Mervyn Peake was born in 1911 in Kuling, Central Southern China, where his father was a medical missionary. The influence of Peake's early exposure to the cities and cultures of China can clearly be seen in the creation of the stronghold of the Groans.
During the Second World War , whilst serving with the army, he established a reputation as a gifted book illustrator with his pictures - often beautiful, sometimes terrifying.
Titus Groan (1946) and Gormenghast (1950) are books which defy categorisation and show in their coruscating prose the same eye for detail and passion for the grotesque that Peake had demonstrated in his illustrative work.
Among his other writings were Shapes and Sounds (1941), Rhymes Without Reason (1944), Letters from a Lost Uncle (1948) and Mr Pye (1953). He also wrote a number of plays including The Wit to Woo (1957), the critical failure of which induced a nervous breakdown.
The third (and, according to the publishers, the final) volume of the Gormenghast saga - Titus Alone - was published in 1959. Among his last work were illustrations for an edition of Balzac's Droll Stories (1961) and others. He died peacefully, but with his life's work far from complete, in 1968.