Vaughan Wilkins (1890-1959)

At our latest reading group we discussed William Vaughan Wilkins (1890-1959), a writer of popular historial romances and adventure stories, and a journalist. We have 14 Wilkins novels in the collection, thanks to a donation by reading group member Jane Varley. (See our holdings here.)

Vaughan Wilkins novels

I missed the meeting because I was ill, and was very sorry to do so, for Wilkins – like so many of the novelists we read – had the group divided. Some thought (as I did) that he wrote ‘a good romp’ others were unable to finish their novels!

One of Vaughan Wilkins’ novels, A King Reluctant, was adapted as  a film called Dangerous Exile (1958).

Barry wrote of this novel:

I have read, “King Reluctant,” by Vaughan Wilkins, and find that he fully merits his anonymity. I had never previously heard of him and now understand why. His style is typical of those historical novelists of the 1950’s and sixties – full of platitudes. Wilkins is a third class writer. I think he would be popular in those shop libraries, where you paid a fee to borrow a book in the pre 1960 era.
Ouch! Still, the cover of A King Reluctant is delightful.
There is very little trace of Wilkins online, and the information on wikipedia is inaccurate. Thanks to George Simmers, looking him up on, we have these details:

Born Camberwell 1890 (so not Welsh, as wikipedia says). Father – Clerk in holy orders, who had been born in Nottingham. Mother – born in London.

1911 census – mother a ‘professional vocalist/teacher’. WVW – article writer and sub-editor (works on own account).

1916 Army attestation papers – WVW Working as night editor of Evening Standard. Height 5′ 11”. Chest expanded 38′. Assigned as private  to RASC: Horse Transport Army Service Corps. Discharged after 56 days.

1926 – still living with his father in Hammersmith.

1930 – married Mary Stanistreet Powell.

Died 1959 leaving £2837 (so his novels didn’t make him a fortune, but this was probably a respectable amount in those days).

Does anyone else remember this author, or remember their parents reading him?
Next, a positive review of a Wilkins novel.

10 thoughts on “Vaughan Wilkins (1890-1959)

  1. Oh goodie – another author I’ve never heard of! Seriously, I love coming across all these obscurities who were obviously thought highly of at some point. Like the names on the back of a book club dustjacket from the 1950s, you have no idea who they are but they sound intriguing. Looking forward to the reviews!

  2. I like ‘city of frozen fire’ very much (in translation) and I am searching his other books. As I live in holland, this is a major problem and there seem to be no ebooks. Any suggestions?

  3. I read most of Vaughan Wilkins’s historical novels when I was a teenager in the ’50s, learning a lot about 18th and 19th century British history in the process. His fiction contained a good deal of fact, and I owe Mr Wilkins a debt of gratitude for inspiring in me a love of history which has enriched my life.

  4. “After Bath, or if you prefer, the Remarkable story of a flying hat”. I got a copy when it was chucked out of my school library as too old-fashioned. A picaresque fantasy about three (?) children who set off from the magical town of Minchin to recover the magic that their father, chief magician of that town, has lost. They are guided in this quest by a stuffed kolar (sic) bear and a sarcastic flying hat (as per the title)…

  5. I have a few of his novels, all bought second hand. I first read “And So Victoria” as a student in the mid 70s and then found “Seven Tempest” and “Fanfare for a Witch”. I enjoyed these but found the others I found unreadable. Maybe I need to try again.

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