Dal Stivens (1911 - 1997)

Brief Biography

Dal Stivens was born Dallas George Stivens in Blayney, New South Wales in 1911. He worked in a variety of jobs including jounalist, bank clerk, public servant and court reporter. He served in the Army Education Service during the period 1943-44, then the Department of Information from 1944-49, and then press official at Australia House, London during 1949-50. After this stint in London he resigned to take up full-time writing.

Stivens's writing career can be said to start during the time when he was seconded to the office of the Labor Minister Arthur Calwell when he wrote How Many Australians Tomorrow?, and influential immigration text. He then graduated to writing short stories for Lilliput, The Observer, The Times Literary Supplement and John O'London's Weekly.

In the early 1960s Stivens, along with Walter Stone and Jill Helyer, founded the Australian Society of Authors, of which Stivens was the first president. After the publication of his last book, The Incredible Egg in 1974 he spent the bulk of his time following his other love, painting.

Stivens's novel A Horse of Air won the Miles Franklin Award in 1970 and in 1981 he was honoured with the Patrick White Award for his services to Australian literature.

Dal Stivens died on June 15, 1997.


Jimmy Brockett 1951 (also known as The Entrepeneur)
The Wide Arch 1958
Three Persons Make a Tiger (translated from the Chinese of Wu Yu) 1968
A Horse of Air 1970
The Bushranger 1978

Short Story Collections
The Tramp 1936
The Courtship of Uncle Henry 1946
The Gambling Ghost 1953
Ironbark Bill 1955
The Scholarly Mouse 1957
Selected Stories 1936-1968 1969
The Unicorn and Other Tales 1976
The Demon Bowler and Other Cricket Stories 1979

The Incredible Egg - A Billion Year Journey 1974
A Guide to Book Contracts with Barbara Jefferis

A HORSE OF AIR book cover A Horse of Air 1970
Cover illustration by Ken Done

Dustjacket synopsis:
"Harry Craddock - millionaire, ornithologist, idealist and buffoon - wrote this book, an intriguing account of his expedition to central Australia in search of the rare night parrot.

"But all is not as it first appears. Craddock wrote his story while in a mental hospital, and the book also includes excerpts from his wife's diary, and comments from both his psychiatrist and editor. The result is an absorbing and multi-layered story, whose ultimate meaning and meanings must be decided by the reader."

"A brilliant novel, intensely moving, stimulating and puzzling...." - P.J. Rainey, The Bush Telegraph
"Stivens' master work...zestful, witty and intellectually first class...one of the few Australian novels in which artistic and intellectual triumph are one and the same thing" - D.R. Burns, Nation Review

First Paragraph:
I am the author and amateur naturalist mentioned in the first chapter of this rather unorthodox autobiography by Harold Craddock. I had known and respected Harold Craddock for some years - his contributions to Australian ornithology have been outstanding - but I was never a close friend. Accordingly, I was a little surprised when he asked me to act as his literary godfather, as it were, and handed me the manuscript which with only slight editing appears on the pages that follow. His original idea was that I should use his autobiography as part of the source material for an account of the expedition he led to central Australia in 1967. His manuscript, as he was at pains to point out, was a subjective account and was deficient in many details. "Moreover, it's a bit wild in places - you'll need to get people to corroborate some of the things I've written," he said. This was my own first reaction, and I, accordingly, spent several months interviewing other people who had accompanied Harold Craddock and gathering the mass of material necessary for a straightforward account of the Craddock and Drake Expedition to find the rare night parrot. It was only when I had accumulated a mass of material that I realized that the finest memorial to my friend was to publish his autobiography much as he had written it, with only minor interpolations by others where accounts differed. Who was I, for instance, to judge whether Harold Craddock, or someone else, was being truthful? The truth about anything must be disputable. As he asks in the autobiography, which is the reality and which is the dream? Most of the people mentioned have consented to the references made to them even though they did not always agree that they acted as Harold Craddock said they did or from the motives he imputed to them. They have, in fact, behaved with extraordinary magnanimity. In a few places only they have interpolated mild demurrers. Occasionally it has been necessary to use invented names and alter details.

From the Penguin paperback edition, 1986.

This novel won the Miles Franklin Award in 1970.

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THE UNICORN book cover The Unicorn and Other Tales 1976
The cover reproduces an original wood-block print by David Aspden.

Dustjacket synopsis:
"A new collection of fables and fantasies, science fiction and tall stories, harsh naturalism and fine ironies from one of the great originals of short fiction."

"His imagination has always been one of the finest and most fertle in Australia...Any similarity between any observable norm of reality and the world of Stivens' yarns is a matter of pure coincidence." - Dennis Douglas
"One of our genuinely original comic writers." - Harry Heseltine

"The Unicorn"
"Streamlined Fairy Tale"
"The Teacher"
"Woamn's Hunger"
"The Golden Urn"
"The Little Rainbow"
"Death in the Bush"
"The Perch"
"Brown Hawk: Black Duck"
"Mermaids Singing"
"Some Rain"
"Late Summer"
"The Ring-in"
"Gummy Jack Gets His Sleep"
"The Biggest Sheep Station in the World"
"Space Warp"
"The Simpleton Dog"
"Tenth Course"
"The Smile"
"The Blue Wren"

From the Wild & Woolley paperback edition, 1979.

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THE DEMON BOWLER book cover The Demon Bowler and Other Cricket Stories 1979
Cover illustration by Ron Brooks

Dustjacket synopsis:
"For the first time Australian novelist, painter, short story and natural history writer, Dal Stivens has gathered together the short stories which reflect his passion for cricket.

"Dal Stivens is one of Australia's foremost comic writers with a highly acclaimed internatonal reputation.

"Most of these stories have been previously published and some have been broadcast on the ABC and the BBC. Classics like 'The Batting Wizard from the City', and 'The Miraclulous Cricket Bat' are included.

"World wide interest in cricket is at its peak and this collection will undoubtedly be welcomed by cricket lovers for many seasons to come.

"Two of the stories, 'The Discovery' and 'Rolling Over the Poms' are published here for the first time."

"Indians Have Special Eyesight"
"The Batting Wizard from the City"
"The Man Who Almost Ruined Cricket"
"The Strange Business at Bombay and Madras"
"The Demon Bowler"
"The Ring-In"
"When Trumper Went to Billabong"
"The Miraculous Cricket Bat"
"The Discovery"
"Rolling Over the Poms"

From the Outback Press hardback edition, 1979.

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This page and its contents are copyright © 1997-2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: March 25, 2001.