Remarkable People

ID #5349

Lawrence Green, Author, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

Lawrence George Green  (1900 – 14 May 1972) was a South African journalist and author. Eschewing grandiose views of his literature and lifestyle, he wrote for the layman and entertainment as a raconteur. As such, though well populated with researched fact through his wide travels and many hours of research in the South African and British archives, his writings do not constitute historical or academic reference works. Nevertheless, he is frequently cited as a recorder of little remembered facts of historical or cultural significance in Southern African.

Green was born in Kimberley, the only son of George Alfred Lawrence Green (a newspaper editor who went on to become a member of parliament in the first Union of South Africa and editor-in chief of the Cape Argus) and Katherine. He was educated in Grahamstown and Cape Town, where he completed his secondary school education at South African College School (SACS).

Against his father’s wishes, he did not gain a tertiary education. In 1917 he was accepted as an air cadet in the Royal Flying Corps at Denham, England. He however never graduated, allegedly because of a poor grasp of mechanical aspects of aircraft operation. On his return to SA at the end of WW1 he settled on a career in journalism with the Cape Argus.

Although Green never married, he maintained a platonic relationship with Luise Yates-Benyon, mother of his biographer-to-be, John Yates-Benyon. On his death in 1972 he was survived by two sisters, Rita and Rosemary. The latter was a successful UK author under her married name of Rosemary Weir.

Early signs of Green’s writing talents became evident when he won an international essay competition at age nine with a piece titled, “A Day in the Country”. Little is documented about Green’s subsequent literary ambitions until he drifted into journalism with the Cape Argus during his father’s tenure as editor. While showing talent as a journalist he declined promotions, being content to fulfil his duties as contributor to the Cape Argus’s daily “Wanderer’s” column and other assignments on condition that he could remain in Cape Town.

In the formative phase of his writing career he experimented briefly with fiction writing which he discarded in favour of travelogues and other non-fiction. He gained renown for his tales on southern African travel and 18th, 19th and 20th century history. His first success came with the publication of short stories in foreign magazines from 1929 onwards. His first book was published in 1933 in the UK, as were his next five books.

By restricting his writings to popular non-fiction, Green is seldom mentioned as an African writer of note. His writing typifies the mid-20th century non-fiction writing of Southern Africa, along with others such as F.C. Metrowich, T.V. Bulpin and Eric Rosenthal. In a number of respects his career ran concurrent with that of Laurens van der Post though there is no record that they met.

Conservative and Eurocentric, Green's work encompasses the cultural diversity of the sub-continent, often alluding to changes in the social and political milieu but rarely judgemental. Unlike many, his work is devoid of political commentary or critique. He employed mainly first and third person narrative style in short story chapter form, usually contained within a book with a particular thematic content.

Green ranks as one of the most prolific writers to emerge from Africa. Sales of his published books amount to more than 750,000 copies. In all, he produced 34 books, 16 stories for foreign and local magazines and many newspaper articles and letters. Six of his books were reproduced and published under different titles in the UK and at least three were translated into a foreign language. He published on a book a year between 1933 and 1972, other than during WW2.

Early in his career his publications ran concurrent with his duties as journalist for the Cape Argus. By 1954, earnings from his books enabled him to retire to pursue writing full-time and he continued to publish a book a year thereafter until his death.

While one biography on Green exists (Memories Of A Friendship, John Yates-Benyon, Howard Timmins, 1973) he remains an enigma. According to friend and confidant, Scott Haigh, he professed to be about to commence his autobiography, but never formally did so.  When the Journey's Over (1972) comes as close to autobiographical as his career allowed. Howard Timmins, head of the Cape Town-based but now defunct Howard Timmins & Co. was a close friend. Timmins was responsible for publishing the bulk of his books in South Africa. NFLawrence

Non-fiction – Original Titles
•    The Coast of Treasure, 1933, Putnam, UK
•    Great African Mysteries, 1935, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Secret Africa, 1936, Stanley Paul, UK
•    The Coast of Diamonds, 1937, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Strange Africa, 1938, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Old Africa Untamed, 1940, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Where Men Still Dream, 1945, Howard Timmins, SA
•    So Few Are Free, 1946, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Tavern of the Seas, 1947, Howard Timmins, SA
•    To The River's End, 1948, Howard Timmins, SA
•    In The Land of the Afternoon, 1949, Howard Timmins, SA
•    At Daybreak for the Isles, 1950, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Growing Lovely, Growing Old, 1951, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Lords of the Last Frontier, 1953, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Under a Sky Like Flame, 1954, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Karoo, 1955, Howard Timmins, SA
•    There's a Secret Hid Away, 1956, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Beyond the City Lights, 1957, Howard Timmins, SA
•    South African Beachcomber, 1958, Howard Timmins, SA
•    These Wonders to Behold, 1959, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Eight Bells at Salamander, 1960, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Great North Road, 1961, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Something Rich and Strange, 1962, Howard Timmins, SA
•    A Decent Fellow Doesn't Work, 1963, Howard Timmins, SA
•    I Heard the Old Men Say, 1964, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Almost Forgotten Never Told, 1965, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Thunder on the Blaauwberg, 1966, Howard Timmins, SA
•    On Wings of Fire, 1967, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Full Many a Glorious Morning, 1968, Howard Timmins, SA
•    Harbours of Memory, 1969, Howard Timmins, SA
•    A Giant in Hiding, 1970, Howard Timmins, SA
•    A Taste of the South- Easter, 1971, Howard Timmins, SA
•    When the Journeys Over, 1972, Howard Timmins, SA

Non-fiction – Republished in UK under different titles
•    White Man's Grave, 1954, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Panther Head, 1955, Stanley Paul, UK
•    The Drums of Time, 1956, Stanley Paul, UK
•    Old Africa's Last Secrets, 1961, Putnam, UK
•    Islands Time Forgot, 1962, Putnam, UK
•    Like Diamond Blazing, 1967, Robert Hale, UK

Non-fiction – Translated into foreign languages
•    Min Mense is Vry (So Few Are Free), 1948, Malherbe (Afrikaans)
•    Karoo (Karoo), 1964, Malherbe (Afrikaans)
•    Ahol Megallt Az Ido (Islands Time Forgot), 1964, T/K Budapest (Magyar)

Non-fiction - Articles for Magazines
•    Bottle Messages from the Sea, Adventure, Jul 1 1929
•    Captain Flynn’s Chart, Sea Stories, Oct 1929
•    Diamond Camp, The Passing Show, Apr 20 1935
•    Fishing for Cable, The Wide World Magazine, Mar 1939
•    Flaw in the System, Excitement, Aug 1930
•    The Ghost Drink, Sea Stories, Dec 1929
•    In the Fog, Sea Stories, Nov 1929
•    Monkey Folk of Africa, Adventure, Feb 15 1929
•    Off Ascension, Sea Stories, Jun 1930
•    Over the Horizon, Sea Stories, Jul 1929
•    The Schooner’s Secret, Sea Stories, Apr 1930
•    Sea Mecca, Sea Stories, Aug 1929
•    A Secret of the Desert, Hutchinson’s Adventure-Story Magazine, Sep 1926
•    Smelling Danger, Sea Stories, May 1930
•    Virgin Peak, The Saturday Evening Post, Dec 6 1947, Argosy (UK) Apr 1948
•    Inland fleets of Africa, S.A. Saturday Book, 1948.

•    Author’s Post-War Guide, 1947, Allen & Unwin

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Last update: 2014-03-02 21:37
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.9

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