James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell (10 October, 1924 – 7 September, 1994) was a British (later naturalised American) novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape and To Sir, with Love.
Following the outbreak of World War II, at the age of 16 he joined the Royal Artillery in 1940, and was sent to Malaya to fight the Japanese. Wounded by machine gun fire, he was eventually captured and sent to a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Java. Later he was transferred to Changi Prison in Singapore.
Clavell suffered greatly at the hands of his Japanese captors. Changi was notorious for its poor living conditions. According to the introduction to King Rat, written by Clavell's daughter Michaela, over 90% of the prisoners who entered Changi never walked out. Clavell was reportedly saved, along with an entire battalion, by an American prisoner of war who later became the model for "The King" in Clavell's King Rat.
By 1946, Clavell had risen to the rank of Captain, but a motorcycle accident ended his military career. He enrolled at the University of Birmingham, where he met April Stride, an actress, whom he married in 1951.
Clavell's daughter Michaela appeared briefly as Penelope Smallbone, Moneypenny's successor, in the James Bond 007 movie Octopussy. The character, however, did not catch on and was dropped after that single picture.
Tai-Pan and King Rat have both been adapted as feature films; however Clavell was not directly involved in their writing.
This was followed by Shogun in 1975, the story of an English navigator set in 1600s Japan. When the story was made into a TV series in 1980, produced by Clavell, it became the second highest rated mini-series in history with an audience of over 120 million. In 1981, Clavell published his fourth novel, Noble House, which became a number one best seller during that year and was also made into a miniseries. Following the success of Noble House, Clavell wrote Whirlwind (1986) and Gai-Jin (1993) along with The Children's Story (1981) and Thrump-o-moto (1985).
Several of Clavell's books have been adapted as films or miniseries;Shogun was also adapted into a computer Interactive Fiction game.
Other books include:
Clavell admired Ayn Rand, founder of the Objectivist school of philosophy, and sent Ayn Rand a copy of Noble House in 1981 inscribed: "This is for Ayn Rand—one of the real, true talents on this earth for which many, many thanks. James C, New York, 2 Sept 81."
In 1963, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
He died of a stroke while suffering from cancer in Switzerland in 1994, one month before his 70th birthday.