Oliver Onions

Award winning novelist, Oliver Onions, was a student of art in Bradford, London and Paris
during the 1890s. He won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1946 for his novel Poor Man’s

George Oliver Onions, eldest son of George Frederick & Emily Alice Onions was born at 126 Heap Lane, Bradford on 13th November 1873. His studies in art, beginning at Bradford Technical College, led to a brief career as a commercial artist, designing posters and illustrating magazines and books. He also worked as a draughtsman for Harmworth Press.

Oliver soon turned his hand to writing, and in July 1900, published his first novel The Compleat Bachelor, which was such a success it was reprinted in the very same month. The copy exhibited in the display case is from the fifth reprint in 1903.

This success set Oliver onto the path of prolific writing of over 40 novels and collections. He became particularly noted in the psychological horror fiction genre with his trilogy comprising In Accordance with the Evidence (1910), The Debit Account (1913) and The Story of Louie (1913), and was widely acclaimed for The Beckoning Fair One (1911), which was hailed as “one of the very best classical ghost stories in English” by fellow ghost story novelists Algernon Blackwood, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and Edgar F Bleiler.

In 1918 he legally changed his name to George Oliver, but continued to write and publish his stories as Oliver Onions. Besides psychological horror fiction, the multi talented Oliver also wrote detective fiction, historical fiction and a science fiction novel.

1946 saw him awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Poor Man’s Tapestry, a historical novel set in the1450’s at the outset of the Wars of the Roses. He published his final novel Bells Rung Backwards in 1953 aged 80, and never forgot his art training, painting the artwork for the dust jackets of all his first editions.

Oliver married the novelist Berta Ruck, and died 9 April 1961.