Neil Paterson (writer)

James Edmund Neil Paterson (31 December 1915 – 19 April 1995)[1][2] was a Scottish writer of novels, short stories and screenplays. He won the 1959 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Room at the Top. Before his success as a writer, he worked in journalism and had a brief career as an amateur footballer, playing for Leith Athletic and Dundee United in the Scottish Football League.

Neil Paterson
BornJames Edmund Neil Paterson
(1915-12-31)31 December 1915
Greenock, Scotland
Died19 April 1995(1995-04-19) (aged 79)
Crieff, Scotland
Pen nameJohn Kovack
OccupationNovelist, short story writer, screenwriter, journalist, footballer
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
Notable worksRoom at the Top (screenplay for 1959 film version)
Notable awardsBest Adapted Screenplay
1959 Room at the Top
Association football career
Playing position Inside left
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
Edinburgh University
Buckie Thistle
Leith Athletic
1936–1937 Dundee United 26 (9)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Early life and football career

Born in Greenock, Renfrewshire (now part of Inverclyde), Paterson graduated from the University of Edinburgh and had a brief career in senior football, playing as an inside left. He played for Edinburgh University, for Buckie Thistle in the Highland League and for Scottish League teams Leith Athletic and Dundee United, becoming captain of the latter in the 1936–37 season. Despite his success in football – he scored 9 goals from 26 league appearances for Dundee United, including a hat-trick – he remained an amateur player, spurning the opportunity to go professional.[1] As an amateur he was automatically released at the end of the season, although he played one further game for the club in an emergency.[3]

Writing career and later life

After his football career finished he became a writer, initially as a sports journalist for D.C. Thomson and after the Second World War as an author, penning a number of well received novels and short stories. Paterson won the Atlantic Award for Literature in 1946.[4]

He adapted his own short story The Kidnappers for a cinema version released in 1953.[nb 1] Subsequently, he wrote a number of other screenplays, including the first screen version of John Braine's novel Room at the Top (1959) which later won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Paterson served as a governor for the British Film Institute, National Film School and the Arts Council of Great Britain and as an executive for Grampian Television.

He died in 1995 at Crieff, Tayside (now part of Perth and Kinross).

Selected bibliography

  • On my Faithless Arm (1946) (Under pseudonym John Kovack)
  • The China Run: Being the biography of a great-grandmother (1948)
  • Behold Thy Daughter (1950)
  • The China Run: A book of short stories (1951)
  • Man on the Tightrope (1952)
  • Man on a Tightrope: The Short Novel (1953)
  • The Kidnappers and other Stories (1957)
  • Something like a poem (1986)

Selected filmography


  1. The film was released as The Little Kidnappers in the United States.


  1. Rae, Douglas (15 June 1995). "Obituary: Neil Paterson". The Independent. London. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  3. Gracie, Steve (2008). A Passion For Survival. Arabest Publishing Dundee. ISBN 978-0-9558341-0-3.
  4. "Literature award for Perthshire man". The Courier and Advertiser. Dundee. 27 November 1946. Retrieved 19 October 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.
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