Award-winning novelist David Wheldon dies, aged 70

Award-winning novelist David Wheldon dies, aged 70

Tributes have been paid to novelist, poet and pathologist David Wheldon following his unexpected death at the age of 70.

Wheldon, who released a number of novels in the 1980s and 1990s, passed away at his Bedford home on 7th January.

Born in Moira, Leicestershire, Wheldon attended a Quaker school before studying medicine at Bristol University, and pathology and medical microbiology at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. He was placed on the teaching staff of Oxford University and, in 1980, was appointed consultant in medical microbiology at Bedford Hospital.

His first novel, The Viaduct, an allegorical tale of a man who leaves his past behind to walk along a railway track, was published by The Bodley Head in 1983. It won the Triple First Award in a year when Graham Greene and William Trevor were the final judges, and was runner-up for the Whitbread Award. Three further novels followed with The Course of Instruction (The Bodley Head), A Vocation (The Bodley Head) and At the Quay (Barrie & Jenkins).

The author then paused his literary career to develop a treatment of multiple sclerosis, with which his wife Sarah Longlands, an artist, had been diagnosed.

However, in recent years he began publishing stories again, with The Guiltless Bystander short story collection due to be released by Confingo Publishing later this year.

Writer David Rose came to know the author and introduced his short fiction to editors on both sides of the Atlantic, leading to his work being published by Confingo, the Nightjar chapbook series, and the American Woven Tale Press magazine, “reintroducing a highly distinctive voice to the literary world”.

Rose said: “I was first tipped off about David Wheldon's work by the Irish writer Aiden O'Reilly a few years ago. Aiden had been working in London in the late 1980s and came upon a copy of The Course of Instruction, intrigued by the blurb. Enthralled by the novel itself, he went on to read The Viaduct. In the internet age, Aiden stumbled on David Wheldon's website, made contact, made friends, and alerted me to his work.

“I too made contact with David, tracked down battered copies of the first two novels in Penguin, and a first edition of the third novel, A Vocation, to my mind the best of the four published novels. However, there is a self-published fifth: Days and Orders, which David sent me. It made a deep impression — a strange, philosophical, existentialist meditation in a timeless, possibly medieval setting.”