West, Paul Noden,
1930–2015, British-American writer, b. Eckington, Derbyshire, England, B.A. Univ. of Birmingham (1950), M.A. Columbia (1953). After serving in the Royal Air Force and teaching at Memorial Univ. of Newfoundland, he joined the faculty of Pennsylvania State Univ. (1963–95). West produced more than 50 books, including novels, memoirs, essays, and criticism. His fictional characters are quirky, often caught in absurd, unsettling, existential situations; his style is ornate and exuberant. His early novels include A Quality of Mercy
(1961) and a trilogy: Alley Jaggers
(1966), I'm Expecting to Live Quite Soon
(1970), and Bela Lugosi's White Christmas
(1972). Among his historical novels are The Very Rich Hours of Count Von Stauffenberg
(1980), about a German army officer who plotted to kill Hitler; Lord Byron's Doctor
(1989); Sporting with Amaryllis
(1996), about the adolescent John Milton; The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper
(1991); Tent of Orange Mist
(1995), set during brutal Japanese occupation of Nanjing; and O.K.: The Corral, the Earps, and Doc Holliday
(2000). Life with Swan
(1999) is based on his marriage to the writer Diane Ackerman. Among his essays, some were about his family: Words for a Deaf Daughter
(1969) and My Father's War
(2005); some about his own experiences: Out of My Depths: A Swimmer in the Universe
(1983), about learning to swim as an adult, and The Shadow Factory
(2008), about his recovery from a devastating stroke; and others about aspects of literature.
See memoir by D. Ackerman (2011); D. W. Madden, Understanding Paul West (1993).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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