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Novelist-Poet Kingsley Amis Dies

Sir Kingsley Amis, the prolific British writer who burst onto London’s literary scene with an angry critique of class divisions, then increasingly adopted the mantle of a curmudgeon, died Sunday at age 73.

Amis was admitted to University College Hospital last month after he fell and crushed some vertebrae. He was transferred to London’s St. Pancras Hospital, where he died, a hospital spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.

Amis made his reputation with the publication in 1954 of “Lucky Jim,” the story of a lower-middle-class English lecturer at a provincial university - as Amis was then - who was hailed as “an angry young man.”

Amis wrote more than 20 increasingly grumpy novels, six volumes of verse, and - in 1991 - a memoir settling old scores with the living, the dead and a few people who said they had never even met him.

He developed from a clamorous communist undergraduate across the political spectrum to a growling Conservative diehard. He had a prodigious appetite for work, determined to produce his daily 500 words once he sat down at a typewriter.

In 1986, he won Britain’s top prize for literature, the Booker Prize, for his novel, “The Old Devils,” which was later adapted for the stage. He was awarded a knighthood in 1990.

To his admirers, Amis was more than just a fine writer of sharp, ironic novels. He also represented something in the national character: skepticism, honesty, a bitter hatred of pretension and a distrust of arty posturing.

But he also was a curmudgeon, quick to denounce others as fools and bores. His resentment of almost anyone in authority remained unchanged throughout his turbulent adult life.

“He was someone who had an absolutely flying start because he was such a wonderful writer from the beginning,” said writer Malcolm Bradbury, professor emeritus of American Studies at the University of East Anglia.

He was married twice, first in 1948 to Hilary, the mother of his two sons - including the novelist Martin Amis - and a daughter. In 1965, he married novelist Elizabeth Howard; they divorced in 1983.

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