Morris West (1916-1999)

Brief Biography

Morris West was born in St Kilda, Melbourne in 1916. He graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1937 and took up work as a teacher in New South Wales and Tasmania. During this period he had been a member of the Christian Brothers but left the order after 12 years. During World War II he worked as a cipher clerk in Darwin and for a time was private secretary to W.M. Hughes.

Around the time of the publication of his first novel in 1945 he worked in Melbourne radio but left after two years to manage Australian Radio Productions. In 1955 West left Australia to further his career as a writer. During his time away from Australia he lived in Austria, Italy, England and the USA. He returned to Australia in 1980.

Morris West was at various times, chairman of the National Book Council and the National Library Council.

Morris West died while working at his desk on 9th October 1999.


Moon in My Pocket 1945 (published under the pseudonym "Julian Morris")
Gallows on the Sand 1956
Kunda 1956
Children of the Sun 1957
The Big Story 1957
The Second Victory 1958
McCreary Moves In 1958 (published under the pseudonym "Michael East")
Backlash 1958
The Devilís Advocate 1959
The Naked Country 1960 (published under the pseudonym "Michael East")
Daughter of Silence 1961
The Shoes of the Fisherman 1963
The Ambassador 1965 (aka Sutnis)
The Tower of Babel 1968
Summer of the red Wolf 1971
The Salamander 1973
Harlequin 1974
The Navigator 1976
Proteus 1979
The Clowns of God 1981
The World is Made of Glass 1983
Cassidy 1986
Masterclass 1988
Lazarus 1990
The Ringmaster 1991
The Lovers 1993
Vanishing Point 1996
Emminence 1998

The Mask of Marius Melville ?1945
The Prince of Peace ?
Trumpets in the Dawn ?
Genesis in Juddsville ?
The Illusionists 1955
The Devilís Advocate 1961
Daughter of Silence 1962
The Heretic 1969
The World is Made of Glass 1982

A View from the Ridge: The testimony of a pilgrim 1996 (biography)
Images and Inscriptions 1997

Film Adaptations
The Shoes of the Fisherman was filmed in 1968 - directed by Michael Anderson, from a screenplay by James Kennaway and John Patrick (II), and featured Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier, David Janssen, Leo McKern and John Geilgud - from the novel of the same name
The Devil's Advocate was filmed in 1978 - directed by Guy Green from a screenplay by Morris West, and featured John Mills - from the novel of the same name
The Naked Country was filmed in 1984 - directed by Tim Burstall, from a screenplay by Tim Burstall and Ross Dimsey, and featured Simon Chilvers and Rebecca Gilling
The Second Victory was filmed in 1986 - directed by Gerald Thomas, from a screenplay by Morris West, and featured Mario Adorf and Anthony Andrews
Cassidy was filmed in 1989 - directed by Carl Schultz, from a screenplay by Joanna Murray-Smith and Morris West, and featured Bill Hunter, Ivor Kants and Martin Shaw

Daughter of Silence 1961
Cover illustration by Tom Adams.

Dustjacket synopsis:
"A taxi pulled into the plaza and rolled to a halt. A woman got out. She was young, no more than twenty-five. Her face was pale, calm and singularly beautiful, like that of a wax madonna. In the empty sunlit square she looked uncertain and vaguely lonely.

"For a while she stood, looking round the square; then with a firm, confident step, she walked across to one of the houses and rang the bell. It was perhaps thirty seconds later when the man appeared in the doorway - a tall, thick-set fellow in shirt-sleeves. He looked at the girl without any sign of recognition, and asked her a question.

"Then she shot him in the chest..."

"Moving, exciting ... a noble and sesitive book" - New York Herald Tribune
"Complex...powerful...unusually exciting" - Observer

First Paragraph

It was bright noon, high summer, in the upland valleys of Tuscany: a torpid time, a season of dust and languor, of stripped flax and larks in the wheat-stubble, and new wines coming to vintage in the country of the elder gods. It was an hour of bells, undulant in a dry air, tranquil over the tombs of dead saints and the feuds of forgotten mercenaries. It was a persuasion to darkness and drawn shutters; since who but dogs and Americans would expose their foolish foreheads to an August sun at midday?

In the village of San Stefano the first strokes of the angelus were sounding over the square. The bell-ringer was old and the music of his chimes was muted. The village was drowsy and replete with a good harvest, so the last passages of its morning life were muted too.

An old man, stopped, crossed himself and stood with bowed head as the triple tones rang out from the white campanile. A tubby fellow in a white apron with a checker-board napkin over him arm stood at the door of the restaurant and picked his teeth with a match. A mule-face policeman made a tentative step outside his door, squinted languidly round the square, spat, scratched himself and then wandered back to his wine and cheese.

From the Fontana paperback edition, 1976.

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This page and its contents are copyright © 1999-2008 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: July 27, 2008.