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Gerald Hanley (1916–1992) was a British novelist and travel writer of Irish descent.



Gerald Hanley born on 7 February, 1916, in Liverpool (not Cork, Ireland as he claimed), was the youngest of a large, Irish-Liverpudleian Catholic, family. Both his working class parents were from Ireland, his father Edward from Dublin, his mother Bridget from Cobh, County Cork, but were married in Liverpool in 1891.[1] His father Edward was a seaman, especially on Cunard liners, but he also some times worked on shore.[2] In 1934 Gerald went to East Africa, where he worked on a farm in Kenya until the war in 1939.[3] This was arranged with the help of James Hanley's friend John Cowper Powys, whose brother William farmed in Kenya.[4] Joining the King's African Rifles of the British army on the outbreak of the Second World War, Hanley served in both in Somalia and in Burma, where Monsoon Victory (1946) is set.[5] Prior to this he had had a few short stories published.[6] While he published a number of novels he also wrote radio plays for the BBC as well as some film scripts, most notably the "Blue Max" (1966).[7] He was also one of several script writers for a life of Gandhi (1964). Parts of his script were used for the Richard Attenborough Film 'Ghandi' (see Attenborough's book on the subject).[8] In 1950, he went to the Punjab in India,[9] and Hanley also lived in Srinagar, Pakistan,[10] where he was married to Asha Weymiss, a Brahmin woman who had been adopted as a child by an English woman working in India, before finally settling in County Wicklow, Ireland in 1954 with his first wife, Diana Fittall.(Some sources give a later date).[11]. He is survived by 7 children with Diana and two with Asha.

His brother was the novelist James Hanley, while the American novelist and playwright William Hanley was his nephew. William's sister Ellen Hanley was a successful broadway actress. Gerald Hanley died on the 7th September, 1992, in Dun Leaoghaire, Ireland.


Gerald Hanley's novels reflect his experiences of living in Africa, both Kenya and Somalia, as well as in Burma and the Indian sub-continent, and of seeing the "influence of the British in the most distant parts of the world",[12] as well as his life as a soldier. Hanley's first book, Monsoon Victory (1946), is an account of the 1944 Burma campaign, from the point of view of a war correspondent. The Consul at Sunset (1951), Drinkers of Darkness (1955) and The Year of the Lion (1959) have for their background the life of expatriates in Kenya, as the British Empire declines.[13] While Warriors and Strangers (1971), a mixture of autobiography and travel writing, again has Africa as its setting. Not all Gerald Hanley's novels, however, deal with war and empire, for example, Without Love is set in present-day Barcelona and its protagonist is the seedy son of a London-Irish family, who is an executioner for Russia's secret police [14] The Journey Homeward (1961), along with Hanley's last novel, Noble Descents (1982), are both set in India. Henry Hathaway's 1967 movie entitled The Last Safari, starring Stewart Granger and Gabriella Licudi, was based on Gilligan's Last Elephant. Noble Descents is set six years after independence, and concerns a friendship between an Indian Maharajah and an Englishman.[15]

An abridged version of The Year of the Lion was boadcast by the BBC, in twelve parts, in 1984.[16] Admired by Hemingway [17] and compared to Conrad, Gerald Hanley, overshadowed by both Paul Scott and, to a lesser degree, his brother James Hanley, failed to achieve any lasting fame.[18] Sinclair-Stevenson, in his obituary, suggests that the success of The Consul at Sunset, in 1951, was a factor in this: "Nothing after seemed to them to indicate progress or a new dimension". His stance against colonialism certainly didn't help his cause at the time.


  • Monsoon Victory. Collins, London, 1946.
  • The Consul at Sunset. Collins, London, 1951.
  • The Year of the Lion. Collins, London, 1953.
  • Drinkers of Darkness. Collins, London,1955.
  • Without Love. Collins, London, 1957.
  • The Journey Homeward. Collins, London, 1961.
  • "A Departure", The London Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3, June 1961.
  • A Voice from the Top. A dialogue for Radio (broadcast July 1961).[19]
  • Gilligan's Last Elephant. Collins, London, 1962.
  • See you in Yasukuni. Collins, London, 1969.
  • Warriors and Strangers. Hamish Hamilton, London, 1971.
  • Noble Descents. Hamish Hamilton, London, 1982.


  1. ^ Chris Gostick, "Extra Material on James Hanley's Boy" from the OneWorld Classics edition of Boy (2007).
  2. ^ Crew agreements, various archives.
  3. ^ A Dictionary of Irish Biography, ed. Henry Boylan (1998).
  4. ^ John Cowper Powys, 1935 Diary, ms. National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.
  5. ^ "Obituary", New York Times 25 September 1992.
  6. ^ Irishwriters online.
  7. ^ Irishwriters online.
  8. ^ The Times, Nov 29, 1982; pg. 11; see also "Gandhi's Life As A Film", The Times Dec 16, 1964; pg. 7.
  9. ^ "Obituary", New York Times.
  10. ^ Dust jacket Drinkers of Darkness.
  11. ^ A Dictionary of Irish Biograph says the 1980s; "Obituary, The New York Time of September 25, 1992, says the 1960s.
  12. ^ Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson The Independent 3 October 1992.
  13. ^ A Dictionary of Irish Biography.
  14. ^ Time, Aug. 19, 1957.
  15. ^ Sinclair-Stevenson.
  16. ^ The Times, 25 June 1984.
  17. ^ A Dictionary of Irish Biography.
  18. ^ Sinclair-Stevenson
  19. ^ The Times, 5 July 1961.


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