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Clive King
Born David Clive King
(1924-04-28)28 April 1924
Richmond, Surrey, England
Died 10 July 2018(2018-07-10) (aged 94)
Thurlton, Norfolk, England
Nationality British
Education King's School, Rochester
Alma mater Downing College, Cambridge (BA, 1943)
School of Oriental and African Studies
Genre Children's literature, historical fiction
Notable works Stig of the Dump (1963)

David Clive King (28 April 1924 – 10 July 2018) was an English author best known for his children's book Stig of the Dump (1963). He served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in the last years of the Second World War and then worked for the British Council in a wide range of overseas postings, from which he later drew inspiration for his novels.

Life and career

Clive King was born in Richmond, Surrey England on 28 April 1924 and grew up in Ash, Kent. He was educated at the King's School, Rochester, Kent from 1933 to 1941 and then at Downing College, Cambridge from 1941 to 1943, graduating with a BA in English. From 1943 to 1946 He served as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, which took him to the Arctic, India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Australia, Malaya and Japan, where he saw the then recent devastation of Hiroshima.

After leaving the Reserve, King began working as an officer of the British Council and was posted to Amsterdam as an Administrative Officer (1948–50). Subsequent postings for the British Council included Belfast, as a Staff Welfare Officer (1950–51); Aleppo, Syria, as a Lecturer (1951–54); Damascus, as a Visiting Professor at the University (1954–55); Beirut, as Lecturer and Director of Studies (1960–66); and Madras, as an Education Officer (1971–73). He also served as a Warden for East Sussex County Council from 1955 to 1960. He attended the School of Oriental and African Studies in London from 1966 to 1967, then served as an Education Adviser for the East Pakistan Education Centre in Dhaka from 1967 to 1971.

Clive King started writing as a child. He once stated that his first story was a script for a Western film. He had articles published in both his school and college magazines before his first book, Hamid of Aleppo, was published by Macmillan & Co. of New York in 1958. He wrote The Town that Went South (1959), Stig of the Dump (1963) and The 22 Letters (1966) before deciding to become a full-time writer in 1973. King went on to write twenty further novels between 1972 and 2008, but he is probably best known for Stig of the Dump, which has twice been adapted for television and continues to be taught in British schools.

As a popular children's author King was invited to Children's Literature Summer Camps for members of the Puffin Book Club Holidays (predecessor to ATE Superweeks), along with other popular children's authors such as Ian Serraillier and Joan Aiken.

King was married twice, had three children and lived in Thurlton, Norfolk.


Clive King acknowledged the influence of his itinerant career on his writing: "Each of the things which I have written has been inspired by a particular place which I have visited or lived in. The settings are always as authentic as possible and they determine the action." These influences are noticeable in the settings for The Night The Water Came (relief operations on a tropical island), Snakes and Snakes (India) and The 22 Letters (the Middle East).

Hamid of Aleppo

Hamid of Aleppo (1958), illustrated by Giovannetti, follows the adventures of a Syrian Golden Hamster. Hamid has no idea what sort of creature he is. The camel tells him he is a desert rat; the tortoise calls him a fat cat without a tail. Hamid is busy digging new tunnels in his home in the side of a hill where he unearths many Things. When Hamid leaves his tunnel home he brings with him many of the Things he has found there. After many travels and encounters with other wayfarers, Hamid digs a tunnel which brings him to the surface in the office of the Director of a Museum, who explains to Hamid that he is a Syrian Golden Hamster and that his Things are relics of antiquity. Hamid the Syrian Golden Hamster donates his Things to the Museum and is rewarded.

Stig of the Dump

Stig of the Dump (1963), illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, follows the adventures of a boy who discovers a Stone-Age cave-dweller living at the bottom of a disused chalk pit in Kent that has been used as an unofficial rubbish dump. The concept does not explicitly involve any of the common fantasy devices such as timeslip or magic. The book has been reprinted many times and has been adapted for television twice.

The 22 Letters

The 22 Letters (1966), illustrated by Richard Kennedy, was the 250th title published by Puffin Books. Set in the eastern Mediterranean world of the 15th century BC, the story follows the adventures of the three sons of a Phoenician master builder through three loosely linked stories in which they travel to Egypt (Sinai), to the court of King Minos (Crete) and to Ugarit. They return and save their city from invasion with the help of the three inventions they find or discover: celestial navigation, horsemanship and alphabetic writing. In its time The 22 Letters was considered, at over 300 pages, to be very long for a children's book, although its scholarship and scope were admired.

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