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Raven, Simon

series novels sequences army

(British, 1927–2001)

Raven was educated at Charterhouse school and Cambridge, and subsequently served in the army; these institutions have formed his fictional territory, in which the upper classes collide with bohemia, foreigners, and especially each other. Raven's fiction is organized into two novel sequences, Alms for Oblivion (10 novels, 1964–76) and The First Born of Egypt (7 novels, 1984–92), featuring a vast range of interconnected characters. Variously good, evil, weak, or merely unfortunate, they all revolve around the bisexual author, Fielding Gray, and the friends and acquaintances made at school and in the army. The first series begins with The Rich Pay Late (1964), centring on political and business corruption, and ends in Venice with The Survivors (1976) and the impending marriage of scheming Lord Canteloupe to the psychic, sexually precocious Baby Llewellyn. The second series opens with Morning Star (1984) and concludes destructively in The Troubadour (1992), essentially working through the horrendous, though often comical consequences of their union. Raven's novels are crowded, addictive, and very entertaining, full of scandal, blackmail, murder, and sexual activity. The first series moves backwards and forwards in time, while the second is more sequential. Their appeal also lies in their architecture, their air of erudition, snobbery, and high camp, the pleasures of reading about the utterly immoral. Raven also wrote two mock-Gothic works outside the sequences but featuring some of the same characters. The best is September Castle (1983).

Anthony Powell, Evelyn Waugh, Hugh Walpole  JS

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