In the late 1930’s Time Magazine described Ralph Bates as "a better writer than Ernest Hemingway," an extraordinary claim given the literary prominance Hemingway had achieved at the time and the acknowledgement his name retains.
Yet today, this Swindon-born writer, who rose to prominence in the USA, is barely known in his home town.
Mike Yates has taken a particular interest in drawing attention to this forgotten son of Swindon and has written ‘Ralph Bates – Swindon’s unknown author’ which will be launched on Saturday 9 August.
Bates spent the first 35 years of his life in Swindon, where worked in the Great Western Railway factory and became very much involved in political activities. As an active Communist he was spurred against the rise of fascism in Europe to go and fight in the Spanish Civil War.
Mike’s research reveals he was well known to the intelligence services who kept an eye on who he met and where he travelled to.
After the war Bates went Mexico and later settled in the USA where he became a Professor of English Literature at New York University.
Many of Ralph’s novels and short stories, such as The Olive Field, are set in Spain. Another books contains stories written during a stay in Mexico.
His final book, The Dolphin in the Wood, a semi-autobiographical account of his early life in North Wiltshire, he writes: ‘In England I was a dolphin in a wood, wildly out of place. If I tried to live in England I should always be fighting naval battles in a forest.’
Ralph Bates died in New York in 2000, aged 101.
Mike will be launching ‘Ralph Bates – Swindon’s unknown author’ and signing copies at Pen & Paper, 113, Victoria Road, Old Town, Swindon SN1 3BH on Saturday 9 August, 12noon to 3pm.
Find out more about this fascinating Swindonian at www.theralphbatesproject.co.uk