Herbert Ernest Bates (16th May 1905 – 29th January 1974) was an English prolific novelist who was possibly best known for his adapted works, The Darling Buds of May, Love for Lydia, and My Uncle Silas.
Born in Rushden, Northamptonshire, Bates worked as a reporter and warehouse clerk before finding fame as a novelist. A keen walker, Bates enjoyed long walks around the Northamptonshire countryside and it was this that proved inspiration for his novels, many of which are set around the rural Midlands.
H. E Bates started writing early in his life, writing and discarding his first novel in his late teens. His second, and the first to be published, The Two Sisters was inspired by a late night walk that took him to the small village of Farndish where he saw a light burning in a cottage window.
At this time Bates was working for a small newspaper in Wellingborough, a job that he hated, later he worked at a shoe making warehouse and it was here he found time to write while working. After sending his first novel off to publishers he found rejection, and received eight or nine rejection letters, the novel was eventually published and a stack of novels, short stories and essays followed, although Bates found writing did not pay well.
During World War II Bates was drafted by the RAF, not to fight, his sole requirement was to write short stories to be published in the news chronicle under the pseudonym “Flying Officer X”. Later these stories would be collected into a book titled The Greatest People in the World and Other Stories.
It was during this time that Bates would have his first financial success with Fair Stood the Wind for France, which he followed with several other wartime novels.
H. E Bates most successful works came after World War II, as did his most prolific writing, after the war Bates averaged one novel and one collection of short stories a year. These include his best known works, Love for Lydia, My Uncle Silas, Feast of July and his most successful series, The Darling Buds of May. Many of which have been adapted succesfully for film and television.
Bates private life mirrored the idyllic scenes of his novels. In 1931 he married his sweetheart Marge Cox and moved to the village of Little March, Kent. The couple bought an Old Granary and an acre of land, transforming it into a country home. They lived here for the whole of their married life, raising a daughter and two sons.
Bates died in 1974, aged 68 and wouldn’t live long enough to see his most famous works adapted for television and movie. During his lifetime, H. E Bates wrote twenty-five standalone novels, five ‘Pop Larkin’ novels, from the Darling Buds of May series, two Uncle Silas novels, forty-two short story collections, two plays, eighteen essays or nonfiction, five books for children, and three autobiographies, making him one of the most prolific English authors of all time.
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