(1899-1974) Scottish writer whose work is marked by an ironic intelligence and sharp wit. His early play The Devil's in the News (1929), concerns a Séance whose participants are possessed by the spirits of real people (Cromwell and Napoleon) and fictional characters (many from the cast of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera ). The fantasies (with other material) in God Likes Them Plain (coll 1935), Sealskin Trousers (coll 1947) and A Sociable Plover (coll 1957) include mock-Fairytales, irreverent Christian Fantasies and comedies based in Classical Mythology. He wrote a series of philosophical dialogues for the BBC in which historical characters from different eras debate moral and political issues of relevance to WWII – e.g., The Cornerstones; a Conversation in Elysium (1941 chap), a dispute between Lenin, Lincoln and Confucius. The series continued with The Raft and Socrates Asks Why (coll 1942 chap), The Great Ship and Rabelais Replies (coll 1944 chap) and Crisis in Heaven: An Elysian Comedy (1944).
Before the outbreak of WWII, EL had written a modern version of Aristophanes' Lysistrata as The Impregnable Women (1938). The political Allegory A Spell for Old Bones (1949) is about the unfortunate conflicts generated by the clumsy Giants of ancient Scotland. Husband of Delilah (1962) was the second and more fantastic of his two novels based on Bible stories, following Judas (1939). His last marginal fantasy, A Terrible Freedom (1966), involves the invasion of the protagonist's life by figments of his Dreams.
EL wrote two Children's Fantasies, The Wind on the Moon (1944) and The Pirates in the Deep Green Sea (1949); the former won the Carnegie Medal. He also wrote a nonfiction book about the Icelandic Sagas, The Ultimate Viking (1955). [BS]
Eric Robert Russell Linklater