Back when I was a kid I read Ulyatt's North Against the Sioux, a fictionalised account of Portugee Phillips and Fort Phil Kearny and I still remember it for being a gripping tale, fairly told. He wrote a couple of other books following the same set of characters - The Longhorn Trail and Custer's Gold and I lapped them up.
And never heard any more.
The last copy of The English Westerners' review publication contained a short obituary by Gary Leonard, who knew Ulyatt and while I was saddened to read it, I was pleased to see him honoured in this way.
Last Edit: Apr 17, 2009 12:23:52 GMT -5 by grahamew
Here is my obituary for Ken from the English Westerners Tally Sheet:
KEN ULYATT (1920-2008)
I first met Ken Ulyatt in 1970. It was a meeting that was to introduce me in turn to the English Westerners Society and beyond. In those days, we were both living in the then sleepy Dorset town of Poole. I was a schoolboy, whilst Ken worked in publishing and was also writing historical novels on the West aimed at younger readers.
In order to stimulate interest and jog memories of Buffalo Bill’s visit to the area, Ken had put up a display of historical photographs and other information in the local library. Seeing that he lived in Poole, I asked the librarian for Ken’s contact details. Those were much more innocent times than today, and I was promptly supplied with his name and address! A short while later, I was standing on his door step.
Rather than sending me away, he and his wife Pat made me welcome while I disrupted his working day, browsing his library of books on the Old West. Although probably bemused by my visit, Ken and Pat did nothing to deter me and a lifelong friendship was forged. My book collection was greatly augmented in the early days by gifts from Ken and he gave me great support over the years as I went through my studies and the tribulations of daily life.
As I got to know Ken better, I learned that we shared an interest in art and jazz music. He had been to art college before the war and I was particularly interested in Ken’s illustrated diaries from the Second World War.
Ken was in the RAF during the war and had been posted to the Middle East. It was there that he met Pat, who was in the WAAF. I still recall his vivid descriptions of the aftermath of El Alamein and the crowded ships taking the wounded back home.
After the war, Ken and Pat returned to married life in England. He worked as a commercial artist in London, also helping to run his parents’ pub in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, before he and his family moved to Poole, in the late 1960s. By the time that I met Ken, he was working part-time for Book Club Associates whilst concentrating on his own writing. I recall Ken and Pat as a close and happy couple. Sadly, Pat passed away in 1999, but Ken remarried and found new happiness with his second wife, Joy.
Ken started writing about the Old West in the mid 1960s and produced a number of history books, as well as three historical novels; North Against the Sioux, The Longhorn trail and Custer’s Gold. A 1999 survey of Custer related literature in Greasy Grass (the journal of the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association) included North Against the Sioux as a significant contribution to this field. He was the only non-American author to have a work listed in the article.
I recall Ken being a keen film fan and an avid reader of a wide variety of literature. His daughter Sue tells me that he once said that it was Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage that first fired his imagination. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about film in general and westerns in particular. He admired the director, John Ford, whose The Searchers and Stagecoach were his favourite films.
Although I had not seen as much of Ken in recent years, I will certainly miss him and I share the sense of loss that is undoubtedly felt by Joy, his children Sue and Keith, and his five grandchildren.
Ken wrote a few more non-fiction books, all aimed at younger readers, after his historical novels. The historical novels were of course North Against the Sioux, The Longhorn trail and Custer’s Gold. Off the top of my head, I can recall three non-fiction books; The Day of the Indian, The Day of the Cowboy and The Outlaws. All were superior examples of these kind of books aimed at young people.
Although Ken's books were written from the "white" perspective, he had a real sympathy for the plight of the Indians and I suspect that he was not rooting for Custer as he watched They Died with their Boots on!
I think that he stopped writing in the mid-1980s when publishers were losing interest in this subject.
He had been working on putting his war memories together in book form, illustrated with his own sketches and paintings, but I don't think that the project got off the ground.
I hope that the esteem in which I held Ken came across in the obituary.
You know what… I didn´t recognize the name Ulyatt instantly, but then I googled and found out that his books were also translated and published in Germany. Then I remembered that I read his book “Die Rache des Red Cloud” (Revenge of Red Cloud) as a kid in the 1970ies. I borrowed it from a public library then. It was not the first, but one of the most important books which inspired me in young age to occupy myself with Lakota history.
Thanks, Gary. The Day of the Indian rings a bell. I tried to google it fora cover picture to see if I could remember it, but no luck.
Although it was already there, I think Ulyatt's books played a big part in my interest too - along with illustrator Frank Humphris' Ladybird books, the illustrated books of Ron Embleton (or was it his brother, Gerry?!) and their work in magazines like World of Wonder, and a particular book by Colin Taylor, which might have been Warriors of the Plains - it was substantially redone, I think, as The Plains Indians, a few years back. It was a Robin May book that pointed me in the direction of the Westerners.
I suspect that we were both struggling to find good books on the West at the same time. Colin Taylor's "The Warriors of the Plains" came out in about 1975 and was one of the best books on the subject published in this country for a long time.
Was the Robin May book that you mentioned called "The American West", illustrated by G A Embleton?