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Hewitt, Catherine

Catherine Hewitt

Catherine’s first biography, Valtesse de la Bigne: A Courtesan’s Conquest of Paris (Icon, 2015), was awarded the runner-up’s prize in the 2012 Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian competition. The biography traces the incredible tale of the bewitching courtesan, the Countess Valtesse de la Bigne, who clawed her way up from humble, impoverished origins to become one of the most sought-after and glamorous women in Paris. Her lovers included countless painters, writers and politicians, while her affairs with women caused a scandal in turn-of-the-century Paris.

Renoir’s Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon (Icon, 2017) explores the life of the woman considered to be the Impressionists’ most beautiful model, herself a talented artist. Suzanne had affairs with a number of the most renowned painters of the day, and gave birth to an illegitimate son, the future painter Maurice Utrillo. But, from a working class background and with no formal training, she pursued her artistic career, and in 1894 was accepted to the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

Catherine has a long career in academia, with a special interest in 19th-century French art, literature and social history. Having completed her PhD on The Formation of the Family in 19th-Century French Literature and Art in 2012, Catherine set out to use her academic training to bring history and people alive for a mainstream audience. She now lectures regularly, writes, translates and runs workshops on 19th-century French art, literature and social history.

Catherine lives in a village in Surrey. When she is not working, she can be found helping restore her family’s cottage in the middle of rural France.


Bankes, Ariane

Ariane Bankes

Ariane Bankes worked in publishing for 25 years and left to focus on writing and to run her own arts festival, the Dovedale Arts Festival. She is a curator,  writes for a variety of periodicals, and her published books include the New Aldeburgh Anthology, 2009 (edited with Jonathan Reekie), David Jones: Vision and Memory (with Paul Hills) and Julian Trevelyan: The Artist and his World (with James Scott), the latter two accompanying exhibitions of those artists at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester.



Tomalin, Claire

Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin’s books include The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley and His World, Jane Austen: A Life, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man, Charles Dickens: A Life.

Sutherland, John

John Sutherland

John Sutherland is currently Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London. His books include Is Heathcliff a Murderer? Puzzles in 19th-Century Literature, Henry V, War Criminal?, The Boy Who Loved Books, Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives.

Adolph, Anthony

Anthony Adolph

Anthony Adolph is a professional writer, genealogist and broadcaster living in London. He has worked as a professional genealogist for twenty five years, tracing family trees all over the world and writing five major reference books on the subject for Collins including the best-selling Tracing Your Family History; an introduction to genealogy for children, Who Am I?; and Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors (Pen and Sword, 2013). His book Ancient Ancestors: tracing our family tree from the dawn of time in science and myth is being published in 2015 by Pen and Sword. He has also researched and presented programmes about family history on Radio 4, Channel 4 and BBC1.

His first biography was The King’s Henchman: Henry Jermyn, Stuart Spymaster and Architect of the British Empire. Its synopsis was short-listed for the Biographers’ Club prize in 2002, and its publication, the culmination of work over 22 years, was by Gibson Square in 2012, with a corrected version in paperback in 2013, entitled The King’s Henchman: the Commoner and the Royal who saved the Monarchy from Cromwell.

The King’s Henchman reconstructs, from scratch, the life of Henry Jermyn (1605-1684), who rose from being the second son of a Suffolk squire to become the favourite ofQueen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.  Hitherto entirely overlooked by historians, Jermyn became a formidable force in English politics as Charles I’s regime collapsed, played a leading role in the Civil War – he and the Queen raised their own army in Yorkshire and brought it down triumphantly to reinforce the King in Oxford – then held together the English government in exile in the Louvre, helped engineer the Restoration of Charles II and proceeded to play a considerable behind-the scenes role in Anglo-French relations right up to his crucial negotiations for Charles II’s massive French financial subsidies at the end of the 1670s and start of the 1680s. Add to that the persistent rumours that Jermyn may actually have been Charles II and James II’s father, and that he created St James’s Square and Jermyn Street from scratch, laying the foundations for the future, elegant greatness of London and being dubbed ‘the Founder of the West End’, and there emerges for the first time from the shadows of history a truly engaging, intriguing and enormously likeable man. Jermyn’s story, based closely on this book, was the subject of Fiona Mountain’s romantic novel Cavalier Queen.

