Simon Arthur Noël Raven was an English novelist, essayist, dramatist and raconteur who, in a writing career of forty years, caused controversy, amusement and offence. His obituary in The Guardian noted that, "he combined elements of Flashman, Waugh's Captain Grimes and the Earl of Rochester", and that he reminded Noel Annan, his Cambridge tutor, of the young Guy Burgess.
He was the eldest of three children. His father, Arthur Raven, had inherited a fortune from the family's hosiery business, and lived an idle life of leisure. His mother Esther, née Christmas, a baker's daughter, was a noted distance and cross-country athlete who represented England against France in March 1932.
He was educated, first at Cordwalles preparatory school near Camberley, then as a scholarship pupil at Charterhouse, whence he was expelled in 1945 for homosexual activities - this despite his cricketing and scholastic prowess. Amongst his school contemporaries were James Prior, William Rees-Mogg, Oliver Popplewell and Peter May.
After completing national service he entered King's College, Cambridge in 1948, to read Classics.Although he possessed a first class intelligence this was not matched by his application, and his university career was punctuated by regular crises over money, mis-behaviour and an apparent inability to connect actions with their consequences. His first class intelligence garnered in the event only an upper Second, a degree which would not normally have gained him a studentship to read for a doctorate. That it did so may be attributed, essentially, to his charm. He was awarded a Studentship (graduate fellowship) to study the influence of the classics in Victorian schooling, but this soon gave way to pleasure-seeking and his thesis was never seriously addressed.
Raven, his scholarship funds exhausted, withdrew from King's,and attempted to earn a living as a writer, gaining a
small income as book reviewer for The Listener. He also wrote a novel, which proved unpublishable because of its libellous nature, and only emerged almost 30 years later as An Inch of Fortune. Seeking a firmer livelihood, Raven decided to rejoin the army.