Sir Kingsley William Amis (April 16, 1922 – October 22, 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. He was the father of the British novelist Martin Amis. He authored the James Bond novel Colonel Sun in 1968.
Kingsley Amis was born in London, educated at the City of London School and St. John's College, Oxford. After serving in the Royal Corps of Signals in the Second World War, Amis achieved popular success with his first novel Lucky Jim.
As a young man, Kingsley Amis was a vocal Communist and a member of the Communist Party. He broke away from Communism when the USSR invaded Hungary in 1956. Thereafter, Amis was stridently anti-communist, even reactionary. He discusses his political change of heart in the essay "Why Lucky Jim Turned Right" (1967), and it percolates into later works such as his 1980 dystopian novel Russian Hide and Seek.
Amis's novel about a group of retired friends, The Old Devils, won the Booker Prize in 1986. He received a knighthood in 1990.
Amis was twice married, first in 1948 to Hilary Bardwell, then to novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, in 1965; they divorced in 1983. He had three children, including the novelist Martin Amis, who movingly wrote of his father's life and decline, largely due to alcohol, in his memoir Experience. Like his son, the older Amis was an atheist.
Kingsley Amis became associated with Ian Fleming's creation, James Bond, in the 1960s, writing critical works connected with the fictional spy, either under a pseudonym or uncredited. He wrote the popular The James Bond Dossier under his own name. Later, he wrote, The Book of Bond, or, Every Man His Own 007, a tongue-in-cheek how-to manual about being a sophisticated spy, under the pseudonym "Lt Col. William 'Bill' Tanner", Tanner being M's Chief of Staff in many of Fleming's Bond novels.
It is widely claimed that, after Fleming died in 1964 following completion of an early draft of The Man with the Golden Gun, the publisher commissioned Amis and possibly other writers to finish the manuscript. Bond historians and Fleming biographers have, in recent years, debunked this theory, indicating that no such ghostwriter was ever employed, although Amis is known to have provided suggestions on how to improve the manuscript which were rejected.
In 1968 the owners of the James Bond property, Glidrose Publications, attempted to continue the series by hiring different novelists, all writing under the pseudonym "Robert Markham". Kingsley Amis was the first to write a Robert Markham novel, Colonel Sun, but no further books were published under that name. It is widely believed that Amis had planned to write a second Bond novel but was talked out of it. Colonel Sun was adapted as a James Bond comic strips in the Daily Express in 1969. In a Titan Books reprint volume of the comic strip published in 2005, an introductory chapter indicated that Amis planned to write a short story featuring an elderly Bond coming out of retirement for one last mission, but Glidrose refused him permission to write it.
- Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles.