A former regional press journalist who turned to fiction writing has been found dead at one of Britain’s most infamous suicide spots.
John Dyson, who went from evening newspaper reporter to prolific author of Westerns, took his own life at Beachy Head after battling prostate cancer for a decade. He was 77.
In his two-decades career, the cowboy fiction writer produced 60 books with tens of thousands of readers regularly borrowing his novels from libraries across the UK.
Between his journalism and novel-writing careers he also worked as gardener to the famous, and looked after former Chancellor and Defence Secretary Denis Healey’s gardens at his Alfriston home in Sussex.
John, who also wrote under the name Jackson Davis, said of his books: “Basically they’re tongue-in-cheek entertainments, obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. But they amuse me to write and I hope amuse the reader too.”
Although he travelled extensively in the 1960s he never visited North America, the setting for many of his stories.
In a 2008 interview with the Sussex Express he said: “I get my ideas from old photos, newspaper and court reports, memories and eye-witnesses accounts from that era.
“Once started, I knock out about three thousand words in a morning. Then it’s off to the pub for a pint and stroll on the downs with my old dog, Patsy.”
John started in journalism in 1955 at the Evening Argus, Brighton, as a contemporary of the Jack Tinker who went on to become one of the Daily Mail’s most famous and enduring theatre critics.
In 1977, after spells on papers in Cornwall and Devon, Jack turned his talents to gardening and he continued to tend hotel lawns and landscapes until his retirement in 2003.
John’s early journalistic career was put to good use when he began penning Western novels in 1991, beginning with Black Pete – Outlaw.
He published his 50th book, Logan’s Gun, six years ago and went on to write ten more before his death
His current work, Rebel Raiders, had originally been expected to be his last. With deteriorating health, he said when it was published: “Guess I’ll be heading for the last round-up soon.”
However his 60th and last – Bad Night At Crazy Bull – is due to be published by Robert Hale next February.
His son Dominic Dyson, 51, a graphic designer and lecturer at University of the Arts London, said: “He had a great joie de vivre, a wonderful love of life. We will miss him and we will miss his irreverent sense of humour.”
A celebration of John’s life was held last month near his Polegate home in East Sussex. As well as son Dominic, he is survived by grandsons Alfie and George and his sister Shirley.
John has left part of his estate to animal welfare charities such as East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and the Ambulance Service.