty introduces Fred to dance, drink, kisses, and song while lodging in the stable. With Kitty's inevitable departure, will Fred retain some of his newly-discovered capacity for rebelliousness and joy?
Published in 1972, The Song of the Wren contains some light entertainments in the style of the Uncle Silas tales, alongside some more serious stories concerning thwarted love, love triangles, and, in two of the cases, the violence that comes out of psyches twisted by love. 'The Song of the Wren' features the intriguing Miss Shuttleworth as she spars with a young sociologist conducting a survey on various issues, leaving him dumfounded by her apparently mad behaviour and no more appreciative of nature than when he started. She appears again in 'Oh! Sweeter Than the Berry' where she proves herself more than a match for a visiting minister. Convincing him to try one homemade potion after another, she engages the tipsy Reverend in a theological debate until, stunned, he wobbles away and falls to his knees to pray for her.Taking a darker, more abstract turn 'The Man Who Loved Squirrels' is a tale of a woodsman who works alone and lives with his mother, finding company only in the forest's squirrels. A chance meeting with a traveling London woman disrupts his life and ends in tragedy. 'The Tiger Moth' depicts an affair between an airman and a schoolteacher, whose husband is missing in action. The tale hearkens back to Bates's war-time Flying Officer X stories in style, flight accounts, and pilot jargon.The bonus story 'Music for Christmas', first published in 1951, is a comic portrayal of provincial rivalries, involving a musical snob with London tastes, a north Midlands woman favouring local talent, and, relaying gossip and innuendo between the two, a grocery deliveryman.
First published in 1968, The Wild Cherry Tree is a late collection of ten tales including comic vignettes, a humorous celebration of the sensual life, and several explorations of love, loneliness, and problematic relationships. 'The Wild Cherry Tree' sees the wife of a pig-farmer who dresses like a 'shabby, straddling scarecrow' as she tends her pigs by day, but, alone in the evenings, adorns herself in exotic clothes and jewels without leaving the house. That is until one day, when she has to deal with the consequences.'Same Time, Same Place' follows an impoverished spinster and a lonely bachelor who become friends, but when he drunkenly and clumsily proposes to her she avoids him, denying herself 'the possibility of friendship with a man who genuinely likes her.''The First Day of Christmas' observes a man with his lover on a festive evening out, surrounded by fellow drinkers and full of saucy dialogue, who is torn between asking her hand and burying his grief in drink. 'The Black Magnolia' celebrates the sensual life in a farce involving two voluptuous and liberated women and a repressed, tee-total bachelor. The bonus story 'A Waddler' is Bates's first published story, and is a village sketch with colourful dialogue. It follows a man as he deals with the death of his overly critical wife, as he is conversely complimented by a fellow widow on carrying his grief so well.
First published in 1968, The Four Beauties is Bates's last collection of novellas offering a mixture of comedy, adventure, a semi-autobiographical piece and an exploration of a dark love triangle.'The Simple Life' is set at a country cottage offering the joys of a humble existence, and focuses on a bitter alcoholic wife who finds temporary pleasure in a seventeen-year-old boy. A reminiscence of newspaper reporter, reflecting Bates's own experiences at the Northamptonshire Chronicle, 'The Four Beauties' concerns the narrator's complicated relationship with three lovely and highly-sexed daughters, as well as their mother. A television adaptation Country Matters was aired in March 1973.'The Chords of Youth' sees Bates revive the character of Aunt Leonora, first introduced in the 1965 story 'The Picnic', in this comic novella in which she entertains a visiting German, mistaking him for an old flame. Linguistic confusion, abundant food and wine, and a pompous English bureaucrat contribute to the humorous unfolding of the story.In contrasting tone, 'The White Wind' is a late novella featuring a young man coming to terms with life's realities, with considerable action and violence and an irascible man serving as the captain of a boat. The element of a dedicated doctor vainly trying to get Pacific islanders to take their medicines is based on Bates's own Tahitian travels.
