Roger King was born in Forty Hill, Enfield, a suburb of London, England. He earned a M.S. from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Reading in England, where he was on the faculty until resigning to devote more time to fiction. His first degree was in Food Science from the University of Nottingham. He was invited to teach at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, which began his involvement with Africa and rural poverty.
His first novel, Horizontal Hotel, was published by André Deutsch in 1983. The Irish Times called the book “a searing invocation of modern Africa,” and The Guardian wrote, “All is trembling on the edge of breakdown, yet the writing stays cool; the effect is of a quiet delirium.”
Written on a Stranger’s Map followed in 1987 and drew on King’s experiences working in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is the story of a decent, fallible man, enmeshed in passion, revolution, violence, and corruption. The Guardian described it as a novel of “luminous clarity.”
While writing his early novels King continued to spend much of his time traveling and working in Africa and Asia, usually for UN agencies. In 1990, he was invited to teach creative writing, literature, and screenwriting at Eastern Washington University, and moved to the United States. His third novel, Sea Level, was published in 1992 by Simon and Schuster’s Poseidon Press and is mainly set in Asia. According to The New York Times, “this beautifully worked novel is told from the vantage point of a man who has reached the end of everything: his married life; his affair with a shrewd erotic mistress; his career, even the ends of the earth.”
After completing Sea Level in 1991, King’s life was abruptly slowed by the sudden onset of a chronic illness—ME Disease. During irregular remissions, he was on the creative writing and English literature faculty at San Francisco State University, the University of New Mexico, and the Warren Wilson MFA Program.
A fourth book, A Girl From Zanzibar was published in 2002. It won the BABRA (now NCBR) Award for “The Best Novel of the Year.” The New York Times called A Girl From Zanzibar a “brilliantly prescient novel,” and O Magazine said “a steady beat of danger pursues the adventurous, money-hungry heroine of Roger King’s intriguing new novel…King is no slouch at weaving global politics into his narrative, from shifty banking to arms dealing, but at heart Marcella’s quest is a traditional but profound one. The pathos of this well-told, frequently surprising story is how hard it is for this beautiful, intelligent ‘woman from everywhere, belonging nowhere’ to fulfill such fundamental need.” In July 2011 A Girl From Zanzibar was one of thirteen books chosen by Mass Humanities for their “Recommended Summer Reading” list.
King’s newly completed book is titled Love and Fatigue in America and will be published in the spring of 2012. This new autobiographical novel records an Englishman’s decade-long journey through his newly adopted country in the company of a mystifying illness and a charismatic dog. “King’s disturbing, delightful odyssey encompasses many subjects—love, loss, health, illness, disconnection, and most of all, the modern American psyche: its roots and its rootlessness. A profound and wonderfully original book,” says writer Joan Wickersham.
King was Executive Producer of the feature documentary Still The Children Are Here, made in collaboration with Mira Nair and Dinaz Stafford. The film is set in the remote village of Sadholpara in Northeastern India. He has also written a screenplay adaptation of A Girl From Zanzibar, which is in development. His script of Written on a Stranger’s Map won the BBC/Writer’s Guild award for best first screenplay.
King has worked in twenty African and Asian countries, primarily for United Nations’ agencies. Projects ranged from rice farming and policy in Liberia, resettling ex-guerillas in Zimbabwe, jute in Bangladesh, facilitating popular participation projects, adult literacy, women’s savings and microcredit in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia and Zambia, large scale regional economic development in Pakistan, to evaluating the decollectivization of agriculture in Inner Mongolia, China. While implementing these projects, King was based in London, England, and Rome, Italy.
Recent international work has included alternative Global Future Scenarios for the World Bank Strategy Department and Afghanistan reconciliation and reconstruction proposals for UN agencies. In 2010-2011 he was the recipient of a Copeland Fellowship in International Development at Amherst College. King’s most recent public appearances include talks on global governance and international development, as well as a film event marking the centenary of the Mexican Revolution.
Roger King is represented by Andrew Blauner of Blauner Books Literary Agency. Since 1997 King has lived and written in Leverett, Massachusetts, a small village outside of Amherst. The only useful treatment for ME Disease he has discovered is being on a sailboat on the ocean.
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