Hailed by John Betjeman as 'one of our dozen readable living writers of genius', Nigel Balchin was one of the best-known English novelists of the Second World War generation: few writers so tangibly convey the excitement and terror of Blitz-era Britain.
Little wonder that Balchin's books, among them Mine Own Executioner and The Small Back Room, were seized upon by film-makers of the calibre of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.; Never previously the subject of a biography, Balchin was not only a brilliant novelist and BAFTA-winning screenwriter: he was also largely responsible for the success of Black Magic chocolates.
Yet his alcoholism and tormented love life ensured that his writing became increasingly uneven.
Like Patrick Hamilton before him, Balchin drifted into obscurity but his compelling novels continue to be rediscovered by a new generation of fans, including Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes and best-selling author Philippa Gregory.
Derek Collett's groundbreaking biography fills an important gap in the history of twentieth century fiction.