First published in 1964, The Fabulous Mrs. V. is a late collection of twelve stories celebrating comedy and Bates's ability to paint amusing, idiosyncratic women.'A Couple of Fools' follows two fashionable young women, ripe for a luxurious Sunday afternoon outing, who find that their flamboyant hats win them attention and favours at every step. They and their male admirers become too drunk for anything but a taxi home. Another story similarly celebrates liquor, food, and sex. 'A Party for the Girls' is a comic celebration of life where a group of older women drink lavish quantities of alcohol at a luncheon and compete for the attention of the sole male guest.'The Trespasser' is a comic piece involving a near-sighted and eccentric spinster 'who looked not at all unlike a round fresh radish,' and a young man who watches with some disgust as his aunt orchestrates the seduction of her future husband. But it is not just the women who are given Bates's quirky treatment.'The Cat Who Sang' observes an overworked teacher who hallucinates that his black cat Susie is able to sing Schubert's 'Trout' theme. In 'A Dream of Fair Women' a body building adolescent boy engages in vivid fantasies about women risque enough to be reprinted in Penthouse Magazine in 1965. Also included with this cast of quirky characters is a retired Reverend in bonus story 'The Electric Christ', who becomes enamoured with a statue of Christ with an electric halo and purchases it for his home.The Times Literary Supplement found that the collection 'demonstrates that both his vigour and unique ability to evoke, visually, his settings and characters remain undiminished.'
Published posthumously in 1976, these stories include some familiar characters and scenarios, as well as an uncharacteristic vignette portraying urban hooligans.The title story, 'The Yellow Meads of Asphodel', looks at the apparently stagnant lives of a brother and sister, both in their forties, who live together in the country house left to them by their parents. Their lives are uprooted, however, when one of them falls in love.Two loved characters are revisited. Uncle Silas in 'Loss of Pride', where Silas recounts how he and his friends dealt with an obnoxious braggart and womanizer; and in 'The Proposal', published shortly after Bates's death, the story continues Bates's entertaining tales of Miss Shuttleworth.In 'The Lap of Luxury', a year after the end of war, two former pilots, Maxie and Roger, revisit France to trace Maxie's escape route from a prisoner of war camp. They separate, and Roger is taken in by a lovely, rich widow. But after nearly a year, his leisurely life ends with the arrival of the woman's true lover. The collection also features two bonus stories. First published in 1934, 'The Mad Woman' is a comic sketch about two boys, frustrated in the constraints of youth where everything is 'boring', who decide to spy on the local mad woman. The tale relates their wild speculations, their suspense and fear, and the stories they concoct after their adventure. 'From This Time Forward', first published in 1943, is narrated by a pilot, visiting the family of a recently deceased colleague, who learns a different side to his old friend's character. He discusses, with the aristocratic mother and sister of the dead pilot, their conflicting memories in a wrought and tender exploration of the fallacy of knowing.
First published in 1960, this collection of four novellas continue Bates's sensitive, often witty, explorations of unhappy love. The title story, 'An Aspidistra in Babylon', is a reminiscence of a girl's loss of innocence. Christine, who describes herself at eighteen as 'dull as one of the aspidistras that cluttered up ... our little boarding house' is seduced by the forty-year-old Captain Blaine, who charms her imagination with stories of a life on the Continent. 'A Month by the Lake' is a comedy of errors set in 1920s Lake Como revolving around two middle-aged vacationers unable to express their affection for each other. A film version starring James Fox, Vanessa Redgrave, and Uma Thurman was directed by John Irvin in 1995. Also featured in this collection is 'A Prospect of Orchards', as narrated by a familiarly mild-mannered Bates character, concerning unfolding affections and blossoming relationships in this quirky tale of extra-marital intrigue. In contrast to this is the darker tone of 'The Grapes of Paradise', where the narrator relates the tale of a fellow traveller in Tahiti, laced with callousness, jealousy, and violence. Included in this edition is bonus story 'The Duet', first published in 1935 and never before featured in any collection. It is the tale of a young choirmaster's son, eager for the autographs of two famous singers. Ignored throughout the day, he follows the players he now considers haughty to a private room where, though the keyhole, he spies an intimate and affectionate scene between them that changes his perceptions completely. The Spectator calls Bates 'a supreme anecdotalist, endowed with vast self-confidence and the gift of imagery ten times the size of life.'
