ACCLAIMED Irish author and broadcaster Maurice Leitch has died, aged 90, in England.
The Co Antrim-born writer enjoyed a stellar career which spanned over 50 years.
He is best known for his novels The Liberty Lad, Poor Lazarus, which won the Guardian Book Prize, and Silver’s City, which won the Whitbread Prize.
In his work, Leitch explored the frustrations and tensions of Northern Ireland.
He began writing children’s stories for the BBC while teaching in Co Antrim.
He then joined the broadcaster fulltime in 1960, and went on to serve as editor of BBC Radio 4′s Book at Bedtime series from 1977 to 1989.
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He was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 1998.
James Doyle, whose Turnpike Books published his last novel, Gone to Earth in 2019, described Leitch as “a Protestant but not a unionist writer”.
Leitch first novel, The Liberty Lad, which was published in 1965, told the story of protagonist Frank Glass and a threatened mill closure in the village of his youth, Kildargan.
The novel received backlash due to its dealing with politics and corruption as well as homosexuality.
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His second book, Poor Lazarus, came four years later, and was also banned in the Republic of Ireland but won him the Guardian Fiction Prize.
Works that followed included Stamping Ground and Silver’s City, which clinched him the Whitbread Prize in 1981.
The novel follows Ned Galloway, a streetwise hired gun in Belfast, who has abducted ‘Silver’ Steele a jailed Loyalist folk-hero who fired the first shot of the Troubles.
Other books penned by Leitch include Chinese Whispers, Burning Bridges and Gilchrist.
John Hewitt, a left-wing, Protestant poet and critic, said of Leitch that he “had let the side down”.
However, fellow Belfast writer Robert McLiam Wilson praised his “glorious, inconvenient voice”.