British writer, scriptwriter, film director, and producer. His best-selling novels include King Rat (1962), Taipan (1966), Shogun (1975), Noble House (1981), Whirlwind (1986), Gai-Jin (1993). His highly successful work as a scriptwriter included the cult sci-fi film The Fly (1958), the prisoner-of-war drama The Great Escape (1966), and To Sir With Love (1966), which he wrote, directed, and produced.
Born in Sydney, he was the son of a British commander stationed in Australia to help establish the Royal Australian Navy. When Clavell was nine months old, the family was posted back to England, where he was educated at Portsmouth Grammar School, leaving at the outbreak of war to join the Royal Artillery as a young captain. In 1941 he was captured by the Japanese in Java and, at the age of 18, was shipped to Changi jail in Singapore, where he remained until the end of the war.
In 1953 he moved to Hollywood where he embarked on his career as a scriptwriter and, later, producer and director. By the time his film, The Last Valley (1969), a meditation on men at war starring Michael Caine, appeared, Clavell was already established as a best-selling novelist.
Tai-Pan, Shogun, and Noble House were made into television mini-series, which Clavell himself produced. When Shogun was screened in 1980 starring Richard Chamberlain, it became the second highest rated mini-series in history; Shogun the musical followed on Broadway 1989.