The Black Boxer Tales, first published in 1932, H. E. Bates's third collection displays a growing emphasis on plot and characterisation, while amply displaying his established skill at creating plotless atmospheric pieces. Several stories explore a sense of a new and changing world of carnivals, economic challenges and traveling performers.The title story, 'The Black Boxer' is an intricate portrait of an aging boxer told against the backdrop of the colourful social lives of carnival workers. Having beaten a fighter twenty years his junior with a foul cut below the belt, he is left 'tired and stupefied and ashamed' in Bates's sensitive exploration of the human condition. Bates condsidered this tale, along with 'Charlotte Esmond', also in this collection, as accomplishing his difficult transition from a focus on mood to a focus on character, thereby projecting him 'into a new world' which he is clearly relishing and mastering. The rest of the collection is a thoughtful contrast portraying the landscape and people familiar from his previous Midlands tales, with themes of children and youth in 'A Flower Piece' and 'Death in Spring', farmland settings in 'The Mower' and 'Sheep', and looking at innocent and not-so-innocent flirtations in 'A Threshing Day for Esther' and 'Love Story' respectively.Additionally, as a bonus story never before featured in any collection, 'The Laugh' (1926) is one of Bates's early comic tales set in his trademark rural locale with charming dialect and witty, sensitive prose. The story follows a young man, the pending visit of his rich aunt, and a sweetheart who tests his love. The Spectator calls him 'a sensitive observer, with a quick eye for significant gesture, a tender imagination, and a sure way with words,' while the Times Literary Supplement comments on his 'mastery of both matter and manner.'
First published in 1961, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal and Other Stories is a collection full of light and shade, setting sensitive character studies against Bates's signature vibrant, delicate imagery. A fussy and obsessive golfer encounters a troubled young woman at a wind-swept beach in 'Lost Ball', a retired Colonel, isolated and suffering from dementia, suddenly rejects the friendship of his charming neighbour when she acquires a television in 'Where the Cloud Breaks'.The title story, 'Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal,' takes its name from a Tennyson poem and is a picture of social change in post-war rural England. It draws a portrait of a sheltered and uncultured butcher's wife exposed to a new tenant in the countryside a flamboyant homosexual who delights in throwing large parties. Of the collection as a whole, the Times Literary Supplement says the stories 'all confirm Mr Bates's position in the first rank of contemporary short-story writers.'Also included in this collection is bonus story 'The Grace Note', first published in the Fortnightly in 1936. It is a humorous tale of the Chipperfields, a family of brass players devoted to music, but whose jealousy and stubbornness dashes their dreams of a Chipperfield band and tears the family apart.
In his second collection of novellas, first published in 1957, Bates tackles bitter romantic deceptions and love triangles in what the Times Literary Supplement calls 'Mr Bates at his best.'In 'Night Run to the West' a greedy wife plots the death of her invalid husband, as seen through the eyes of her lover, a civilised truck-driver who has been innocently drawn into her web. 'Summer in Salander' involves an inert shipping clerk and an attractive, demanding woman who visits his island. Having left her own husband, she selfishly sets out to destroy the young man she meets while on holiday. Bates cites this story as a rare case in which a work of imagination is later simulated in real life, when a similar woman appeared on board a ship where Bates and his wife were returning to the island he used as the story's setting. 'The Queen of Spain Fritillary' looks back at a summer flirtation a woman pursued with an older man when she was seventeen. Bates portrays the pastoral setting of their romance, and the foolishness and thoughtlessness that characterised their relationship.Also included in this collection is bonus story 'Victim of Silence'. First published in the Daily Mail in 1939 it follows a young man, new to London, who is offered lodging in an ominous building. With just a torch for light, he encounters a fellow lodger, 'a war-crazy man with a gun in his hand.'
