"When I die there may be a paragraph or two in the newspapers. My name will linger in the British Museum Reading Room catalogue for a space at the head of a long list of books for which no one will ever ask." -- C. S. Forester
Cecil Scott Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (27 August 1899 — 2 April 1966), an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.
"A man who writes for a living does not have to go anywhere in particular, and he could rarely afford to if he wanted.""A whim, a passing mood, readily induces the novelist to move hearth and home elsewhere. He can always plead work as an excuse to get him out of the clutches of bothersome hosts.""Everything was in stark and dreadful contrast with the trivial crises and counterfeit emotions of Hollywood, and I returned to England deeply moved and emotionally worn out.""I formed a resolution to never write a word I did not want to write; to think only of my own tastes and ideals, without a thought of those of editors or publishers.""I have heard of novels started in the middle, at the end, written in patches to be joined together later, but I have never felt the slightest desire to do this.""I must be like the princess who felt the pea through seven mattresses; each book is a pea.""Novel writing is far and away the most exhausting work I know.""Novel writing wrecks homes.""Perhaps that suspicion of fraud enhances the flavor.""The doctor who applied a stethoscope to my heart was not satisfied. I was told to get my papers with the clerk in the outer hall. I was medically rejected.""The fools ran after me and I ran after the whores, foolish though I realized such a proceeding to be.""The material came bubbling up inside like a geyser or an oil gusher. It streamed up of its own accord, down my arm and out of my fountain pen in a torrent of six thousand words a day.""The work is with me when I wake up in the morning; it is with me while I eat my breakfast in bed and run through the newspaper, while I shave and bathe and dress.""There is no other way of writing a novel than to begin at the beginning at to continue to the end.""There is still need to think and plan, but on a different scale, and along different lines.""They managed to find time... to tell me that there was no chance of my being accepted for service and that really I should be surprised to still be alive.""With two people and luggage on board she draws four inches of water. Two canoe paddles will move her along at a speed reasonable enough in moderate currents."
Forester was born in Cairo and educated at Alleyn's School, Dulwich College, and Guy's Hospital, but did not complete his studies there. He married Kathleen Belcher in 1926, had two sons, and divorced in 1945. His eldest son, John, is a noted cycling activist and wrote a biography of his father.
During World War II, Forester moved to the United States where he wrote propaganda to encourage that country to join the Allies. He eventually settled in Berkeley, California. While living in Washington, D.C., he met a young British intelligence officer named Roald Dahl, of whose experiences in the R.A.F. he had heard word, and encouraged him to write about them. In 1947, he secretly married a woman named Dorothy Foster. He suffered extensively from arteriosclerosis later in life.
Forester wrote many other novels, among them The African Queen (1935) and The General (1936); Peninsular War novels in Death to the French (published in the United States as Rifleman Dodd) and The Gun (filmed as The Pride and the Passion in 1957); and seafaring stories that did not involve Hornblower, such as Brown on Resolution (1929); The Captain from Connecticut (1941); The Ship (1943) and Hunting the Bismarck (1959), which was used as the basis of the screenplay for the 1960 film Sink the Bismarck! Several of his works were filmed, most notably the 1951 film The African Queen, directed by John Huston. Forester is also credited as story writer for several movies not based on his published fiction, including Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942).
He wrote several volumes of short stories set during the Second World War. Those in The Nightmare (1954) were based on events in Nazi Germany, ending at the Nuremberg Trials. Stories in The Man in the Yellow Raft (1969) followed the career of the destroyer USS Boon, while many of those in Gold from Crete (1971) followed the destroyer HMS Apache. The last of the stories in the latter book..."If Hitler had invaded England"...offers an imagined sequence of events starting with Hitler's attempt to implement Operation Sea Lion, and culminating in the early military defeat of Nazi Germany in the summer of 1941.
His non-fiction seafaring works include The Age of Fighting Sail (1956), an account of the sea battles between Great Britain and the United States in the War of 1812.
In addition to his novels of seafaring life, Forester also published two crime novels, Payment Deferred (1926), and Plain Murder (1930), and two children's books. One, Poo-Poo and the Dragons (1942), was created as a series of stories told to his younger son to encourage him to finish his meals. George had mild food allergies that kept him feeling unwell, and he needed encouragement to eat. The second, The Barbary Pirates (1953), is a children's history of those early 19th-century pirates.
British author Roald Dahl's writing career began after he met Forester in early 1942. According to Dahl's autobiographical Lucky Break, Forester asked Dahl about his experiences as a fighter pilot. This prompted Dahl to write his first story, A Piece of Cake.