JAMES CLAVELL Biography - Writers


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Name: James Clavell                                                                   
Born: 10 October 1924 Sydney, Australia                                               
Died: 7 September 1994 Switzerland                                                   
James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell (10 October 1924 - 7             
September 1994) was a British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II       
veteran and POW. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels       
and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape and       
To Sir, with Love.                                                                   
Clavell was the son of Commander Richard Clavell, a British Royal Navy officer       
who was stationed in Australia to help establish the Royal Australian Navy. In       
1940, when Clavell finished his secondary schooling at Portsmouth Grammar School,     
he joined the Royal Artillery to follow his family tradition.                         
Following the outbreak of World War II, at the age of 16 he joined the British       
Royal Artillery in 1940, and was sent to Malaya to fight the Japanese. Wounded       
by machine gun fire, he was eventually captured and sent to a Japanese prisoner       
of war camp on Java. Later he was transferred to Changi Prison in Singapore.         
Clavell suffered greatly at the hands of his Japanese captors. Changi was             
notorious for its poor living conditions. According to the introduction to King       
Rat, written by Clavell's daughter Michaela, over 90% of the prisoners who           
entered Changi never walked out. Clavell was reportedly saved, along with an         
entire battalion, by an American prisoner of war who later became the model for       
"The King" in Clavell's King Rat.                                                     
By 1946, Clavell had risen to the rank of Captain, but a motorcycle accident         
ended his military career. He enrolled at the University of Birmingham, where he     
met April Stride, an actress, whom he married in 1951.                               
Peter Marlowe is a character in the Clavell novels King Rat and Noble House,         
although he is also mentioned once as a friend of the helicopter pilot "Scragger",   
in the novel Whirlwind. Featured much more prominently in King Rat, he is an         
English FEPOW in Changi prison during World War II. In Noble House, set two           
decades later, he is a novelist researching a book about Hong Kong. He is a           
thinly veiled fictionalization of Clavell placed inside his own works. Ancestors     
of the character Peter Marlowe are also mentioned in other Clavell novels. In         
addition Peter Marlowe was said to be very important to Clavell as a character       
due to reports that Clavell suffered great mental anguish after his stay in           
Changi prison and wrote King Rat to deal with his experiences and memories of         
the time.