In this collection of five novellas, Bates contrasts two comic stories with the atmospheric title story, and includes a complex psychological tale alongside the romantically bleak.'The Golden Oriole' features a fragile and troubled woman, frozen in a stultifying and unconsummated marriage, who finds her sensuality awakened by a virile admirer. In 'The Ring of Truth', a man seeks to understand a disturbing and recurring dream, learns the truth about the lives and marriage of his parents, and in the process falls in love.'The Quiet Girl' sees an isolated seamstress selfishly juggle two passionless affairs, only to fall in love with a man who is just interested in superficial romance.'Mr Featherstone Takes a Ride' is a comic story featuring an amoral and easy-going swindler and an innocent hitchhiking philosophy student. And 'The World is Too Much With Us' is another comic tale about a reclusive man and a hen, who live together in domestic bliss until a buxom widow disrupts their eccentric liaison. The collection also features bonus story 'Mademoiselle', the tale of a French maid, hired by an English family, and her romantic escapades.
Colonel Julian and Other Stories was Bates's first collection following World War II, containing stories he wrote between 1941 and 1951. The New York Times called the collection 'distinguished...Mr. Bates avoids the sensational or the melodramatic; through an unerring selection of the exact gesture or thought or act or incident, he reveals the very essence of his characters' thwarted personalities.'The title story 'Colonel Julian' sees an eighty-three-year-old veteran of service in India now hosting pilots in his mansion. Here the old generation meets the new. The Colonel is fond of a young pilot, but also bewildered: by his enthusiasm so different from his own business-like relationship with war, by his lack of perspective on his role in a larger military strategy, and by an apparent absence of ethics.'The Bedfordshire Clanger' sees the welcome return of Uncle Silas after a ten year hiatus. Bates has Silas regaling his young nephew with a typical tall tale, this one involving a buxom landlady and disappointing meal with a pudding that is 'hard as a hog's back' called the Bedfordshire Clanger, but with a conclusion in which Silas, from then on, is 'never in want fur the nicest bit o' pudden in the world.'The collection also features bonus story 'For Valour', where the narrator, on a visit to an old airfield some years after the war, meets a caf owner who shows him the medals she received after her pilot son was killed over Arnhem, and tells tales of countless soldiers, and now travellers, who continue to pass by.
H.E. Bates's fifth collection is a sparkling body of work full of stories of childhood. Geoffrey West observed the collection overall as "bright with life, with individuals alive and interacting, and with the sweeping beauties of broad country backgrounds."Often cited as one of Bates's best stories, 'The Mill' relates the misfortune of a young girl in service. Bates was inspired by the daughter of a travelling greengrocer who called on his family: "It seemed to me a face moulded out of yellow clay: a face born to tragedy. I believe it is true that Hardy saw his Tess only once and from that fleeting experience, haunted also by a face, created his celebrated novel. ? We get a glimpse into Bates's negative experiences of education in both 'Little Fish', where a boy observes his father, normally a man "terrifying everyone in spasms of half-theatrical anger" become, in the presence of a school administrator, furtive and apprehensive; and in 'Jonah and Bruno', a classroom tale involving an arrogant and dictatorial teacher, a rebellious smart-mouthed student, and the eventual humiliation of the teacher by an intervening soldier.Comic relief comes in the form of witty characterisation and dialogue in 'The Irishman', and in 'The Revelation', a charming tale where the young narrator observes the housekeeper giving an elderly Uncle Silas his weekly bath; between roasting "taters" and drinking wine, Silas relates his childhood follies, including the time he chased a young woman "across the meadow with my clothes under her arms," which leads to a tender twist in the tale.
Bates's famous loveable rogue, Uncle Silas, has a unique range of work to his name. For the first time, all of these stories are gathered together in one collection, allowing readers to experience Silas from multiple perspectives. Some tales offer sly, affectionate glimpses of the narrator's great-uncle Silas the rural oldster of the earthy, boozy, incorrigible school. But there is also an active tenderness as seen in 'The Revelation,' where the narrator watches old Silas being given a bath by his surly, long-time housekeeper and realises that their relationship is intensely romantic.In 'The Lily', in a voice at once dreamy, devilish, innocent, mysterious and triumphant, 93-year-old Silas recalls his more youthful days of poaching and wooing. Elsewhere, in 'A Funny Thing' Silas chortles over tall tales of his Casanova days, trying to out-lie his dandyish, equally ancient brother-in-law, Cosmo. There are nostalgic vignettes of roof-thatching, pig-wrestling, and grave-digging. Bates claims some of the stories to be "so near to reality that they needed only the slightest recolouring on my part", citing 'The Wedding,' 'The Revelation,' 'Silas the Good,' and 'The Death of Uncle Silas'. It is in these examples that we see how he was inspired by that "e;apocryphal legend ? borne of "e;every country child who keeps his ears cocked when men are talking." Silas shrewdly and gently opens the eyes of his young listener to the adult world.V.S. Pritchett acknowledged Bates's gift in the short story genre, finding that he avoided farce with Silas through the use of the "passive, wondering audience" of the boy and the fidelity of style to the "techniques of rural story-telling...Uncle Silas is in fact the scandalizing village memory at work."
