C. S. Forester
|Born||Cecil Louis Troughton Smith|
27 August 1899
Cairo, Khedivate of Egypt
|Died||2 April 1966 (aged 66)|
|Genre||Adventure, drama, sea stories|
(m. 1926; div. 1945)
|Children||2 (John and George)|
Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (27 August 1899 - 2 April 1966), known by his pen name Cecil Scott "C. S." Forester, was an English novelist known for writing tales of naval warfare, such as the 10-book Horatio Hornblower series depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars. The Hornblower novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1938. His other works include The African Queen (1935; turned into a 1951 film by John Huston) and The Good Shepherd (1955; turned into a 2020 film, Greyhound, adapted by and starring Tom Hanks).
Forester was born in Cairo and moved with his mother to London after a family breakup at an early age, where he was educated at Alleyn's School and Dulwich College. He began to study medicine at Guy's Hospital but left without completing his degree. He wore glasses and was of slender physique; he failed his Army physical and was told that there was no chance that he would be accepted, even though he was of good height and somewhat athletic. He began writing seriously around 1921 using his pen name.
Forester moved to the United States during the Second World War, where he worked for the British Ministry of Information and wrote propaganda to encourage the US to join the Allies. He eventually settled in Berkeley, California. He met Roald Dahl in 1942 while living in Washington, D.C., and Forester encouraged him to write about his experiences in the RAF. According to Dahl's autobiography Lucky Break, Forester asked him about his experiences as a fighter pilot, and this prompted Dahl to write his first story "A Piece of Cake".
Forester wrote many novels, but he is best known for the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He began the series with Hornblower fairly high in rank in the first novel that he wrote, which was published in 1937. But high demand for more stories led him to fill in Hornblower's life story, and he wrote novels detailing his rise from the rank of midshipman. The last completed novel was published in 1962. Hornblower's fictional feats were based on real events, but Forester wrote the body of the works carefully to avoid entanglements with real world history, so that Hornblower is always off on another mission when a great naval battle occurs during the Napoleonic Wars.
Forester's other novels include 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 film Sink the Bismarck! (1960). Several of his works were filmed, including The African Queen (1951), 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 in Nazi Germany, ending at the Nuremberg trials. Stories in The Man in the Yellow Raft (1969) followed the career of the destroyer USS Boon, while many of those in Gold from Crete (1971) followed the destroyer HMS Apache. The last of the stories in Gold from Crete was "If Hitler had invaded England", which 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.
Forester also published the crime novels Payment Deferred (1926) and Plain Murder (1930), as well as two children's books. Poo-Poo and the Dragons (1942) was created as a series of stories told to his son George to encourage him to finish his meals. George had mild food allergies which kept him feeling unwell, and he needed encouragement to eat. The Barbary Pirates (1953) is a children's history of early 19th-century pirates.
Forester appeared as a contestant on the television quiz programme You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx, in an episode broadcast on 1 November 1956. A previously unknown novel of Forester's entitled The Pursued was discovered in 2003 and published by Penguin Classics on 3 November 2011.
He married Kathleen Belcher in 1926 and they had two sons, John and George Forester. The couple divorced in 1945. In 1947, he married Dorothy Foster. John Forester wrote a two-volume biography of his father, including many elements of Forester's life which only became clear to his son after his death.