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Lionel Davidson

Lionel Davidson

The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Writer
Countries United Kingdom
Occupations Submariner Writer Novelist Sailor Children's writer
Gender male
Birth 31 March 1922 (Kingston upon Hull, Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber)
Death 21 October 2009 (London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom)
Residence HM Prison Hull
The details

Lionel Davidson FRSL (31 March 1922 – 21 October 2009) was an English novelist who wrote spy thrillers.

Life and career

Lionel Davidson was born in 1922 in Hull, Yorkshire, one of nine children of an immigrant Jewish tailor. He left school early and worked in the London offices of The Spectator magazine as an office boy. Later, he joined the Keystone Press Agency. During World War II, he served with the Submarine Service of the Royal Navy.

When the war ended, he returned to the Keystone Agency and travelled all over Europe as a freelance reporter. It was during one of these trips that he came up with the idea for his first thriller, The Night of Wenceslas (1960). The novel is set in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, and tells the story of young Nicolas Whistler, a 24-year-old Londoner whose business trip to Prague goes horribly awry. Its taut prose and skilful plotting made The Night of Wenceslas an instant success, and immediately pushed Davidson into the front ranks of the genre, inviting favourable comparisons with such luminaries as Eric Ambler. Davidson became one of the handful of living writers to have their first novel appear in a green Penguin jacket. The book won the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger Award (the top prize for crime and spy fiction in Britain) as well as the Authors' Club First Novel Award. It was filmed as Hot Enough for June (1964), with Dirk Bogarde in the role of Whistler.

His second novel The Rose of Tibet (1962) was equally well received. A Long Way to Shiloh (1966) won Davidson his second Gold Dagger, and he achieved a third with The Chelsea Murders (1978). The Chelsea Murders was also adapted for television as part of Thames TV's Armchair Thriller series in 1981.

Davidson then went into an extended hiatus after the publication of The Chelsea Murders. He was not to write another thriller for the next sixteen years. Kolymsky Heights appeared in 1994 to international acclaim and introduced its author to a new generation of readers.

Davidson never quite managed to fulfil his early promise to become a major figure in British spy fiction, although his best novels are of high quality. In 2001, he was awarded the CWA's Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award, for making "a significant contribution to crime fiction published in the English language".

Davidson wrote a number of children's novels under the pseudonym David Line. Run For Your Life is an example of writing which creates suspense from the opening page.

Lionel Davidson died on 21 October 2009 in north London after suffering a long illness. Davidson’s first wife, the former Fay Jacobs, died in 1988. He was survived by his sons Philip and Nick.

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