The Beauty of the Dead (Jonathan Cape, 1940) featuring fifteen stories, was released to critical acclaim. Pamela Hansford Johnson wrote in John O'London's Weekly that "all have that delicate luminosity by which visions are seen more clearly than in the bright sunlight." 'Old' is a snapshot of an elderly man no longer appreciated or respected by his children and extended family during a Sunday tea. He finds a companion in his seven-year-old grand-niece, making animal shapes out of biscuits and eventually falling into a "mesmeric peace" as she brushes his hair. There is a glimpse of Bates's childhood experiences in 'Quartette', written through the eyes of a music director. The story accounts the attraction between two of the singers which the director worries is breaking up the group, yet on their last song he can feel "the passionate quality of their singing transcending the small hot room and the small bewildered minds". Bates had much personal knowledge of choirs and singing through his father, who was a choir director.'The Bridge' is narrated by a twenty-two-year-old woman while she and her older sister vie for the attention of the same man. The Spectator praised it as "a masterly short story...courageously conceived thick with symbolism, it is a triumphant display of control."For the first time, this collection features the comic bonus story 'Obadiah'. After a tough, poverty-stricken childhood, Obadiah's scheme to make his fortune begins with a pig. He wanted neither children nor romance, but a partner in business, so when he meets a widow with similar values, he wins her over in what becomes a comic sketch of a bickering couple a rare and brilliant piece of caricature in Bates's canon. Published in the New Clarion (1933), and not republished since.
The Flying Goat (Jonathan Cape, 1939) features sixteen diverse stories from slapstick sketches to portraits of marital tension; one Uncle Silas tale; and three that hark back to Bates's boyhood roots. 'A Funny Thing' is an escalating bragging match between Uncle Silas and Uncle Cosmos. Cosmos is modelled on Bates's paternal grandfather, Charles Lawrence, who was "known about Rushden as a dapper and dashing figure who spent his holidays in the south of France, where he reputedly had a number of mistresses". A television adaptation starring Albert Finney was aired in 2003.In a cautionary tale, ever-relevant today, 'Shot Actress Full Story' is an account of the death of a former actress, and of the damaging effect of rumours. In commenting on the public's obsession with scandal and journalism, the tale reflects Bates's early newspaper work at the Northamptonshire Chronicle as well as a wider social commentary.The Times Literary Supplement singled out 'The White Pony' and 'The Ox' as "faultless things, jewels as luminous and as finely cut as any Mr. Bates has turned out. In each of them the evocative strength of his countryside pictures is joined to a still and poignant emotion that seems to project a background of universal experience for a particular sorrow."The bonus story 'Pensioned Off' is a sensitive and touching tale of a Latin teacher approaching the end of his career, reflecting on his obsolete methods of trying to teach a dying language. The story is based in part on Bates's own Latin teacher who he described as "extremely fat", so in a sweetly comic moment we hear how he fasts every Thursday so as not to become obese. Published in the New Adelphi (1929), and not republished since.
The Nature of Love (Michael Joseph, 1953) was Bates's first published collection of novellas.It contains three stories, different in weight but similar in texture, drawing from rural landscapes and the sensitive, poignant studies of the people that bring them to life. Dulcima, dedicated to W. Somerset Maugham, is a tale of a simple girl in rural England whose manipulation of both an old widower and a young forest worker has tragic results. In 1971, EMI Productions released a film adaptation starring Carol White and John Mills. The Grass God is a literary portrait of Fitzgerald, a landowner who is unfeeling in the treatment of his tenants and his wife, who, whilst bumbling through a summer affair with a young beauty, gets a taste of his own medicine. Further afield, The Delicate Nature follows a young man to the Malaysian jungle to assist a plantation owner, but enters into an affair with his wife. For the first time, this collection includes the bonus story 'Old Lady' which continues the retrospective theme and the dalliances of young romance.
