Rex Shelley

Rex Shelley was a Singaporean award-winning author. He is best known for such works as The Shrimp People (1991: winner of the 1992 National Book Development Council of Singapore Award); People of the Pear Tree (1993: 1994 NBDCS Highly Commended Award); Island in the Centre (1995: 1996 NBDCS Highly Commended Award); and A River of Roses (1998: winner of the 2000 Singapore Literature Prize). Shelley is also the winner of the 2007 Singapore Southeast Asia Write Award.

Rex Anthony Shelley was born in Singapore with mixed English, Portuguese, Malay, and Buginese ancestry. He attended St. Anthony's Catholic School and spent a year at a Japanese language school during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942–1945).

After World War II, Shelley earned an honors degree in chemistry from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1952, supported by a university scholarship. He later pursued studies in engineering and economics at the University of Cambridge, where he was involved in left-wing student politics for a period.

Upon completing his education, Shelley worked in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, until May 1965. He then returned to Singapore and established his own business, importing machinery.

Additionally, he served on the Public Service Commission for over thirty years, from 1976 to 2007. The PSC is responsible for appointing, promoting, and overseeing public officers in Singapore and administering government scholarships. For his dedicated service, Shelley received the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) from the Singaporean Government in 1978, and the following year, he won an additional Bar.

Aside from his professional pursuits, Shelley taught himself to speak Japanese and edited the book Words Mean Business: A Basic Japanese Business Glossary in 1984. He also authored works such as Japan (Cultures of the World Series, 1990) and Culture Shock!: Japan (1993). Additionally, he was skilled in painting and played the piano and accordion.

Shelley ventured into fiction writing later in life, publishing his debut novel, The Shrimp People, in 1991 at sixty-one. This work, which focused on the Eurasian community in Malaysia and Singapore, quickly gained popularity, becoming a best-selling local paperback. It earned critical acclaim, winning the National Book Development Council of Singapore Award in 1992.

Continuing to explore the theme of the Eurasian community, Shelley authored three more novels: People of the Pear Tree (1993), Island in the Centre (1995), and A River of Roses (1998).

These works were also well-received, with People of the Pear Tree and Island in the Centre being highly commended by the National Book Development Council of Singapore in 1994 and 1996, respectively. In 2000 A River of Roses was honored with the Dymocks Singapore Literature Prize (now Singapore Literature Prize).

In recognition of his contributions to literature, Rex Shelley received the prestigious Singapore Southeast Asia Write Award in 2007. His books The Shrimp People and Sounds and Sins of Singlish, a non-fiction work published in 1995, were reissued in 2009 by Marshall Cavendish, a subsidiary of the Times Publishing Group.

In 2015, The Shrimp People was selected as one of the Top 10 English Singapore books from 1965 to 2015 by The Business Times, alongside works by other esteemed authors.

Rex Shelley passed away on August 21, 2009, at the Assisi Hospice in Thomson Road, Singapore, at 78. A posthumous publication, Dr. Paglar: Everyman's Hero, a biography of his uncle, Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar (1894–1954), a renowned Eurasian gynecologist, was released in 2010 by The Straits Times Press.
years of life: 27 October 1930 21 August 2009
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