(1922-1995) UK novelist, poet, editor and critic. KA was noted for numerous, often satirical, novels of social comedy, beginning with Lucky Jim (1954), which despite its geniality caused him to be journalistically labelled – with Colin Wilson and others – as an "Angry Young Man". His distinctions include the Booker Prize for The Old Devils (1986) and a knighthood (1990). An unsnobbish affection for genre fiction is shown by contributions to crime, fantasy and sf.
His one major fantasy, The Green Man (1969), is a fine novel by any standards, and among KA's best. Its disturbing supernatural-Horror events are usefully told through an entertainingly flawed and very Amisian ("hero as shit") narrator, afflicted with alcoholism, family troubles and middle-aged lust. A 17th-century Magician, who lived in what is now the protagonist's eponymous coaching inn, once animated a tree-man (> Green Man) to do unpleasant business. The magician's Ghost tempts the protagonist with power and Immortality (in fact intending Possession) – against which the protagonist's self-loathing is a shield – and harries him through minutely described Illusions all too reminiscent of delirium tremens. There is a remarkable appearance of God, manifesting in the privacy of Time stasis (> Time in Faerie) as a rather unpleasant young man whose self-imposed Conditions of operation require that the Wrongness of magician and tree-man be neutralized not directly but by a suitable catspaw. The reluctant hero is given the task, along with a Talisman cross and some chilling hints about the Afterlife; an Exorcism results. A BBC TV miniseries adaptation was broadcast in 1991.
"Who or What Was It?" (1972 Playboy) is a Tall Tale, originally a radio broadcast, with KA himself stumbling into the situation of The Green Man (> Recursive Fantasy). "To See the Sun", first published in Collected Short Stories (coll 1980; exp 1987) is an epistolary Vampire novelette set in 1925 Dacia, containing some irony as its sceptical English researcher informs an alluring vampire that her family legend arises from ergot-induced Hallucination. [DRL]
Other work: The Alteration (1976), Alternate World story.
further reading: There is some relevant criticism in The Amis Collection: Selected Non-Fiction 1954-1990 (coll 1990); Kingsley Amis in Life and Letters (anth 1990) ed Dale Salwak (1947- ); Memoirs (1991), autobiographical; Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist (1992) by Dale Salwak, biography.
Kingsley William Amis