the Violet
J B Pick
J B Pick

John Barclay Pick was born in Leicester in 1921, was educated at Cambridge, served during the Second World War in the Friends’ Ambulance Service (as did SF writer Olaf Stapledon in the First World War), and was a full-time writer and journalist from 1946. A resident of Galloway from 1958, he was particularly associated with the work of Scottish writers such as John Buchan, Willa Muir, John MacNair Reid, and especially Neil Gunn, editing Gunn’s Selected Letters and writing several biographical and critical works about him.

One of the best, and most level-headed, commentators on David Lindsay’s life and works, Pick became interested shortly after Lindsay’s death, and corresponded with David’s widow. He wrote introductions to The Violet Apple and A Voyage to Arcturus (as well as other volumes in the Canongate Classics series), edited The Violet Apple and The Witch, provided the most informative contributions to The Strange Genius of David Lindsay, and included two chapters on Lindsay in The Great Shadow House (1993) — the title of which is a "misquotation from David Lindsay’s The Witch".

Pick wrote in many fields, starting out with novels (including Under the Crust in 1946, Out of the Pit in 1951, A Land Fit For ’Eros with John Atkins in 1957, and The Last Valley in 1970, which was filmed in 1971, directed by James Clavell), and non-fiction (The Pheonix Dictionary of Games in 1952, the Neil M Gunn volume in the British Council’s Writers and Their Work series). Since 1980 he issued a series of small, short poetry pamphlets in a very clear, light, brief style, through his own Drumlins Press (Wind-Light, A Lost Secret, Perhaps, Now, Being Here, Reading the Code).

Pick died in Janury, 2015. You can read his obituary at The Scotsman, and The Herald Scotland.