English novelist Cecil Scott “C. S.” Forester was born 27 August 1899. This was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Forester was born in Cairo and, moved with his mother to London and was educated at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich College, south London, and Guy’s Hospital, London, but did not complete his studies. “Forester had always worn glasses and been thin. Later, trying to enlist in the army he failed his physical and was told there was not a chance that we would be accepted even though he was of good height and somewhat athletic. In about 1921, after studying medicine for several years, he began writing seriously using his pen name.” During World War II, Forester moved to the United States where he worked for the British Information Service and wrote propaganda to encourage the US to join the Allies. He eventually settled in Berkeley, California. While living in Washington, D.C., he met a young British intelligence officer named Roald Dahl, whose experiences in the RAF he had heard of, and encouraged him to write about them. In 1947, he secretly married a woman named Dorothy Foster.
Forester wrote many novels, among them The African Queen (1935) and The General (1936); Peninsular War novels in Death to the French (published in the United States as Rifleman Dodd) and The Gun (filmed as The Pride and the Passion in 1957); and seafaring stories that did not involve Hornblower, such as Brown on Resolution (1929); The Captain from Connecticut (1941); The Ship (1943) and Hunting the Bismarck (1959), which was used as the basis of the screenplay for the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! Several of his works were filmed, most notably the 1951 film The African Queen, directed by John Huston. Forester is also credited as story writer for several movies not based on his published fiction, including Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942).
He wrote several volumes of short stories set during the Second World War. Those in The Nightmare (1954) were based on events inNazi Germany, ending at the Nuremberg Trials. Stories in The Man in the Yellow Raft (1969) followed the career of the destroyer USSBoon, while many of those in Gold from Crete (1971) followed the destroyer HMS Apache. The last of the stories in the latter book – “If Hitler had invaded England” – offers an imagined sequence of events starting with Hitler’s attempt to implement Operation Sea Lion, and culminating in the early military defeat of Nazi Germany in the summer of 1941. His non-fiction seafaring works include The Age of Fighting Sail (1956), an account of the sea battles between Great Britain and the United States in the War of 1812.In addition to his novels of seafaring life, Forester also published two crime novels, Payment Deferred (1926), and Plain Murder (1930), and two children’s books. One, Poo-Poo and the Dragons (1942), was created as a series of stories told to his younger son George to encourage him to finish his meals. George had mild food allergies that kept him feeling unwell, and he needed encouragement to eat.
The second, The Barbary Pirates (1953), is a children’s history of those early 19th-century pirates.He can be seen as a contestant on 1 November 1956 edition of You Bet Your Life, commenting that his latest book is The Age of Fighting Sail. Forester sadly passed away 2 April 1966, however his novels still remain popular and in 2003 a “lost” novel of Forester’s, The Pursued, was discovered and bought at an auction and was published by Penguin Classics on 3 November 2011. British author Roald Dahl’s writing career began after he met Forester in early 1942. According to Dahl’s autobiographical Lucky Break, Forester asked Dahl about his experiences as a fighter pilot. This prompted Dahl to write his first story, “A Piece of Cake.