H. E. Bates was born in 1905 in Northamptonshire. He worked as a journalist and clerk on a local newspaper before publishing his first book, The Two Sisters, when he was twenty. In the next fifteen years he acquired a distinguished reputation for his stories about English country life. During the Second World War he was a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F. The Darling Buds of May, the first of the popular Larkin family novels, was followed by A Breath of French Air (1959), When the Green Woods Laugh (1960), Oh! To Be in England (1963). His works have been translated into sixteen languages. H. E. Bates was awarded the C.B.E. in 1973 and died in January 1974.