Elstob, Peter 1915-2002
ELSTOB, Peter 1915-2002
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 22, 1915, in London, England; died July 21, 2002. Businessman, publisher, and author. Elstob was a colorful character who is best remembered as the author of several military history books and as being a controversial officer of the writers organization International PEN. Having a checkered early career, after attending the University of Michigan for only one year he beat a hasty retreat back to England when he got into trouble with the police. Joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a pilot, he was kicked out of the service for flying dangerously close to the luxury liner Queen Mary to wave at his girlfriend. Next, he went to Spain to fight against the fascists and was arrested on suspicion of being a spy. Although his first wife, Leigh Smith, negotiated Elstob's release, the experience was a horrifying one about which he wrote in his first book, Spanish Prisoner (1939). When World War II began Elstob attempted to rejoin the RAF but was rejected, so he enlisted in the Royal Tank Regiment. During the war he saw action in Africa and Europe and was made a tank commander; one of his most successful books, Warriors for the Working Day (1960), is about his war experiences. After the war Elstob was involved in a number of business ventures, including running the Arts Theatre Club in London during the 1940s and early 1950s, successfully marketing a beauty masque product, and running an artists' colony in Mexico, where he met the woman who would be his second wife, Barbara Morton. In 1958 Elstob made the news when he financed an unsuccessful balloon voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and his 1959 book The Flight of the Small World tells of this adventure. His next big business venture was Archive Press, a publishing company begun in 1963 that reprinted old historical texts. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Elstob published several noteworthy histories, including The Armed Rehearsal (1964), Bastogne: The Road Block (1968), The Battle of the Reichswald (1970), Hitler's Last Offensive (1971), and Condor Legion (1973). His writing tapered off as he became increasingly involved in International PEN, first as press officer and later as general secretary and vice president. Under the auspices of this organization he was involved in negotiating the release of a number of authors imprisoned for their political writings, and he became highly controversial for trying to include writers from communist countries in PEN. Elstob's last book, the 1986 novel Scoundrel, is about a con artist possessing character traits which led many to believe the book was based on the author himself. In addition to his writings, Elstob edited A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army (1972) and The Survival of Literature (1979).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Daily Telegraph (London, England), July 31, 2002, p. 1.
Independent (London, England), August 9, 2002, p. 18.
Times (London, England), July 25, 2002, p. 29.