Although he claimed to have been born in Cork, Gerald Hanley was born in Liverpool in 1916, of an Irish family, but went to Africa when he was 19, where he joined the British army on the outbreak of the Second World War.
He saw service in Burma (Myanmar), and his first book, Monsoon Victory (London, Collins, 1946), is a memoir of being with the first African Askari regiment to go from Africa to Burma under Colonel Slim. He also lived in India, where he made many documentaries for the BBC. His novels have been translated into many languages, and have been used in school texts in Africa.
His novels include The Consul at Sunset (London, Collins, 1951); The Year of the Lion, (Collins, 1953); Drinkers of Darkness (Collins, 1955); Without Love (Collins, 1957); The Journey Homeward (Collins, 1961/Cleveland, World Publishing, 1961); Gilligan’s Last Elephant (Collins, 1962/The World Publishing Company, 1962), which was made into a film in 1967; See you in Yasukuni (London, Collins 1969); and Noble Descents (Hamish Hamilton, 1982/New York, Saint Martin’s Press, 1983).
He published short stories in various journals from 1938-41.
He also wrote many radio plays, broadcast by the BBC, and worked in film, writing the script for The Blue Max.
A memoir of Somaliland and Kenya, Warriors and Strangers, was published by Hamish Hamilton in 1971. Warriors, taken from this work, was published in 1994, and is re-issued in 2004 by Eland Books of London.
He lived in Wicklow from 1953, and was elected to Aosdána.
He died in Dún Laoighaire, Co Dublin, in 1992.