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Catling, Patrick Skene 1925-

CATLING, Patrick Skene 1925-

PERSONAL: Born February 14, 1925, in London, England; immigrated to United States; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1956.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Gillan Aitken, 17 Belgrave Place, London SW1, England.

CAREER: Writer. Worked on editorial staff of Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD, beginning 1947; journalist for Manchester Guardian, Punch, and Newsweek.

WRITINGS:

The Chocolate Touch (children's novel), illustrations by Mildred Coughlin McNutt, Morrow (New York, NY), 1952, new edition, illustrated by Margot Apple, 1979.

Better than Working (memoir), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1960.

The Right End of the Stick, Faber (London, England), 1963.

Tourist Attraction (novel), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1963.

The Experiment (novel), Trident Press (New York, NY), 1967.

The Exterminator (novel), Trident Press (New York, NY), 1969.

Freddy Hill: The Life and Loves of a Modern Man of Pleasure, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1969.

The Catalogue, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1970.

The Surrogate, 1972.

Best Summer Job, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974.

Secret Ingredients, Hart-Davis McGibbon (London, England), 1976.

Bliss Incorporated, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1976.

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, Blond & Briggs (London, England), 1980, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1981.

John Midas in the Dreamtime, illustrations by Jean Jenkins Lower, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.

Contributor to periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: Patrick Skene Catling is a writer whose works include novels, memoirs, and stories for children and who has written for various periodicals, including the Manchester Guardian and Punch. He began his career as a reporter with the Baltimore Sun in the late 1940s. In 1952 he published his first book, Chocolate Touch, a children's tale about a boy named John Midas whose desire for chocolate results in astonishing adventures, especially after he spends a magic coin and finds that all his food turns into chocolate. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted Catling's "tricks with alliteration," and Jeanne Massey wrote in the New York Times that Catling "has deftly given a modern twist" to the King Midas legend. A New York Herald Tribune Book Review critic, meanwhile, proclaimed Chocolate Touch "a hilarious success with children."

Catling followed Chocolate Touch with Better than Working, a memoir about his experiences as a writer at the Baltimore Sun and other periodicals. Guardian reviewer Richard West wrote that Catling's recollections "are often hilarious," and J. F. Fixx commented in Saturday Review that Catling possesses "a keen eye for the absurd."

In 1963 Catling published Tourist Attraction, a comic novel about commercialism and romance in England and America. Prominent characters in the tale include a libidinous public-relations expert and a wealthy American widow determined to make a fresh start in England. The novel's more outrageous jibes at capitalist enterprise, meanwhile, include exploitative and misleading appeals aimed at curious, and gullible, tourists. Martin Levin, writing in the New York Times Book Review, affirmed that "the funny part of [Tourist Attraction] details the grosser commercial aspects of Britain and America," while a Times Literary Supplement critic declared that Catling produces "savage and . . . effective comedy."

Catling's next novel, The Experiment, relates the unlikely activities that ensue when a small college establishes a sex institute. Prostitutes, teachers, and local citizenry are soon performing sex acts on behalf of the institute, and some of those acts are even filmed. A Times Literary Supplement critic found the 1967 novel "unsubtle," and Martin Levy wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Catling's "mixture of perspectives . . . negate one another." A Best Sellers reviewer was even more vehement in expressing disapproval, dismissing The Experiment as "ephemeral trash." But R. H. Donahugh wrote in Library Journal that the novel is "often terribly funny" and concluded that it is "great fun."

In his novel The Exterminator Catling depicts a pest-control worker who must contend with his pregnant wife, who is quickly succumbing to the midsummer; a manic supervisor who is convinced that rats are undertaking world domination; and the rats themselves, who exhibit considerable cunning and resourcefulness. Library Journal reviewer P. F. Micciche dismissed The Exterminator as "a mediocre novel," but a Times Literary Supplement critic described it as "diverting . . . and horrifying" and added that Catling explores various themes "to admirable effect." Phyllis Meras wrote in Book World that The Exterminator "haunts the imagination" and affirmed that it is "skillfully told."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Book World, September 7, 1969.

Guardian, April 14, 1961.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1952.

Library Journal, October 15, 1960; July, 1969.

New York Herald Tribune Book Review, September 14, 1952.

New York Times, October 19, 1952.

New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1964; August 24, 1969; March 14, 1971; June 30, 1974.

Punch, April 30, 1969; November 12, 1969; November 25, 1970; January 9, 1980.

Saturday Review, September 20, 1952; December 10, 1960; October 11, 1969.

Springfield Republican, November 6, 1960.

Times Literary Supplement, February 11, 1965; May 22, 1969; May 19, 1972; April 2, 1976; August 20, 1976; February 29, 1980.*

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