Obituary: Peter Townend

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The Independent Culture
PETER TOWNEND'S first novel, Zero Always Wins, published in 1960, reflects his passion for roulette. His later thrillers, Out of Focus (1971), Zoom (1972) and Fisheye (1974), centre round another passion, photography, and feature a one-eyed photographer as hero. They attracted critical acclaim; a Daily Telegraph reviewer suggested that he might be the new Ian Fleming.

An only child, born in 1935, Townend went to the Dragon School and Westminster before going up to Cambridge as a classical scholar.

Not one to expend his energies on attending lectures or tutorials, he concentrated on social pursuits, especially the game of poker. All-night sessions were held in the rooms of Alan Williams at King's, the gaming circle including Richard King, David Spanier, David Salmon and David Gillies, all of whom were later on to make their mark. A frequent participant was a mysterious Greek coffee-bar owner who would cross the river via the Backs and arrive dripping wet.

Townend took his role as a gambler seriously. He often acted as dealer, for which function he wore a dinner jacket and dark glasses, which, owing to slight myopia, sometimes impeded him from correctly identifying the colours of the cards.

He was a keen cinema-goer in the afternoons and somewhat modelled his sartorial style on Marlon Brando's performance in On the Waterfront. After moving to London, where he effortlessly joined what the tabloids called the Chelsea Set, he resumed his gaming activities with excursions into film-making. He played a cameo role in Piccadilly Third Stop (1960). This stood him in good stead for acting in the Sixties in the Piccolo Teatro in Milan.

He developed interests in writing and photography and his novels followed. He moved to Spain, amidst like-minded Spaniards and expatriates around Torremolinos and, later, Marbella. Shy, somewhat of a loner, good-looking in a dark Mediterranean style, he was very attractive to women. He had a permanent tan; when once asked by Emlyn Williams what he did, he replied, "I follow the sun."

While he enjoyed a number of romantic liaisons, Townend's nature was basically monogamous. In 1973 he married Kate Moffat (ex-wife of the film director Ivan Moffat), who provided him with a ready-made family in the shape of her two sons, Jonathan and Patrick. By marriage he became linked to a vast cousinage.

Before settling down in Wiltshire and London, he became a first-class photographer. Of all the young men who moved within the orbit of Gerald Brenan, the grand old Englishman of Spanish letters, Townend was the one given most licence and the photographs he took of Brenan light up the pages of Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy's 1992 biography, The Interior Castle, and wrap around the covers of Brenan's own memoirs.

In 1964 Townend founded the first English-language literary and travel magazine in Spain, Look Out, editing, art directing and writing features. His co-founder, Juan Manuel Figueras, was a half-American, half-Spanish writer and luminary of the Costa del Sol. They made tours of Morocco together which Townend wrote about and photographed. Later, with his wife Kate, he went to stay with her uncle David Herbert, doyen of Tangier expatriate society.

Peter Townend led a quiet life in London, frequently travelling but always returning to his Fulham garden and his Amazonian parrot, Sinbad.

Christopher Moorsom

Peter Gascoyne Townend, writer and photographer: born London 6 March 1935; married 1973 Kate Moffat (nee Smith; two stepsons); died London 6 June 1999.