John Haylock

Late-flowering novelist


John Haylock, novelist: born Bournemouth, Hampshire 22 September 1918; died Brighton, East Sussex 1 July 2006.

'Not until the end of my army service at the age of 28, did I realise I was a homosexual," the novelist John Haylock wrote in his 1997 autobiography Eastern Exchanges:

"I felt it was wiser to live in a tolerant land. I feared that my inclination might lead me into trouble. I did not want my widowed mother to know about it, though before she died I believe she had guessed. It was better to be in self-exile than a potential criminal."

Both the nature of his sexuality and that decision that he made because of it (homosexuality remained entirely illegal in England until 1967) were significantly to shape Haylock's life and his career as a writer.

Haylock was born into a comfortably-off family (his father was a GP) in Bournemouth in 1918. He was educated at Aldenham School, in France and at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His university career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War, though resumed, not entirely happily, after the cessation of hostilities. During the war he served as a liaison officer with the Greek army and the Belgium Colonial Forces in the Middle East - serving in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Greece. Thereafter he remained contentedly out of Britain for much of his life.

After leaving Cambridge, John Haylock took a teaching post in Iraq, working in Baghdad between 1948 and 1956. Whilst there he co-wrote with a fellow expatriate, Desmond Stewart, New Babylon: a portrait of Iraq (1956), a fascinating account which shows his interest in and love for a country about to undergo immense political and social change.

From Baghdad, Haylock moved to Japan, teaching at Wasada University, Tokyo (1958-60 and 1962-63), and, later, as Visiting Professor of English Literature, at Rikkyo University, Tokyo (1975-85). His years in the Middle East and Orient inspired a series of novels which began with See You Again (1963) and It's All Your Fault (1964). Although he didn't publish another novel for 16 years, he did translate two books by the French writer Philippe Jullian: Robert de Montesquiou: a fin-de-siècle prince (with Francis King, 1967) and Flight into Egypt: a fantasy (1970).

Haylock's third novel, One Hot Summer in Kyoto, eventually appeared in 1980, but it wasn't until he had settled into happy retirement, spreading his year between Brighton, Tokyo and the Thai resort Chiang Mai, that he began to write and publish more consistently.

A Touch of the Orient (1990), Uneasy Relations (1993), Doubtful Partners (1998), Body of Contention (1999), Loose Connections (2004, though the book's printing history erroneously gives 2003 as the date of first publication) and his final novel, Sex Gets in the Way (2006), form, with the three earlier novels and the numerous short stories, a small but highly diverting and singularly unified body of work: they focus on the attractions and incompatibilities of most usually middle-class men and women when they coincide with appealing but frequently uncomprehending Orientals.

For one of his generation and background, John Haylock was remarkably candid about homosexuality and especially good on the sheer comedy of the sexual gavotte. His novels may have had something serious to say, but whatever point he had to make Haylock made it with such a lightness of touch that his readers often found themselves laughing out loud.

His autobiography Eastern Exchanges proved to be an entertainment woven from diverse traveller's tales and, ironically, told less about Haylock's life than his fiction, most notably the final revealing novel Sex Gets in the Way.

Besides his English publications, Haylock published five books in Japan, short stories in a wide variety of journals and anthologies and journalism in a range of publications including Blackwood's Magazine, London Magazine, Japan Times and Gay Times.

A convivial host with a great gift for friendship (Duncan Grant, Francis King, Robin Maugham, Yukio Mishima), John Haylock was a survivor from a generation of well-off gay men who made their lives abroad because when they were young Britain was inhospitable and when they were old it was incomprehensible.

Peter Burton

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?