Prince, Peter 1942–
Prince, Peter 1942–
(Peter Alan Prince)
ADDRESSES: Home—31 Meteor St., London SW11, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster Publicity Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Freelance writer. BPC Publishing Ltd., London, England, editor, 1969–71; Vauxhall Manor School, London, writer-in-residence, 1973–74.
AWARDS, HONORS: Somerset Maugham Award, Society of Authors, 1973, for Play Things; British Academy Award for best screenplay for a television series, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Oppenheimer; Writers Guild of Great Britain Award; Mystery Writers of America Special Award.
Play Things (also see below), Gollancz (London, England), 1972.
Dogcatcher, Gollancz (London, England), 1974.
Agents of a Foreign Power, Gollancz (London, England), 1977.
The Good Father (also see below), J. Cape (London, England), 1983, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1985.
Death of the Soap Queen, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1990.
The Great Circle, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
Waterloo Story, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1999.
Bubbles, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2001.
Adam Runaway, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
The Floater, British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC-TV), 1973.
Play Things (adapted from his novel), Thames TV, 1974.
Early Struggles, BBC-TV, 1975.
Last Summer, Thames TV, 1976.
Cold Harbour, Thames TV, 1978.
Oppenheimer (seven-part television drama), BBC-TV, 1980, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 1982.
Bright Eyes, BBC-TV, 1982.
(Adapter) Mr. Right, BBC-TV, 1983.
The Strange Case of Steven Dyer, Channel 4 (London, England)/ZDF (Germany), c. 1984.
Audubon (two-part television drama), BBC-TV, c. 1984.
A Song for Europe, 1985.
The Hit, Island Alive, 1984.
Waterland (adapted from a novel by Graham Swift), Fine Line Features, c. 1992.
Also author of Oh, Mischief. Contributor of short stories and articles on television to periodicals, including Riverside Writing.
ADAPTATIONS: The Good Father was filmed by Christopher Hampton and released by Skouras Pictures, 1987.
SIDELIGHTS: Award-winning writer Peter Prince is noted for the unconventional prose style and realistic dialogue that he brings to his novels, short stories, and screenplays. In Prince's first novel, a disillusioned young architecture student gives up a promising career to manage an adventure playground frequented by gangs of London "toughs." Play Things discloses "a sharp mind and competent throwaway style," a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement noted, while also commenting that Prince has "squandered, in what seems like an effort never to bore, never to overstate, the material for a very much longer book." Oswell Blakeston called the novel "exciting [and] relevant" in Books & Bookmen. Blakeston went on to describe Play Things as "absolutely first class. [Prince's] short book grips as a story, and it manages to take all the modern problems into consideration: violence, drugs, colour, swastika and peace signs."
Prince followed the success of his first novel with Dogcatcher, which features an intelligence officer-turned-detective who abandons his native England to set up shop in Minnesota. The book was criticized by some reviewers for its stereotypical approach to the crime novel. "The danger in resorting to genre … is to assume that it is as easy as the best genre writers make it look," commented a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. Of interest to critics, however, was the novel's British perspective on American culture and the realistic portrayal of the story's protagonist.
In The Good Father, Prince introduces his readers to two men in their mid-thirties who suddenly find both their marriages and their families in the midst of breaking apart. Popular with both readers and critics, The Good Father was later filmed as a major motion picture. Prince's novel recounts the unique relationship that develops between the two men as they work to hang on to both their children and their self-respect through their support of one another. "Like any good treatment of the sex war, The Good Father is full of surprising reversals, as characters find themselves acting at variance with their declared principles or are tripped headlong into the mire of their motives," commented Lewis Jones in the Times Literary Supplement. Reviewer John Nicholson also gave the novel high marks in the London Times: "What makes [The Good Father] painfully fascinating to anyone in their thirties is Mr. Prince's attempt to answer two questions of great sociological interest: what happened to the Forever Young Generation when they realized that they weren't, and in the author's own words—will the men of the Class of '66 (or thereabouts) ever get over the burden of guilt and sense of their own inadequacy laid on them by their difficult, driven, ambivalent and astonishing women?"
Prince also wrote the screenplay for Waterland, a film of the early 1990s directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal that starred Jeremy Irons. As Richard Schickel related in Time, it is a "knotty, curiously absorbing adaptation of Graham Swift's novel." The story focuses on Tom Crick, a retiring high school teacher in Pittsburgh in 1974. Crick tells his students about "his marriage and his family—and a murder—back in the waterlands of eastern England," wrote Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic. Through flashback sequences viewers are taken to England during the 1940s. "Madness, incest, something very close to fratricide and an abortion" are exposed as parts of Crick's past that have far-reaching effects in his personal and family life. "Through the metaphor of [its characters'] lives," observed Schickel, Waterland suggests that "our best hope lies in shedding [our histories] and finding our way back to a prelapsar-ian state." While Kauffmann was unimpressed with Waterland, calling it "waterlogged and swollen," Schickel appreciated the work, calling it "a challenging, absorbing film."
Prince's novel The Great Circle also travels back in time. Set in February, 1865, this story is staged on a paddle-steamer named Laurentia. A voyage of nearly two weeks takes passengers from Boston to London. Prince explores "mores both timely and timeless in this entertaining period piece," remarked Booklist contributor Michele Leber, who called The Great Circle a "well-fashioned tale … eminently satisfying for all." Library Journal contributor Barbara Maslekoff recommended the novel as "good reading," in which Prince creates "an interesting tale with some memorable characters and unpredictable outcomes." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "While nothing is quite what it appears in this leisurely period piece … resolutions are predictably symmetrical, very much in the manner of the day."
Reviewing Prince's 1999 novel, Waterloo Story, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised the author for a "subtly brilliant story" with "energetic density,… unnerving frankness,… [and] utilitarian prose that leaps with spot-on dialogue … soberly observing the social and political upheavals that roiled Britain in the '60s and '70s."
Traveling even farther into the past with Adam Runaway, Prince writes about the British expatriate community in Lisbon during the eighteenth century. After the first stock market crash in recorded history, the young Adam Hanaway leaves England for Portugal to make a living after his father dies destitute. As he struggles to survive as a clerk unfamiliar with business or the local culture, Adam's fortunes turn even worse after a slip of the tongue proves insulting to the Inquisition. Although a Publishers Weekly critic found the novel to be "historically colorful," the reviewer felt that "the story has little suspense, less humor and feeble action." On the other hand, Michele Leber asserted in her Booklist assessment that in Adam Runaway "Prince captures the vitality of early eighteenth-century Lisbon and the horror of the Inquisition's autos-da-fe."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1997, Michele Leber, review of The Great Circle, p. 1800; June 1, 2005, Michele Leber, review of Adam Runaway, p. 1756.
Books & Bookmen, January, 1973, Oswell Blakeston, review of Play Things, p. 85.
Library Journal, July, 1997, Barbara Maslekoff, review of The Great Circle, p. 127.
New Republic, November 16, 1992, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Waterland, p. 28.
Publishers Weekly, June 23, 1997, review of The Great Circle, p. 71; January 17, 2000, review of Waterloo Story, p. 44; May 30, 2005, review of Adam Runaway, p. 38.
Time, November 9, 1992, Richard Schickel, review of Waterland, p. 81.
Times (London, England), October 6, 1983, John Nicholson, review of The Good Father.
Times Literary Supplement, September 22, 1972, review of Play Things, p. 1122; March 29, 1974, review of Dogcatcher, p. 313; November 4, 1983, Lewis Jones, review of The Good Father, p. 1227.