Entertainment & Arts

Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider, dies aged 82

Colin Wilson
Image caption Wilson wrote his breakthrough novel in the British Museum's Reading Room

British novelist Colin Wilson, best known as the author of The Outsider, has died aged 82.

Colin Stanley, Wilson's publisher and bibliographer, said the writer and philosopher never fully recovered from a stroke in 2011.

Wilson was admitted to hospital in Cornwall in October for pneumonia and died peacefully on 5 December, he said.

The Outsider, published in 1956, was an examination of alienation in modern society that became a major success.

A study of creative icons from Vincent van Gogh to Franz Kafka, Wilson wrote it in the Reading Room of the British Museum while living in a sleeping bag on Hampstead Heath.

Image caption The Outsider made its penniless author £20,000 in 1956 alone

Selling 20,000 copies in two months, it earned him a place amongst the "Angry Young Men" of British literature, alongside the likes of Kingsley Amis and John Osborne.

"It seemed to me at the time, one of the most important books ever written, and 50 years later it still seems one of the most important books I've ever written," he said, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

In later years, however, he confounded critics with a prolific output in dozens of unconnected genres.

Over more than 150 books, he wrote about serial killers, alien abductions, criminology and the occult; with science fiction novels such as The Spider World trilogy and The Space Vampires giving him a loyal cult following.

None of them ever achieved the same success as his debut, and he often spoke of "the tremendous backlash, and the attacks on me which I found pretty hard going".

Born in Leicester in 1931, he is survived by his wife Joy, their three children and a son from his first marriage.

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