Roy A. K. Heath

Roy A(ubrey) K(elvin) Heath (13 August 1926 – 14 May 2008) was a Guyanese writer, most noted for his "Georgetown Trilogy" of novels (also published in an omnibus volume as The Armstrong Trilogy, 1994), consisting of From the Heat of the Day (1979), One Generation (1980), and Genetha (1981). Heath said that his work was "intended to be a dramatic chronicle of twentieth-century Guyana".


Educated at Central High School, Georgetown, Roy Heath worked as a Treasury clerk (1944-51) before leaving Guyana for England in 1951. He attended the University of London (1952-6), earning a B.A. Honours degree in Modern Languages. He also studied law and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1964 (and to the Guyana bar in 1973), although he never practised as a lawyer, pursuing a career since 1959 as a writer and a schoolteacher in London, where he lived until his death at the age of 81. In his later years he had suffered from Parkinson's disease.[1]


Although Heath left British Guiana in 1951, "it never left him. He only ever wrote about his mother's land, never his adopted home."[2] As Mark McWatt notes: "Guyana is always the setting for his fiction, and its capital and rural villages are evoked in the kind of powerful and minute detail that would seem to require the author's frequent visits."[3]

His first novel, A Man Come Home, was published in 1974. This was followed four years later by The Murderer (1978), which won the Guardian Fiction Prize that same year and was described by the Observer as "mysteriously authentic, and unique as a work of art". The Murderer was also listed in 1999's The Modern Library: 200 Best Novels in English since 1950 by Carmen Callil and Colm Tóibín.

Heath's other published novels are Kwaku; or, The Man Who Could Not Keep His Mouth Shut (1982), Orealla (1984), The Shadow Bride (1988) and The Ministry of Hope (1997).

He also wrote short stories, non-fiction, including Shadows Round the Moon: Caribbean Memoirs (1990), and plays - his Inez Combray was produced in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1972, in which year he won the Guyana Theatre Guild Award.

In 1983, during a vacation to Guyana,[3] Heath delivered the Edgar Mittelholzer Memorial Lecture, entitled “Art and Experience”,[4] in Georgetown. In the lecture Heath said: "The price the artist pays for his egotism is a high one. On one level egotism obliges him to create, while the same egotism threatens to destroy him. Success not only goes to his head, it remains there, creating demands he cannot hope to satisfy. I am acutely aware of all of this and therefore try to shun gratuitous publicity."[5]

In 1989 he was awarded the Guyana Prize for Literature for his novel The Shadow Bride.[4]



  • A Man Come Home (London: Longman, 1974).
  • The Murderer (London: Allison & Busby, 1978; Guardian Fiction Prize).
  • From the Heat of the Day (London: Allison & Busby, 1979).
  • One Generation (London: Allison & Busby, 1980).
  • Genetha (London: Allison & Busby, 1981).
  • Kwaku; or, the Man Who Could Not Keep His Mouth Shut (London: Allison & Busby, 1982).
  • Orealla (London: Allison & Busby, 1984).
  • The Shadow Bride (London: Collins, 1988).
  • The Armstrong trilogy (New York: Persea, 1994).
  • The Ministry of Hope (London: Marion Boyars, 1997).


  • Shadows Round the Moon: Caribbean Memoirs (London: Collins, 1990).

Short stories

  • "Miss Mabel's Burial," in Kaie (Georgetown, Guyana), 1972.
  • "The Wind and the Sun," in Savacou (Kingston, Jamaica), 1974.
  • "The Writer of Anonymous Letters," in Firebird 2, edited by T. J. Binding (London: Penguin Books, 1983).
  • "Sisters," in London Magazine, September 1988.
  • "The Master Tailor and the Lady's Skirt", in Colours of a New Day: New Writing for South Africa, edited by Sarah Lefanu and Stephen Hayward (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990)
  • "According to Marx," in So Very English, edited by Marsha Rowe (London: Serpent's Tail, 1991).


  • Art and Experience - Eighth series, Edgar Mittelholzer Memorial Lectures (Georgetown, Guyana, Department of Culture, Ministry of Education, Social Development and Culture, 1983; 31 pp).


Further reading

  • McWatt, M., "Wives and Other Victims in the Novels of Roy A. K. Heath", in Out of the Kumbla: Caribbean Women and Literatures, Trenton. NJ: Africa World Press, 1990.
  • McWatt, Mark A., "Roy A. K. Heath", in Daryl Cumber Dance, Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographic-Critical Sourcebook, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1986, pp. 207-16.
  • McWatt, Maek, "Tragic Irony, the Hero as Victim: Three Novels of Roy A. K. Heath", in Erika Smilowits and Roberta Knowles (eds), Critical Issues in West Indian Literature, Parkersburg, Ia.: Caribbean Books, 1984, pp. 54-64.
  • Chiji Akọma, "Roy A. K. Heath and Guyanese Anxiety Lore" (Chapter Two), in Folklore in New World Black Fiction: Writing and the Oral Traditional Aesthetics, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2007.
  • Saakana, Amon Saba, Colonization and the Destruction of the Mind: Psychosocial Issues of Race, Class, Religion and Sexuality in the Novels of Roy Heath, London: Karnak House, 1996.

External links

  • .
  • , 11 May 1997.
  • obituary, 20 May 2008.
  • obituary, 16 May 2008.
  • , 18 May 2008.
  • Roy A. K. Heath biography
  • , Issue 93, September/October 2008.
  • , 22 June 2008.

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