James Leasor

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James Leasor
Born (1923-12-20)20 December 1923
Erith, Kent, England
Died 10 September 2007(2007-09-10) (aged 83)
Wiltshire, England
Pen name James Leasor;
Andrew MacAllan
Occupation Author
Nationality British
Period 1946-1997
Genre Fiction, History

James Leasor (20 December 1923 – 10 September 2007) was a prolific British author, who wrote historical books and thrillers. Leasor's 1978 book, Boarding Party, about an incident from the Second World War that until that time was secret, was turned into a film, The Sea Wolves, starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore and David Niven.


Leasor was born in Erith, Kent, in 1923, and was educated at the City of London School. He was commissioned into the Royal Berkshire Regiment and served in Burma with the Lincolnshire Regiment during World War II. In the Far East his troopship was torpedoed and he spent 18 hours adrift in the Indian Ocean. He also wrote his first book, Not Such a Bad Day, by hand in the jungles of Burma on airgraphs, single sheets of light-sensitive paper which could be reduced to the size of microdots and flown to England in their thousands to be blown up to full size again. His mother then typed it up and sent it off to an agent, who found a publisher who sold 28,000 copies, although Leasor received just £50 for all its rights. He later became a correspondent for the SEAC, the Services Newspaper of South East Asia Command, under the inspirational editorship of Frank Owen, after being wounded in action. His novel, NTR: Nothing to Report, is a semi-autobiographical account of many of his experiences in India and Burma during the war.

After the war, he went to Oriel College, Oxford, where he read English and edited The Isis magazine. He joined the Express after university and became private secretary to Lord Beaverbrook, the proprietor of the newspaper, and then a foreign correspondent.

He first came to notice as an author with a number of critically acclaimed histories. These included The Red Fort, his account of the Indian Mutiny, on which Cecil Woodham-Smith commented in the New York Times, as "Never has this story of hate, violence, courage and cowardice been better told",[1] The One That Got Away, about the only German prisoner of war, Franz von Werra, to escape from Allied territory during World War 2, which was later filmed starring Hardy Kruger, The Plague and the Fire, about London’s twin tragedies in the 17th Century, The Millionth Chance about the loss of the R101 airship and Singapore: The Battle that Changed the World, on the Battle of Singapore in 1942.

He became a full-time author in the 1960s, after the success of his novel, Passport to Oblivion, one of the best selling books of the 1960s, a thriller featuring Dr Jason Love, which was filmed as Where the Spies Are in 1965 starring David Niven. He wrote several more thrillers featuring Love, as well a string of other novels. He continued to write historical books, and later titles included Green Beach, about the Dieppe Raid in 1975, Boarding Party in 1978, which was filmed as The Sea Wolves, The Unknown Warrior, about an agent who was part of the D-Day deception plans, Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes? and Rhodes and Barnato, which was his final book, published in 1997.

He wrote a number of books under the pseudonym Andrew MacAllan and ghosted a number of 'autobiographies' for people as diverse as King Zog of Albania and Jack Hawkins, the British actor.

Leasor married barrister Joan Bevan on 1 December 1951 and they had three sons. He lived for his last 40 years at Swallowcliffe Manor, near Salisbury in Wiltshire. He died in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 10 September 2007, aged 83.


Jason Love novels

Jason Love and Aristo Autos novel

Aristo Autos novels

Robert Gunn novels

Other novels

As Andrew MacAllan (novels)

Short stories

  • Leasor, J. At Rest at Last - first published in The Rigby File (1989), ed. Tim Heald


See also


  1. Woodham-Smith, Cecil (21 April 1957). "A greased cartridge set it off". New York Times. p. Book Review section. 


External links