Obituary: Alan Wykes

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Alan Wykes, writer: born Carshalton, Surrey 21 May 1914; married 1939 Muriel Gillham; died Reading, Berkshire 11 June 1993.

AUTHOR, journalist, raconteur and professional clubman, Alan Wykes was a prolific storyteller with a prodigious memory for historical detail. Down the years much of his work was in collaboration with others, a few of them better known as biographers than he was himself. In Noel Barber's final work Daughter of the Prince, published two years ago, it was Wykes who managed to finish the last two- thirds of the book on his own when Barber fell tragically ill and died suddenly.

It was a bestseller and very nearly Wykes's own 'curtain'; shortly afterwards his delicate health compelled him to resign from the Savage Club, of which he had been honorary secretary and chairman of the benevolent fund for over a quarter of a century.

Although not a specialist in any sphere of literature, Wykes had a sharp eye while 'looking at the field' and managed to hit upon titles with such lethal subjects as The Doctor and His Enemy (1964; about syphilis) and Lucrezia Borgia (1970), Hitler (1970), Goebbels (1971), Himmler (1972) and Heydrich (1972).

The lighter side of life also captured his imagination and a comical history of naughty postcards, Saucy Seaside Postcards (1976), and another humorous work, Eccentric Doctors (1975), proved popular. By 1987 his output was 38 books, many published world-wide.

A protean actor and versatile scribbler, this erudite character drove lorries and tanks for the RASC in Italy, Germany and France during the Second World War, serving with distinction before returning to civvy street as front-of-house manager and in many other 'characters' as well. He wrote easily, although it was his skill as a researcher that perhaps most commended him for consideration. His The Queen's Peace (1968) and The History of the Royal Hampshire Regiment (1968) were definitive histories of the peace force (1836-1968) and the army regiment itself.

His works Gambling (1964), Not So Savage (1976; a history of the club, now in its 136th year of life) and Circus (1977) might be seen as textbooks on these subjects for other researchers in the future. His Eisenhower (1982) was also well received.

Some of Wykes's earliest works were stories, included in Modern Writing and Pick of Today's Short Stories, edited by John Pudney in the 1950s. He had settled in Berkshire after the war and finished a novel which had been started during his military service: Pursuit Till Morning (1947) gave him the writing bug. His most successful book was a biography of Bobby Ionides, Snake Man (1960).

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