Joseph Hone


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Here at Lilliput, we were very saddened to hear of the passing of our author, the wonderfully gifted Joseph Hone. Joseph was a gentleman and one of the finest authors that we have ever published.


Born in 1937, Joseph was educated at Kilkenny College, Sandford Park and later St. Columba’s College. Joseph went on to live a rich and varied life, starting out as a teacher then finding his way into film. He later produced plays and musicals for the Theatre Royal in Stratford, east London while he also had involvement in theatre here in Ireland with Envoy Productions. The next phase of his career saw him become a successful novelist, broadcaster, travel writer and academic. As a young man he enjoyed an exciting career in radio and television with the BBC and went on to become their overseas correspondent and, later again, was appointed as Radio and Television Officer with the United Nations Secretariat in New York. Joseph travelled the world making documentaries based on his travels in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, India, Pakistan and the Far East. Indeed these experiences were the inspiration for his four wonderful travels books that included The Dancing Waiters and Duck Soup in the Black Sea. The spy genre was Joseph’s forte. He wrote a number of very successful spy novels many of which centred around a British spy character named Peter Marlow, including The Private Sector, The Sixth Directorate, The Flowers of the Forest and The Valley of the Fox. Later in life Joseph delved further into academia, holding a post in Creative Writing at Wroxton College of the Farleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey.

We began a fruitful partnership with Joseph in 2009 with Lilliput’s publication of Joseph’s wonderful autobiography, Wicked Little Joe.

‘In the summer of 1939, as a two-year-old in London, I was given away by my parents to a Chelsea friend and taken on the Irish Mail to Dublin…’

These were the opening lines of what proved to be an extraordinary memoir. Joseph’s birth parents were not in a position to raise him and so he was raised by foster parents, the historian and essayist Hubert Butler and his wife Peggy. Joseph’s story is told through a cache of letters discovered on Hubert Butler’s death between him and his friend ‘Old Joe’, Little Joe’s grandfather. In this memoir, Joseph recounts with loving and comic detail his, at times, troubled Anglo-Irish upbringing, his childhood and youth during the 1940s and 50s in rural Ireland, and gives an account of his experience as a boarder at St Columba’s. He writes with feeling and insight of the lives of those in his circle and beyond – his teachers and foster parents and friends – all of whom shaped Joseph as the writer he was to become.

He is survived by his wife Jacky, son William and daughter Lucy.

Joseph will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.