The Bride Comes to Evensford, a novella first published in 1943, follows a woman from her arrival in a small town (modelled on Bates's native Rushden) to her work for a draper, her marriage to him, her increasing command over the business and the household, and finally to her infatuation with a young man as a widow in her fifties. Written and published in the midst of Bates's work for the Air Ministry, but hearkening back in style and subject matter to his pre-war stories, this is a beautiful study of one woman's life, her hopes and disappointments. Philip Toynbee stated that it had "e;a fine elegant shape, covering with formidable skill a period of thirty years in only twice as many pages...Mr. Bates is a master of restraint...in a period of over-exuberance."
Something Short and Sweet, H. E. Bates's sixth collection first published in 1937, demonstrates his mastery of character and form. Richard Church, writing in John O'London's Weekly, stated that this collection confirmed his belief that Bates "is an immortal...Here is a creative artist whose technique in the art of the short story is comparable with that of the great masters in this form." The title story explores the intricacies of the relationship between a forty-year-old evangelist and his twenty-year-old assistant. 'Cloudburst' and 'Spring Snow' are vignettes of human struggle in a rural context, similar to much of Bates's earlier work. 'Finger Wet, Finger Dry' and 'The Sow and Silas' continue Bates's success with the antics of Uncle Silas. The Morning Post commented that "each story stands out individual and distinct...In each the theme has been worked over, walked round, sifted, considered, a stance as viewpoint selected, the ultimate significance determined."
The Daffodil Sky, first published in 1955 (Michael Joseph), mixes eclectic characters travelling to foreign lands with poetic treatments of rural life in Bates's Northamptonshire. 'A Place in the Heart' is set in Asia against a colourful backdrop of rickshaws and ceremonial drumming. An Englishman, shortly before returning home, romances a local girl in this tale of lost love when his inarticulate and flippant goodbye is achingly contrasted with her disappointment.Closer to home, 'The Evolution of Saxby', one of Bates's best-known stories, concerns a cold, controlling woman who buys, decorates and sells one house after another. Challenging this notion of constant movement and progress is her sweet but helpless husband, who wants only to settle down and garden in a place to call home.The Times noted that "there is no better writer of straightforward short stories...Mr. Bates writes simply; his instinct is a deep compassion." This collection illustrates his ability both to feel deeply, and then to reflect sensitively on the page.
Includes an introduction by Patrick Bishop, bestselling author of Bomber Boys: Fighting Back 1940-1945.The Flying Officer X stories were written by H.E. Bates in his unprecedented role as an official war writer with the R.A.F. during WWII, where he animates the realities faced by pilots tasked with protecting the skies from enemy aircraft. The resulting stories that appeared under the pseudonym Flying Officer X are portraits of individual pilots narrated by an observer who, like Bates, is on the inside of the air force without being a pilot. These portraits recount the personal history of the pilots, and convey the individual qualities and forces that motivate them. They blend the action and suspense of aerial battles, friendships cut off too soon, and life enduring against all odds. In true Bates style, the New York Times noted "e;These are tales told in impressive quiet, tales that are innocent of even the suggestion of flagrant heroism that colors so many stories about combat pilots."e;Bloomsbury Reader is delighted to collect these stories into one volume for the first time, along with five additional stories from the same period, never before included in a collection: 'Fishers' sees a bond between two soldiers from very different walks of life; 'Happy Christmas Nastashya' sees an English officer encounter a young woman in service to her country in Russia; 'The Bell' follows a young flying officer as he travels back to a familiar pub to reminisce about a lost friend; 'From this Time forward' exposes the raw emotion of losing a loved one; and 'Three Thousand and One Hours of Sergeant Kostek' shows us a man of extraordinary character and flying ability.
