David Donachie obituary


My buddy the historic novelist David Donachie, who has died aged 79, after affected by most cancers, used to say that he turned a author after making an attempt most different careers first. He had been a home painter, salesman, truck driver, publican, ice-cream salesman, chauffeur and backstage hand within the theatre earlier than turning his hand to authorship. It was no surprise that the mud jacket of his first novel informed readers that he had had extra jobs than birthdays.

That novel, The Satan’s Personal Luck, set on a British warship throughout the Napoleonic wars, was printed in 1991, and thereafter a stream of historic novels, distinguished by their tempo and their creator’s energetic sense of historical past, adopted.

Though most, such because the John Pearce adventures and the Nelson and Emma trilogy, had been set within the late 18th-century navy, there have been additionally crime novels, trilogies primarily based in Republican Rome, the sixth-century Norman interval in southern Italy, in Byzantium and throughout the Crusades, some underneath the pseudonyms Tom Connery and Jack Ludlow. David not often produced fewer than two books a 12 months and the ultimate tally was 54: an American writer just lately contracted to publish all of them within the US market.

David served two phrases as chairman of the Society of Authors between 2016 and 2020, and campaigned for improved rewards for writers from publishers.

He was born in Edinburgh, the youngest of 4 kids of Bethea (nee Bates), previously a Nineteen Thirties huge band singer, and John Donachie, a painter and decorator, who had met his future spouse when ballroom dancing. David was educated at Holy Cross academy via each main and secondary education, however claimed to excel at solely two topics, historical past and truancy. He left simply earlier than his fifteenth birthday with no tutorial {qualifications}, to develop into apprenticed to his father.

He left for London earlier than finishing his apprenticeship and took a collection of jobs the place he may, the longest being a stagehand at varied West Finish theatres together with the Palladium, the Coliseum, and the Previous Vic underneath Sir Laurence Olivier, whom he a lot admired for his friendliness to the backstage crew, in addition to Chichester and the Yvonne Arnaud theatre in Guildford. It was whereas working on the Spherical Home in Chalk Farm, north London, that he found an unused chest freezer that he commandeered lucratively to promote ice-creams at pop concert events.

David turned a union rep throughout 10 years’ working on the Coliseum the place, by no means one to face again, he turned a thorn within the administration’s facet, finally contriving his personal dismissal and shifting together with his associate, the actor and author Sarah Grazebrook, and their two kids, Thomas and Charlotte, to Deal on the Kent coast.

Sarah died in 2021. David is survived by Thomas and Charlotte and two grandchildren, Lewis and Alex.


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