Anthony Adolph’s second biography  is Brutus of Troy and the quest for the ancestry of the British, due to be published later in 2015. The mythological founder of Britain and great grandson of Aeneas (the hero of Virgil’s Aeneid), Brutus is said to have led the descendants of the survivors of the fall of Troy to Britain, where he defeated the giants, peopled the land for the first time and laid the foundations of London as Troynovant, the new Troy in the west. He was long held to be a true historical character, but is in fact a purely literary invention, ever since his name was invented out of the name of Britain itself by monks during the Dark Ages. Brutus was given a brief life-story in the 820s by Nennius and a much fuller story by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1135. His story was then embellished throughout the Middle Ages, during which time he was accepted as a genuine historical character and cited extensively in royal propaganda and foreign policy. Brutus enjoyed a heyday under the Tudors and early Stuarts, who claimed descent from him, after which he faded out of mainstream politics but remained a potent character in literature, inspiring Milton, Nahum Tate, Hildebrand Jacob, Blake, Alexander Pope, John Ogilvie (and perhaps, earlier, even Shakespeare) to write about him.  So complex is the skein of myths surrounding Brutus that nobody had ever attempted a full-length biography of him before – so this is the first time the mythological founder of Britain has been accorded proper biographical treatment.

Anthony Adolph’s website is


Dismore, Jane

Jane Dismore

Jane Dismore started writing for national women’s magazines while she was teaching English Literature to A-level in secondary schools, after graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge. A complete change of lifestyle saw her running charter yachts in the Mediterranean for four years, which led to her writing travel articles – often undertaken between negotiating protection money with local mafia chiefs and trying to avoid floating mines off the coast of Albania.  While teaching Spanish students and the British Army in Gibraltar, Jane had a regular radio slot on the British Forces Broadcasting Service, for which she wrote and presented general interest features.  Inspired by a barrister friend, Jane decided to become a solicitor and, wondering if she had gone quite mad, she re-qualified. For three years she presented on a radio station in Hertfordshire as its ‘legal eagle’ . Despite the ‘day job’ as a specialist in employment law and inheritance disputes (each involving some of the best and the worst human traits), Jane continued to write features, including for The Times, and is a member of the Society of Authors. She is happiest when digging something up, whether from under the ground or from old documents, and she is particularly interested in biography. Her first book is The Voice from the Garden: Pamela Hambro and the Tale of Two Families Before and After the Great War, a biography inspired by a disturbing experience her father had when she was a teenager. Encouraged by Andrew Lownie to whom she showed the earliest proposal, and assisted by agent Andrew Kidd, she published it in August 2012. In February 2013 Jane was longlisted for the New Angle Prize for Literature, for works about or inspired by East Anglia.

Jane’s second book, Duchesses: Living in 21st Century Britain, was published on 4 September 2014 by Blink Publishing (an imprint of Bonnier Publishing). It looks at the lives and roles of Britain’s few remaining non-royal duchesses, 10 of whom agreed to be interviewed for the book. Each also chooses a favourite predecessor in the role, providing a colourful gallery from the 17th to the early 20th centuries.

Jane’s book Princess: the early life of Queen Elizabeth II was published in the US and Canada on 1 June 2018 by Lyons Press (an imprint of Rowan & Littlefield). It will be published in the UK later in 2018 by Thistle Publishing.



Merchant, Minhaz

Minhaz Merchant

Minhaz Merchant is the biographer of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the late Aditya Vikram Birla, founder of the $30-billion Aditya Birla group which operates in over 20 countries worldwide. Minhaz’s collection of essays and journalism will be published in 2013 in two volumes: A Nation of Nations and India: History in the Making. His other work can be seen on

Climie-Somers, Lisa

Lisa Climie-Somers

Knox, Caroline

Caroline Knox

Caroline Knox is the founder director of the Boswell Book Festival which is the only festival to celebrate the art of biography and memoir. It is held each May at Auchinleck House, Ayrshire, the home of the first great modern biographer, James  Boswell. Her career in publishing has included time as a bookseller, agent and publisher, starting with Andre Deutsch where she was Director of Subsidiary Rights and continuing with John Murray as Senior Editor in the small team which created their prize winning non-fiction list specialising in biography, history and travel.

Souhami, Diana

Diana Souhami

Diana Souhami is the author of many highly praised books: Edith Cavell (wiiner of the EDP-Jarrold East Anglian Book of the Year award) Coconut Chaos, Selkirk’s Island (winner of the Whitbread Biography award), The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and winner of the US Lambda Literary award), the bestselling Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter (also winner of the US Lambda Literary award and a New York Times `Notable Book of the Year’) Wild Girls: the Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, Gertrude and Alice, Greta and Cecil and Gluck: Her Biography. Her latest book, Murder at Wrotham Hill, has just been published by Quercus. Her backlist is to be reissued by them in February 2013. She lives in London.