Thursday 18 December 2014

E is for Sumner Locke Elliott

Sumner Locke Elliott was born on the 17th October 1917 in Sydney and died on the 24th June 1991 in New York. 

Elliott’s parents were Helena Sumner Locke and the freelance journalist Henry Logan Elliott. 
His mother died of eclampsia one day after his birth. Elliott was raised by his aunts, who engaged in a fierce custody battle over him, which was later fictionalized in Elliott's autobiographical novel, Careful, He Might Hear You.  

Elliott wrote his first play when he was twelve & joined the Sydney Independent Theatre whilst still at school.

In 1942 Elliott was drafted into the Australian Army, but instead of being posted overseas, he worked as a clerk in Australia. He used these experiences as the inspiration for his controversial play, Rusty Bugles. The play toured throughout Australia in 1948-49 and achieved the notoriety of being closed down for obscenity by the Chief Secretary's Office.

Elliott moved to the United States in 1948. His first broadway play Buy Me Blue Ribbons, had a short run in 1951.

He continued to write live television dramas, writing more than 30 original plays and numerous adaptations for such shows as Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One and Playhouse 90.

In 1955, he obtained United States citizenship and did not return to Australia until 1974. It was only in later life that Elliott openly declared his homosexuality by living with his lover Whitfield Cook in New Hampshire.

Elliott's best known novel, Careful, He Might Hear You, won the 1963 Miles Franklin Award and was turned into a film in 1983 starring Wendy Hughes, Robyn Nevin & Nicholas Gledhill.

He won the Patrick White Literary Award in 1977.


  • Careful, He Might Hear You (1963)
  • Some Doves and Pythons (1966)
  • Eden's Lost (1969)
  • The Man Who Got Away (1972)
  • Going (1975)
  • Water Under the Bridge (1977)
  • Rusty Bugles (1980)
  • Signs of Life (1981)
  • About Tilly Beamis (1985)
  • Waiting for Childhood (1987)
  • Fairyland (1990)

Short stories

  • Radio Days (1993)

For my author posts I'm trying to only highlight authors that I have read, but the letter E was one of the tricky ones!
I have not read any of Elliott's works, but I have seen the movie of Careful, He Might Hear You many years ago. The main thing I remember from it was how sad I felt for the little orphaned boy. I'm glad he grew up to be a successful writer even if he wasn't able to completely lay to rest all his childhood demons.

Sharon Clarke wrote the only biography about Elliott called Sumner Locke Elliott: Writing Life in 1996.

"I think autobiography happens automatically for me. Memory is the strongest power I have, it's my lifeline to the truth."

 This post is part of Alphabe-Thursday & Authors by Alphabet.


  1. This is a very interesting post. I am always interested in biographies and I love writing and reading so I like tofind out info like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really like this series of authors by letters that you are doing Brona.

    I always enjoy learning about new writers even if I do not really have the time time to read the ones that I want to.

  3. Unique post for E ~ lots of good info ~

    Happy Holidays
    artmusedog and carol

  4. Another new to me author! I love reading about authors and their work!

  5. Hi Brona ~~ You read a lot!! But I may try to read one of these soon. Today I checked out the "Letters" book you told about a month or so by the NZee author. His setting is ... Italy and Switzerland where I've visited a lot.

  6. A novel at 12?


    I am really, really far behind!


    I'm finding this series exceptionally fascinating.

    Thanks for linking it.



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