Peter Van Greenaway
country of citizenship: United Kingdom
language of expression: English
Peter Van Greenaway (1929 – 1988) was a British novelist, the author of numerous thrillers with elements of horror and satire.
He was born and educated in London, worked briefly in commercial art and acted in theatre.His first novel, The Crucified City, is the story of the aftermath of a nuclear attack on London. A motley group of people, accompanied by a mysterious, apparently mute man, undertake a last pilgrimage to Aldermaston. The action of the book takes place at Easter, and it appears that the mute, the last survivor, is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Several of Van Greenaway's books are topical political thrillers. Take the War to Washington deals with the Vietnam War, and Suffer! Little Children with the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In The Man Who Held the Queen to Ransom and Sent Parliament Packing, a British army captain stages a coup d'état in the United Kingdom; the government he attempts to establish is seen as more democratic and far more benign than the establishment he (temporarily) overthrows.
Other of his novels incorporate elements of science fiction. In Manrissa Man, vivisection experiments result in a highly advanced species of ape which can reason and talk, while in Mutants a national emergency results from the production of a rapacious species of mouse.
Van Greenaway is probably best known for The Medusa Touch, which was made into a film starring Richard Burton. The story of a radically disenchanted novelist with highly destructive telekinetic powers, its dialogue was described by Kim Newman as "incredibly misanthropic". The Medusa Touch is one of several books featuring the character Inspector Cherry of Scotland Yard.
Van Greenaway remains an interesting character in literature. Like fellow British writer Gerald Kersh he resists pigeon-holing and easy classification with many of his works treading the terrain between literary and pulp fiction, science fiction and the thriller making him, in some regards, a forerunner to such authors as Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Despite having set a number of his books in the USA he is a distinctly British author whose unique style is somewhat oddly mannered and whose characters don't quite speak like those of any other author but is described in the Science fiction Encyclopedia entry on him as 'the astringent, side-of-the-mouth pessimistic voice which became a trademark' .
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