The title of Eric Mowbray Knight’s best-known work, The Flying Yorkshireman, might well be taken as figuratively descriptive of himself. He grew up in Yorkshire, where, at the age of twelve, he went to work in a textile factory. After various industrial jobs he joined members of his family who had emigrated to the United States. Intending to pursue an artistic career, he studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and elsewhere. He served in the Canadian Army during World War I and afterward wrote for newspapers in Philadelphia, eventually specializing in dramatic criticism. In the early 1930’s, a film-writing assignment took him to Hollywood; later with his wife he settled in Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania, to do freelance writing. He revisited Yorkshire in 1938.
Knight’s beloved Yorkshire provides the setting for his Lassie Come-Home (a children’s novel later adapted for film) and the tales of Sam Small, the artful, irrepressible Yorkshireman who mastered levitation. His best-selling novel was This Above All, which some called the first significant novel of World War II; it was adapted for film by Robert C. Sherriff.
In 1942, Knight was commissioned a major in the film unit of the Special Services section of the U.S. Army. On January 15, the following year, he was among those killed when a U.S. military transport plane, bound for Africa, crashed in the Surinam jungle.