Award-winning Birmingham novelist Jim Crace has joined a pantheon of literary greats ranging from Samuel Coleridge Taylor to D H Lawrence and Norman Mailer by having his archive acquired by the University of Texas.
Crace, aged 62, was born in London but has lived in Birmingham since the mid-1970s. He worked as a freelance journalist for 17 years until his career as a novelist took off.
His first book, Continent (1986) won the Whitbread First Novel Award, the David Higham Prize for fiction and the Guardian Fiction Award. All his subsequent novels have also won awards, notably Quarantine (1997), which was Whitbread Novel of the Year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
The archive, including manuscripts of all his novels plus short stories and plays, research notes, correspondence and juvenilia including poetry written as a teenager, have been acquired for what he described as a six-figure sum by The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin.
It was on its way to America on Tuesday after being collected from his home in Moseley last week.
"I have lived here for 34 years and there is a lot of Birmingham material in the archive," he said. "It includes all the documents from the first Readers & Writers Festival in 1987 and letters to other Birmingham writers like David Lodge and Roy Fisher.
"This is stuff I never looked at, but I feel quite sad that it's gone. As the van was going up the road to take it to Heathrow I suddenly felt I should at least have taken a photograph of it."
Thomas F Staley, director of the Ransom Center, commented: "Jim Crace is a writer of exceptional talent. His archive will reside at the Ransom Center alongside the archives of such contemporaries as Julian Barnes, John Fowles and Barry Unsworth, who like Crace are recognised as great craftsmen."
While other aspects of the national heritage going abroad causes regular soul-searching, the Americans are so much more avid in their collecting of literary archives that British institutions can scarcely begin to compete.
"I had a look at the Blake and Coleridge collections when I was in Austin," said Crace. "It's shocking that they are in Texas, but that's where the money is.
"There's just nothing comparable in the UK. I did have an offer from an institution here, but it was one-tenth of what Texas was offering. There's no use pretending - if you are a writer living off your wits you just have to feel 'this is my pension'."
By coincidence, Crace is currently writing a novel set in Austin, Texas. He explained: "I have a friend who lives in Austin and when I decided I was going to set my book in America and needed to live in an American city for a few weeks I went there in November 2006.
"Then by a complete coincidence I was invited to be a writer-in-residence at the James Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. It's a cash award but they pay for you to go out there for three or four weeks.
"While I was there, even though I toured the Ransom Center, I didn't have a conversation about my archive. But when I got back, within a few days they made an offer."
Over recent years Crace has teased readers with the idea that he would retire from fiction after completing a further handful of novels. The one he is currently writing is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2010.
"I'm writing a book which is outside my comfort zone," he said. "There are things I'm not very good at, like writing dialogue or setting books in real landscapes. This book is set in contemporary Austin and Britain in 18 years' time. Its contract title is The Finalist and its working title is Heroes.
"It's about the difference between someone who lacks principle but effects changes through their actions and someone who is principled but hangs back. It's kind of a critique of bourgeois liberalism in the light of what happened in London with the Tube bombings and in New York on 9/11."