One of the most prolific writers of historical fiction in the 20th Century, author and poet Henry Treece was born in 1911 in Staffordshire. Though he mostly wrote prose fiction he also published five collections of poems including The Haunted Garden in 1947. Together with writer J F Henry he was founder of the New Apocalypse Movement that grew up in the 1930s.
Treece went to Birmingham University and graduated with a BA in 1933 heading straight into teaching, a career he would pursue for the next 25 years. He married Mary Woodman in 1939 and settled in Barton-on-Humber for most of the rest of his life. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Air Force and rose to the rank of Flight Lieutenant before demobbing and returning to the teaching profession.
Treece flirted with poetry in the early part of his writing career, publishing the single poem Conquerors and a collection under the title 38 Poems which came out in 1940, before moving more towards prose fiction later on. His most notable poetic works are The Black Seasons and The Haunted Garden, all published and written during the forties.
It wasn’t until 1952 that Treece finally achieved something more than moderate success with his historical novel The Dark Island that marked the beginning of a remarkably prolific career. His subject area was the world of the Vikings and the Crusades and from that point on he largely gave up poetry in favor of fictional prose.
Treece met Scottish poet and writer J F Henry in 1938 and together they formed the writing group known as the New Apocalyptics producing three poetry anthologies through the late 30s and 40s. The first was The New Apocalypse, followed by The White Horseman a few years later and then finally Crown and Sickle.
Theirs was a battle against the political realism of the time that they saw as stifling poetic contributions in the UK. Amongst contributors to the three anthologies were the likes of Dylan Thomas, Leslie Phillips and Ian Bancroft and their aim was to claim back the influence of surrealism and romanticism. The movement was a loose collection of like-minded writers who had the ability to see and write about the mayhem, tears and laughter along with the peace and order in all its entirety.
Whilst Dylan Thomas had written for the anthologies, he refused to sign up to the movement, something which caused some friction and led to the two men becoming estranged. Despite that, the movement lasted into the 50s before Treece changed his focus to prose fiction over poetry.
As well acting as editor for the New Apocalyptic anthologies, Treece also worked on magazines such as Transformation and the 1949 publication A New Romantic Anthology. Over his life time, Treece wrote and published over 70 books of poetry and historical novels. His most famous prose work is probably the Viking Trilogy that included Viking’s Dawn and Viking’s Sunset published in the 1950s.
Treece continued to write up until his death in 1966.