Broadcaster, novelist and mystical writer

 

Brian Cleeve: Brian Cleeve, who has died aged 81, was a novelist, biobibliographer and broadcaster. He specialised in well-crafted popular fiction that ranged from Regency romances to thrillers.

 Among his more serious work was a collection of short stories, The Horse Thieves of Ballysaggert (1966), and he entered the blockbuster market with Cry of Morning (1971) and Tread Softly on This Place (1972).

Brian Talbot Cleeve was born at Thorpe Bay, Essex, on November 22nd, 1921, the second child of Charles Cleeve, of a Limerick family, and his wife Josephine (née Talbot). He was educated at Selwyn House, Broadstairs, St Edward's, Oxford, the University of South Africa and University College, Dublin.

His education was interrupted when aged 17 he ran away to sea, joining the crew of the Queen Mary. He served as a merchant seaman during the second World War, sailing on British, Dutch and Irish ships. In 1943, while on shore leave in Lisbon, he was recruited by British intelligence. It was, he later recalled, "the real James Bond stuff" but without the fun.

An avid reader, he had been always interested in the historical development of religions. Drawn to Catholicism, which he found to be an archaeological treasure house, he converted at the age of 20.

When the war ended, he quit the sea and settled in Dublin where he met his wife, Veronica McAdie. Following their marriage in 1945 he divided his time between selling jewellery and "writing the great unpublished novel that nearly every Irishman wastes his time on".

In 1947 he, his wife and daughter moved to London, travelling from there to Cape Town by way of Sweden and the West Indies. Money was in short supply and the £100 his wife won playing poker helped pay their way. Settling in Johannesburg, he sold his first few newspaper articles and short stories along with some insurance. But this did not bring in enough money to live on, and the couple came up with the idea of selling horoscopes and perfume. This proved to be very lucrative and they soon had their own home and car.

His reputation as a salesman subsequently led to his appointment as South African representative for the Czech car manufacturer, Skoda.

Encouraged by his wife, he had begun writing novels, the first of which, The Far Hills, was published in 1952. His third novel, Birth of a Dark Soul, dealt with apartheid. Already under suspicion by the authorities, they disapproved of his treatment of the subject and he was expelled from South Africa in 1954.

Returning to Dublin, he turned to writing short stories. He struck it lucky when the Saturday Evening Post accepted a story, and he became a regular contributor to the magazine. Many of his stories were translated and published in France, Germany and Scandinavia. Eventually, however, demand for short stories dried up and he returned to writing novels and, with his wife, began writing television plays. "They are more difficult and not as profitable as short stories," he said. "But a professional writer must change with the market."

In 1962 he began working for Telefís Éireann. With Brian Farrell he presented the magazine programme Broadsheet and he was also the presenter of the newspaper review programme, Headlines and Deadlines. In 1966 he was dropped as narrator of the Discovery series, which he scripted, because his "Ascendancy" accent was deemed to be unsuitable for broadcasting. "Is it not now permissible to speak as Parnell spoke?" asked Quidnunc in The Irish Times. Following protests, the station continued to employ him as a scriptwriter. There was further controversy in 1971 when he left the Seven Days team after the programme's transfer to the control of the newsroom.

"From then on my life in television hung by a thread." In 1973 RTÉ informed him that there was no work for him, and his career as a broadcaster was over.

In the late 1970s Brian Cleeve embraced mysticism. This caused him to return to the Catholic Church after 22 years as an agnostic. And it led him to write, under the influence and guidance of a "presence", three books of metaphysical speculation. These were The House on The Rock and The Seven Mansions (both 1980), and The Fourth Mary (1982). This work attracted a cult following and he published further metaphysical writings on the Internet.

His three-volume Dictionary of Irish Writers (1967-72) was well received and a second edition, edited in collaboration with Anne M. Brady, was published in 1988. His last work of fiction, A Woman of Fortune, was published in 1993.

He completed his formal education in 1956 when the degree of Ph.D was conferred on him by UCD. His interests included travel, Italian literature and history. He was twice épée fencing champion of Ireland.

Predeceased by his wife Veronica in 1999, he is survived by his daughters Berenice and Tanga.

Brian Cleeve: born November, 1921; died, March, 2003.