Trained originally as an industrial psychologist, in which capacity he helped Rowntree’s to successfully launch Black Magic chocolates in 1933, Nigel Balchin first received critical acclaim as a novelist during the Second World War when he wrote Darkness Falls From the Air. It was the first of three evocative novels (including the smash-hit The Small Back Room) that made good use of his wartime employment experiences at the Ministry of Food and later in the army. This trio was followed by a stream of other fine novels, such as A Sort of Traitors, Sundry Creditors and The Fall of the Sparrow. Balchin diversified into film scriptwriting after the war, winning a BAFTA for his work on The Man Who Never Was and penning what he whimsically described as “the first folio edition of Cleopatra”, being his original (unused) script for the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor epic. When Balchin died in 1970, at the age of 61, the Guardian anointed him “the novelist of men at work”, a fitting epithet for one of the best fiction writers of the twentieth century. As recently as 2016, Clive James observed that “if a whole era’s most unjustly neglected literary tendency [i.e. novels set in a place of work] is to be revived and properly estimated, Balchin is undoubtedly the place to start.”
The first biography of Balchin (His Own Executioner: The Life of Nigel Balchin) was published in 2015, with a revised and updated second edition following in 2020. Click here for information about the book.