Lock, Samuel 1926-
Lock, Samuel 1926-
Born April 24, 1926, in South Molton, Devon, England; son of Sidney Avery and Edith May Lock. Ethnicity: "British." Education: Attended St. Paul's College, Cheltenham, England. Politics: "Not interested in any serious way in politics, but leftish, if anything." Religion: Anglican.
Home—3 Studios, Knight's House, Hortensia Rd., London SW10 0QX, England. Agent—Gillon Aitken, Gillon Aitken Associates Ltd., 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England.
Writer, painter, and designer. Playhouse Theatre, Oxford, England, stage designer, beginning 1956. Worked with director Paul Dickson to create a documentary film titled Stone into Steel. 1958-59. Exhibitions: Painter, with work exhibited in London, England, in the 1950s. Military service: Royal Air Force, served in India.
Society of Authors, Royal Society of Literature (fellow).
Mercurio D'Oro (with director Paul Dickson), Venice Film Festival, 1960, for documentary film Stone into Steel; Sagittarius Award, Society of Authors, 1996, for As Luck Would Have It; playwriting grant from Ingram Merrill Foundation.
As Luck Would Have It (novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1995.
Nothing but the Truth (novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1998.
The Whites of Gold (novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2001.
Also author of stage plays, documentary film scripts, and an unpublished notebook titled Dream the Right Dreams.
Samuel Lock's first novel, As Luck Would Have It, begins: "If you have a prejudice against men who … like dressing up in women's clothes, and things like that; then you'd better not read this book." The novel tells the story of Richard, a young man who was abandoned by his parents as a baby, and raised in foster care. He tells the story of his lonely life, his longings for someone to love him, and how he is beginning to learn how to love. Richard, who is gay, goes to London and shares an apartment with Chuck, a man he meets. As a result, his whole life changes, as Chuck, who calls himself "Auntie Zee," becomes jealous of Richard's other friends and does all he can to keep Richard away from them. In the end, a confrontation between the two forces Richard to move on, and he meets his father for the first time. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "There's always an air of mystery … Richard's tale takes on new reflective dimensions." In the Observer, Kate Kellaway referred to the fact that Lock was born in 1926 and the book was published when he was seventy years old. She called the book "a vivid and peculiar late flowering." She praised the novel's artless, rambling style, noting: "One feels one is not reading a novel but meeting a person. This book is an encounter." In the New Statesman and Society, Jason Cowley wrote that, although the book begins as a conventional coming-of-age story, it "deepens into something strange and resonant, an authentic metaphysical thriller."
Nothing but the Truth is also set in the 1950s and, Cowley noted, is also mysterious. The novel stars Jason Callow, a novelist who is burned-out, cynical, and tired, and who has lost faith in his ability as a writer. He undergoes an interior journey, ignoring his parents and brother, his wife Jill (from whom he has recently separated), and his two teenage children. He lives alone in a tiny apartment and spends his time wandering the streets of Chelsea and chatting with a friend who is an aspiring painter. Callow writes in his journal about his painful search for the purpose of his life. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that this story does not "generate enough interest or sympathy" to interest readers, but did note the accuracy of the setting in 1950s London and its rich texture. Christopher Hart in the Literary Review observed: "There is something compelling about Lock's precise, ruminative, slightly sinister prose style." Cowley wrote: "Jason is interesting because he is a mystery even to himself. And the reader shares his bewilderment." Cowley continued that Lock's style has "a secretive sinuosity," and that readers will "read him … for what is left out, for the gaps, ellipses and omissions in the narrative."
Like his first two novels, The Whites of Gold is set in the Chelsea district of the 1950s and 1960s and, like them, according to some critics, it represents a journey in search of the inner man. In this case the central character is a man named Edwin, whose journal shows up several years after his death. The entries reveal little of Edwin's external surroundings and activities but much potential for understanding the man within. Edwin came to London from the countryside, the victim of a brutal childhood. In Chelsea, Edwin is a thief—a thief of trinkets and other tidbits of little monetary value, which he labels with meticulous care and stores in secrecy as if they were priceless treasures. When he meets and gradually falls in love with a man named Mark, Edwin's journal begins to reveal a struggle to absorb and transcend his past and build a new life defined by freedom and trust. "A web of connections between acts of stealing, sexuality and memory develops as the book progresses," wrote Ali Smith in the Times Literary Supplement, "and Edwin fights his real compulsion, which is to be ritually dishonest." Smith commented: "Peculiarly moving, eloquent about the slightest shifts and scents of memory," The Whites of Gold is "the most glowing of [Lock's] novels to date." Wayne Clews offered similar comments in Attitude magazine: "Lock has worked his own magic to create a book where every word counts and that leaves the reader cautiously optimistic about the nature of love and trust."
Lock told CA: "As a painter I exhibited work in the 1950s in London, and then I began to design for the theater. In 1956 I helped Frank Hauser reopen the Playhouse Theatre in Oxford, codesigning plays by Giroudoux, Cocteau, and Elias Cannetti, and in 1960 I designed the settings for the world premiere of Robert Bolt's play, The Tiger and the Horse, at Queen's Theatre, London. This starred Michael Redgrave with his daughter, Vanessa Redgrave, in one of her first major roles.
"In 1958 and 1959 I collaborated with the film director Paul Dickson in making an important documentary about the British Steel Industry, Stone and Steel. Then I began to write plays, one of which is based upon the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh and was written with the help of a playwriting grant. There are four other, more domestic plays, as well as a notebook called Dream the Right Dreams that has never been published, but that speaks a great deal about the theater and my desire to write for it.
"Since the plays, I have concentrated on writing novels. The fourth novel, Sometime Never or Inside Oliver's Head, is different from the previous books because it uses the unconventional device of having the entire narrative related by the voice of an unformed character that is waiting to find its place in literature, as it were.
"I am writing my memoirs, When the World Was Young. They go back to my childhood days in the country, before I moved to the city in the mid-1950s. There is also a lot in the book about my friendships with people like the actor Kenneth Williams and the playwright Robert Bolt, as well as stories about my maternal grandfather, who wore six undershirts that made him appear to be portly and a bowler hat that he kept hung over a knob at the foot of his bed. He was quite a character: an expert cattle dealer and a healer of warts. He often reeked heavily of cologne that he had sent to him in large, wicker-covered bottles. There are also stories in the book about Orson Welles, Lana Turner, and Mae West."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Lock, Samuel, As Luck Would Have It, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1995.
Attitude, March, 2001, Wayne Clews, review of The Whites of Gold, p. 122.
Booklist, January 1, 1996, Kathleen Hughes, review of As Luck Would Have It, p. 790.
Guardian, August 3, 2004, Paul Flynn, review of The Whites of Gold.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1995, review of As Luck Would Have It, p. 1449.
Literary Review, March, 1998, Christopher Hart, review of Nothing but the Truth.
New Statesman, March 19, 2001, Martyn Goff, review of The Whites of Gold, p. 56.
New Statesman and Society, June 12, 1998, Jason Cowley, review of Nothing but the Truth, p. 46.
Observer, July 2, 1995, Kate Kellaway, review of As Luck Would Have It, p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, November 13, 1995, review of As Luck Would Have It, p. 57; September 13, 1999, review of Nothing but the Truth, p. 62.
Sunday Times, February 25, 2001, Margaret Walters, review of The Whites of Gold.
Times Literary Supplement, May 26, 1995, David Montrose, review of As Luck Would Have It, p. 23; March 13, 1998, review of Nothing but the Truth, p. 21; February 9, 2001, Ali Smith, review of The Whites of Gold, p. 22.