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Morris West Morris West i(A8370 works by) (a.k.a. Morris Langlo West; Morris L. West)
Also writes as: Michael East ; Julian Morris
Born: Established: 26 Apr 1916 St Kilda, Caulfield - St Kilda area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria, ; Died: Ceased: 9 Oct 1999 Clareville, Pittwater area, Sydney Northeastern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
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Morris West was born at St Kilda, Victoria, the son of a commercial salesman. Due to the financial difficulties of his large Catholic family, he was sent to live with his grandparents. He attended the local Christian Brothers' College where, in 1929, he was awarded the prize of Dux by Archbishop Mannix. He duly joined the Christian Brothers Order and completed his secondary education in New South Wales at St Patrick's College, Strathfield. In 1934 he began life as a teacher at St Thomas's Primary School, Lewisham, living in that community until 1936. Between 1937 and 1939 he taught at schools in Tasmania and New South Wales while pursuing a university degree at the University of Tasmania. But, frustrated by Catholic politics and unable to follow a celibate life-style, West left the Christian Brothers Order in 1940.

Following his departure from religious life, West worked as a salesman and a teacher before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Forces in April 1941. He was eventually commissioned as a lieutenant and worked as a cipher officer during World War II. West married Biddy Harvey during hostilities and the couple had two children by 1944. By the time he was posted to Gladesville, New South Wales, in 1944, West had completed his first novel, Moon in My Pocket. Published in 1945 by the Australasian Publishing Company, a branch of Harrap's Publishing Company in London, the novel sold more than ten thousand copies.

A decade would pass before West achieved international success. During this time he worked as a private secretary to former Prime Minister Billy Hughes and as a publicity officer for Melbourne radio station 3DB before founding his own radio production company for which he was managing director from 1945 to 1954. The business and creative pressures of running this company began to affect his marriage. West left his first wife for his secretary, Joyce Lawford, in the mid-1950s. His frustrated attempts to receive an annulment from the Catholic church influenced the writing of the non-fiction book, Scandal in the Assembly (1970). West and Lawford eventually married in a civil ceremony in 1966. West's experiences as a man of religion, politics and media informed many of the novels that became best-sellers across the world.

West was determined to pursue a career as a writer and financed a clean break from his business with his next two novels, Gallows on the Sand (1955) and Kundu (1956), the latter sold by the New York literary agent, Paul Reynolds, for $3,000. West maintained a strong relationship with this agency for the rest of his life, benefiting from its negotiations for international and translation rights. In 1959, after attracting wide attention with the non-fiction book, Children of the Sun (1957), West became a best-selling author with The Devil's Advocate. This novel was published in New York and London and was subsequently translated into more than two dozen languages. Each of West's next twenty novels and works of non-fiction followed a similar pattern, proving especially popular in Catholic countries such as Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. In the 1990s it was estimated that West had sold 70 million copies of his novels world-wide. His work has also attracted the attention of many cinema-goers with several successful film adaptations.

West's fiction has not received a great deal of critical attention, but it has been recognised by a number of national and international awards committees. Among these are the National Conference of Christian and Jews Brotherhood award (1960), the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann award and the James Tait Black Memorial prize for The Devil's Advocate(1960) and the Dag Hammarskjold prize for human rights (1978). West was also awarded a number of honorary doctorates from Australian and overseas universities.

Although West spent many years overseas he remained devoted to the writing profession in Australia. He was the foundation vice-president of the Australian Society of Authors and also served as president for several years, working towards better pay rates and rights for Australian writers. In 1997 he was awarded an Order of Australia and was recognised as an 'Australian National Living Treasure'. West died at his desk in 1999. His unfinished novel The Last Confession was edited by Angelo Loukakis and published in 2000.

Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon The Devil's Advocate 1959 London : Heinemann , 1959 Z528667 1959 single work novel
— Appears in: Reader's Digest Condensed Books: volume four, 1960, Autumn selections 1960;

'A moving exploration of the meaning of faith, and a vivid portrayal of life in impoverished post-war Calabria.'

Source: Publisher's blurb (Allen & Unwin, 2017).

1959 winner International Awards James Tait Black Memorial Prize

Known archival holdings

Albinski 230-233
Last amended 24 Jul 2013 13:49:28
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