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James Hanley Biography

(1901–85), The Furys, Drift, Hollow Sea, The Ocean, Sailor's Song, Boy, No Directions, Levine

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Bernard Gutteridge Biography to Hartshill Warwickshire

British novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, born in Dublin; he grew up in working-class Liverpool, which he vividly depicted in his most popular novel sequence, The Furys (1935). His formative years at sea in the merchant navy inspired his best work, bringing him early recognition for Drift (1930), Hollow Sea (1938), The Ocean (1942), and Sailor's Song (1944). His second book, Boy (1931), was successfully prosecuted in 1935 because of its frank account of a young sailor's sexual degradation; it remained out of print until 1990 when a new edition was published with an introduction by Anthony Burgess. Praised by such diverse admirers as Faulkner and E. M. Forster, Hanley was very much a writer's writer and never achieved the recognition he deserved during his lifetime. Wartime London gave a powerful impetus to his imagination; the experimental No Directions (1943) is a complex portrait of an artist living through the Blitz, resolutely continuing to paint. Levine (1956), the story of a Polish sailor drawn towards murder, set in London in the 1940s, is perhaps his finest achievement. Hanley also wrote many plays for radio and television.

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