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Born Derek Isidor Kartun, in Margate on 9th August 1919, Kartun was the son of a Russian-French father and a Polish-English mother. He was born into the world of the cultured bourgeoisie, his uncle being the pianist and conductor Léon Kartun.
His father had left the
He was sent to England for his schooling, first to a prep school in Redhill, where the combination of being bookish, Jewish and French proved a hindrance to wide popularity, and then to St Paul’s, where he flourished and claimed to be the school’s first Jewish boy.
In what should have been his sixth-form years coincided with a temporary reversal of his father’s fortunes, and he was set to work in an advertising agency, and later finding himself a job working on scripts for B movies for MGM, where he met Claude Cockburn (see separate entry). Becoming a contributor to Cockburn’s scurrilous newssheet The Week merely led him into the Communist Party for the next two decades of his life.
Bad eyesight confined him to civilian duties during the war but he wrote several books while in the Communist Party, including Tito’s plot against Europe: the story of the Raik Conspiracy (1949), This is America (1947), and Africa,
He was initially expelled from
In 1949 he married Gwen Farrow, and their house in Kensington became a gathering place of left-wing intellectuals. Clancy Sigal, Mervyn Jones (see separate entry), Margot Heinemann (see separate entry) and J D Bernal were in regular attendance, and Doris Lessing and Claude Cockburn were successively lodgers.
A 1951 pamphlet by Kartun - right
Over the next few years, Kartun became a prolific, not to say almost overly-conventional writer of pamphlets and books either for the Communist Party, or for one of its publishing outlets. He spent time in
His output in this period was as follows:
1947 Joint production committees in France (paperback)
1948 The Marshall Plan and how it affects
1948 This is
1949 Tito’s Plot Against
Europe; the Story of the Rajk Conspiracy [Paperback]
1955 `Freedom and the Communists’ (pamphlet)
Then Kartun left the Communist Party for Labour in 1956.
Kartun became its managing director and later chairman for almost a quarter of a century before the writing bug got him again and he produced half a dozen spy thrillers. He died on 11th January 2005.
Main source: The Independent 10th February 2005, along with many subsidiary sources.