Author and playwright

Patrick Hamilton Blue Plaque | Photo by Tony Mould
Patrick Hamilton Blue Plaque
Photo by Tony Mould
12 First Avenue, Hove | Photo by Tony Mould
12 First Avenue, Hove
Photo by Tony Mould
Patrick Hamilton
Patrick Hamilton

Born in Hassocks in 1904

Patrick Hamilton was one of the most gifted and admired writers of his generation. Born in Hassocks, Sussex, in 1904, he and his parents moved a short while later to 12 First Avenue Hove, where he spent his early years. Hamilton was educated at Holland House School in Hove. After a brief career as an actor, he became a novelist in his early twenties.

First novel in 1926

He published his first novel, Craven House, in 1926 and within a few years had established a wide readership for himself. Despite personal setbacks and an increasing problem with drink, he was able to write some of his best work. His plays include the thrillers Rope (1929), on which Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name was based, and Gas Light (1939), also successfully adapted for the screen (1939).

The best book about Brighton

Hamilton’s final novels traced the career of a psychopathic character, Ralph Ernest Gorse, in a series of books – The West Pier, Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse and Unknown Assailant – set in Brighton during the 1920s. Graham Greene hailed West Pier as “the best book written about Brighton”, with JB Priestley delineating his fictional landscape as “a kind of No-Man’s-Land of shabby hotels, dingy boarding-houses and all those saloon bars where the homeless can meet”.

Died in 1962

During his later life, Hamilton developed in his writing a misanthropic authorial voice which became more disillusioned, cynical and bleak as time passed. Hamilton had begun to consume alcohol excessively while still a relatively young man. After a declining career and depression, he died in 1962 of cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure.

Comments about this page

  • Just read the West Pier, having seen this entry last week. A strange period novel written in a curiously pedantic style. However, I might try the other two sagas of Mr Ralph Ernest Gorse’s antics in the future, although I suppose they won’t have the pre-war seedy Brighton background, that enhances the atmosphere of the first book.

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (27/03/2011)
  • Just finished Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse, the second book in the ‘Gorse Trilogy’. It is set in Reading. Brighton is mentioned in relation to the previous West Pier activities of fraudster Gorse, however. The book was used as a basis of the TV series The Charmer, in which Nigel Havers was the main star. Goood read!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (20/04/2011)
  • Just been to the “Patrick Hamilton” room at the Nightingale, part of the “House” art exhibits for B’ton Festival 2011. The West Pier (first of “Gorse” trilogy) is the best of the 3 (IMO) Environs of central Hove are well described (including our road!) I would also recommend his first novel “Craven House” just re-issued in paperback. “Hungover Square” (1941) (which the audio installation @ The Nightingale utilises) is considered his best work. The novel ends with one of the most brutal & darkly humorous punchlines in modern British literature (I think!)

    By Mira Taylor (22/05/2011)
  • Re my post on Patrick Hamilton, I meant “Hangover Square” not “Hungover Square” (!). Sorry about that.

    By Mira Taylor (23/05/2011)
  • I have what I believe is a portrait of Patrick Hamilton by the Hungarian artist J.G.Simon and am not sure what I ought to do with it. Does anyone have a suggestion?

    By Meic Stephens (18/02/2013)
  • Patrick Hamilton lived in Hove Street when he wrote ‘The West Pier’. A little nugget I picked up from Nigel Jones’ biography on PH. It’s the cottage adjacent to The Connaught pub – to the left as you stand facing the pub.

    By Nigey B (27/02/2013)

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