James Melville was born Roy Peter Martin in London on January 5, 1931. Coming from a working-class background—his father, Walter, was a postal worker and his mother, Annie Mabel, a dressmaker—he was educated at Highbury Grammar School (1942-1948) and then at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with honors in 1953. His university studies were interrupted by two years of service in the Royal Air Force Education Branch from 1950 to 1951. During the years before and after military service, he worked as a local government officer for the London County Council, and after university graduation, he was employed as a schoolteacher. In 1954 he returned to Birkbeck College, and he completed a master’s degree in political philosophy there two years later. After working as deputy publicity officer for the Royal Festival Hall (1956-1960) and doing additional graduate study (1958-1959) at the University of Türbigen in West Germany, he took a position in 1960 with the British Council, working in the area of cultural diplomacy. It was this work that would eventually take him to Japan, the setting for his famous Superintendent Otani mysteries.
After first being assigned in Indonesia for three years, Melville began the first of two tours in Japan as a cultural diplomat in 1963, when he was appointed director of the British Cultural Institute in Kyoto. He quickly fell in love with Japan. His first book,...
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