At first glance Rhys Davies (1901–78) is not a promising subject for a biography. For most of his working life he supported himself exclusively by his pen, without recourse to journalism, broadcasting, teaching or any kind of hack work. Such a career was hazardous at the time and would be almost inconceivable today. Indifferent to fame, he was hard-working and prolific – producing more than a hundred short stories, twenty novels, three novellas, two topographical studies of Wales, two plays and an unreliable autobiography entitled Print of a Hare’s Foot which Cyril Connolly, writing in The Sunday Times in 1969, described as ‘a chronicle of a completely uneventful life without strong ties or affections’.
Therein lies the challenge. Davies, an obsessively private man, was a virtual recluse with no close links to his contemporaries, no serious or long-term relationships (he was discreetly and promiscuously homosexual, with a taste for Guardsmen), no public persona or links to any literary milieu and no political affiliations. He