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Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize – 2015 shortlist

Titles by Anita Anand, Michael Bundock, Alan Cumming, Lyndsey Jenkins, and Sarah Knights are in contention for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize (£3,500).

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Tony Lothian Prize – 2015 shortlist

Five proposals have been shortlisted for the 2015 Tony Lothian Prize, which awards £2,000 to the best proposal for an uncommissioned first biography.

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Winter, Jane

Jane Winter

winter_jane_apr15Jane Winter spent her career in research and human rights. She is the author of many reports and handbooks, such as Human Rights, Human Wrongs, a guide to using the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. She is best known for her work on human rights in Northern Ireland. In 2007 she was awarded the Beacon Prize for Northern Ireland, in 2008 the Irish World’s Damien Gaffney Award, and in 2009 the new Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Prize for outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe. Since she retired in 2012, she has written a biography into Ka Cox – a friend of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and Rupert Brooke’s most significant lover – and Ka’s husband, Will Arnold-Forster, idealist, politician, gardener and artist. More information can be found on her website, She also writes short stories and poetry. Although no stranger to writing, she is new to biography, and is currently looking for a literary agent and publisher.

Downer, Lesley

Lesley Downer

downer_lesley_apr15Lesley Downer is a novelist, writer and journalist whose passion is Japan.  She has lived there off and on for more than fifteen years out of the last thirty.

Her non-fiction works include Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Seduced the West, the biography of the woman who was Puccini’s model for Madame Butterfly; and The Brothers: The Hidden World of Japan’s Richest Family, the epic saga of the loves, lives and rivalries of a Japanese business dynasty (founders of the Muji shops, among much else).  She is the author of Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World, the definitive work on geishas past and present.

She is now concentrating on fiction.  She has written three novels:  The Last Concubine, a love story set in civil war Japan, shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year 2009; The Courtesan and the Samurai; and Across a Bridge of Dreams (published in paperback as The Samurai’s Daughter).  She recently completed the fourth, provisionally entitled Woman Behind the Screens.

She lives in London with her husband, physicist and author Arthur I. Miller, with frequent trips to Tokyo and New York.

Agent:  Bill Hamilton, AM Heath & Co.


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Holliday, John

John Holliday

John Holliday was born and grew up in England, where his service in the Royal Air Force led to an opportunity in the burgeoning computer industry of the 1960s. John moved to Canada in 1968, initially joining IBM but later breaking out on his own with his first business in a career as a serial entrepreneur. In 1982 he moved to Australia and continued to create new businesses.

The experiences of his working life became the subject of a book, Toughing It Out – Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur, and so started a love of writing and the setting of new goals. John is now working on a biography of Walter Henry Medhurst, one of the first missionaries to China and John’s great-great-grandfather.

John is married and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia.

Engelstad, Harald

Harald Engelstad

Harald Engelstad is Editor-in-Chief of general non-fiction at H Aschehoug & Co, one of Norway´s leading publishing houses (est 1872). Since joining the company in 1987, he has commissioned and edited a considerable number of major biographies, some of which have been widely translated, including ones on pioneering Norwegian mathematicians Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829) and Sophus Lie (1842-1899) and political figures such as Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945). Conversely, Engelstad has been responsible for the Norwegian editions of large-scale biographies of several international figures.

Harald Engelstad started his career as a translator and literary critic. His thesis for the degree of (PhD), an investigation into the lyrics of John Lennon, was published in 1987. Engelstad is at present (since 2011) Chair of the Norwegian Biographical Society.

Biographers’ Club Prizes – the 2014 winners

At the Biographers’ Club dinner on Friday, 21 November, Claudia Renton won the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, Polly Clark won the Tony Lothian Prize, and Richard Holmes received the Lifetime Services to Biography Prize. Read more

The Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award

The Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award awards those who have excelled in the sphere of biography over a lifetime of writing and research, and who have brought new life, breadth and focus to the genre.

Hermione Lee receives Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award 2018

The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize

The Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize awards £2,500 to the judges’ choice for the best first biography published each year. 2018 was the fifth year of sponsorship of the Prize by literary quarterly Slightly Foxed. For further information, go to the Slightly Foxed website.

Bart van Es (The Cut Out Girl, Fig Tree) won the 2018 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography prize, announced at a ceremony at Maggs Bros, Bedford Square (see report here).  Also on the shortlist were books by Michele Mendelssohn, Roland Philipps, Fiona Sampson and Tara Westover.

Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2014 – the shortlist

Titles by Ali A Allawi, Rachel Cooke, Henry Marsh, Rory Muir, and Claudia Renton are on the shortlist for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, worth £3,500. Read more