Born in rural Staffordshire and raised during the Depression, Archie Hill is something of an enigma. Virtually no information about him exists in public records or on the internet. What little we do know can be gleaned from his disarmingly honest, autobiographical novels: brutal Black Country upbringing, violence, alcoholism, prison, mental hospitals, living rough on London streets and finally redemption through a love of literature. All his books, the majority of which were published by Hutchinson (now part of Random House), are long out of print. When his first book, A Cage of Shadows, was published in 1973, it was instantly hailed as a classic. BBC Radio 3 commissioned a spoken word serialisation later the same year. His many admirers included the British film director Joseph Losey. Bouyed up by this success and with the backing of a major publisher, novels continued to appear throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, all to widespread critical acclaim. While he continued to work successfully as a freelance writer and broadcaster, Mr Hill was actively involved in various community projects, helping rehabilitate those who had dropped out of society, just as he had done. But after 1984's An Empty Glass ("The story of an alcoholic"), the books suddenly stopped coming. Perhaps because of an inability to maintain this work rate, a lifelong battle with alcoholism, or for other reasons we shall never know, Mr Hill committed suicide in 1989.
A Cage of Shadows was first published in 1973 to enthusastic reviews and announced the arrival of a major new writer. Set mainly in the Black Country during the 1930s, it tells of Mr Hill's brutal upbringing, frequent beatings, an alcoholic father, run-ins with the law. On leaving home, he encountered further degradation in prisons, mental hospitals and on skid row. But a chance meeting whilst incarcerated during the 1950s changed his life completely. Mr Hill became friendly with Klaus 'Doc' Fuchs, atomic spy for Russia, who instilled in him a passion for literature and encouraged him to write. Libel action in 1975 meant copies of A Cage of Shadows were pulped, with an edited version being published two years later. This new Tangerine edition reinstates the original text and is now available for the first time in over 40 years. A genuine, lost classic comparable to John Healy's The Grass Arena in both its content and the troubled history of its publication.
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Original Reviews for Cage of Shadows
Literacy has not trained out of Archie Hill the rare and, for an autobiographer, vital gift of projecting himself back into the past. His past, in A Cage of Shadows, is not recollected in tranquillity, but relived with the desperate rage of a frustrated child. - Times Literary Supplement
An excellent book, written with a sharp eye for the small significant details of human relationships, and with a gift for dialogue and for fresh poetic imagery. - New Statesman
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that here is an author who can write not only well but at many times brilliantly, and who can and does put over his feelings and thoughts with a salty incisiveness and lack of self-pity or sentimentality. --Tony Parker author of People of the Streets; Studs Terkel, A Life in Words
In the bleak misery of the Depression Mr Hill shows how the heroes created by the warlords tackled the obscenities of unemployment and poverty with courage, humour and, at times, reckless bravado. An excellent book written with humility and humanity. --The Times
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Book Description Hutchinson, 1977. Book Condition: Good. Revised. N/A. Ships from the UK. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Bookseller Inventory # GRP57184762
Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: Fair. A readable copy of the book which may include some defects such as highlighting and notes. Cover and pages may be creased and show discolouration. Bookseller Inventory # GOR002311445