There are two versions of the story of how Roald Dahl came to write “Lamb to the Slaughter.” Both involve writer Ian Fleming, the spy novelist and former intelligence officer who created James Bond. One of Fleming’s biographers is credited with relating that Fleming had written the outline for a similar story and later passed the idea along to his colleague Dahl. In the other version, Fleming and Dahl were dining on a leg of lamb at a dinner party. The meat proved so unappetizing that Fleming remarked to Dahl that the hostess must have had it in the freezer for years and ought to be shot for serving it; Dahl put his own twist on the ending of this premise.

As the two explanations of the source of "Lamb to the Slaughter" suggest, Dahl’s writing style as portrayed in his novels, short stories, and non-fiction for adults and children was influenced by several factors during his lifetime. His cunning use of English may have been enhanced by the fact that he was exposed to different languages and dialects from an early age. His upbringing in Wales was a bilingual experience of both Welsh and Norwegian. His transfer to a British boarding school at the age of eight brought with it an immersion in British English that continued through his military years of combat and espionage. After marrying the American actress Patricia Neal in 1953, he spent a large portion of his adult life in the United States. Thus, all of these experiences supplemented his linguistic talents and even his inclination to invent playful words such as “Oompa- Loompas”  for his enduring classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The loss of a sister to illness when Dahl was three years old, combined with the death of his father just three weeks later, led to Dahl’s familiarity with death and misfortune, a concept he explores in many of his works. It is safe to surmise that it was the alienation from home life and the harsh, often vicious, realities of boarding school that led Dahl to concentrate on characters like the isolated children and villainous adults that populate such tales as Matilda.

Dahl’s success with novels and short stories is matched by his success in film and television. The author has racked up over 80 credits, many posthumously, between his work as a screenwriter and his acknowledgement as the original author of works adapted for the screen.