The Cruise of the Breadwinner is an adventure at sea, following Snowy as he comes of age through a shower of sea-spray and bullets. The youngest crew member on a coastal patrol boat, he longs for action as his sharp eyes pick out distant plane battles and his ears strain to the sound of faint gun-fire. But when finally the war envelops him and his crew-mates in its terrible grasp, he must face the realities of pain, fear, and death. Rescuing two downed pilots, one English and one German, the humanity of the enemy and the true cost of war become all too clear. Here Bates exhibits his staggering ability to write character, building an exhilarating tension on board with the dynamic between the grumbling yet skilful engine operator, the wide eyed enthusiasm of Snowy, and the rotund, clumsily tender Captain. We witness the impact of war's heroics and futility on the boat and the boy during a short, violent voyage off the coast of England, told with such fluency and lightness of touch that it is a tale of action as well as beauty. The New York Times said that Bates "painted it all with a loose, sure brush that does not waste a stroke. ?
The Wedding Party, first published in 1965 (Michael Joseph), is a collection of short stories evoking both the dark and light, and the comedy and tragedy in human nature. Bates employs a deceptive delicateness of touch in his descriptions and character sketches, here mastering the true essentials of the art of the short story; he says much by saying little, what is left out more poignant than the words on the page.With a host of larger than life characters, we meet the scheming and eccentric Aunt Leonora, who fibs her way through the comic tale 'The Picnic'. The collection also unites two loveable rogues Captain Poopdeck and Uncle Silas, and brings us the farcical tale 'Early One Morning' which provide a sharp contrast with the sombre and haunting tones of pieces like 'The Primrose Place' and 'The Winter Sound', and the lyrical but bitter episode of 'The Wedding Party' itself.
Seven Tales and Alexander beautifully captures a spectrum of emotions from innocent childhood and early adolescence, to those of simple-hearted and uninquiring old age. On its original release in 1929 (The Scholartis Press), The New Statesman observed that Bates has 'by seeing with a child's eyes, found a world of marvellous and strange beauty, and has given the smallest shades of change and emotion the magnitude and drama they have in the minds of children and poets.'In 'The Child' we meet a young girl mesmerised by the sea seen through a multi-coloured window, and, in contrast, 'The Comic Actor' sees an unsuccessful farmer who, encouraged by his devoted family, fulfils a life ambition by participating in a village play.Bates draws on his own experiences of the barber shops of his youth in 'The Barber'. Forced to visit them on Saturdays, he was made to wait until the barber had served the army of 'black-necked, poaching, shoemaking, prizefighting, often stinking men.'The title story, 'Alexander', follows a young boy as he travels with his uncle by horse cart to the garden of an eccentric old lady, where each year they pick fruit. The boy becomes enamoured with a young girl, meets a darkly cunning and cynical poacher, picks a forbidden apricot as a gift for the girl, and is consequently thrust into first reflections on pleasure, pain, and life itself in this most charming story.
The Woman Who Had Imagination, H.E. Bates's fourth volume of stories, first published in 1934 (Jonathan Cape), is a fascinating collection of contrasts. The stories combine elements of realism and poetry, beauty and ugliness, tenderness and irony. Graham Greene, writing in the Spectator, lauded the collection as 'the first volume of Mr. Bates's maturity' and Bates as 'an artist of magnificent originality with a vitality quite unsuspected hitherto'.This is brilliantly demonstrated in the title story, 'The Woman Who Had Imagination', the heart-rending story of an Italian woman, revealed through the casual meetings and conversations that take place on a day's outing of a country choir. The contrast between 'The Waterfall', with its melancholy and grace, and the disturbing tensions in 'The Brothers', emphasises Bates's mastery of both the delicate and the disquieting. It is also in this collection that we are introduced to the much-loved comic narrator, Uncle Silas, in 'The Lily', 'The Wedding' and 'Death of Uncle Silas.'In addition to the original collection this edition includes two extra stories. 'The Country Doctor' concerns a woman's grief on the death of her dearest friend. It was first published in the Fortnightly Review in 1931 with the title 'The Country Sale', and later in the limited edition The Story Without an End and The Country Doctor (White Owl Press, 1932), and has not been reprinted since. 'The Parrot' chronicles a man, a marriage and the eponymous parrot, and has only previously been published in 1928 in T.P.'s Weekly, founded by the radical MP, T.P. O'Connor.