Walter Allen was a literary critic and novelist who entered the world of letters not via the traditional route of Oxbridge but in his home town of Birmingham.

As well as being one of the ‘Birmingham Group’, a loose affiliation of Midlands writers, Allen was a journalist and teacher (mostly in American universities) and one-time literary editor of the New Statesman. As he found his way into fiction, he recalled coming across D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow in a circulating library and taking it out ‘as quickly as I could, furtively, rather as though buying a packet of contraceptives’. In 1954 he published his influential The English Novel: a Short Critical History and, from 1959, took a near 30-year pause in his novel writing career.