The Biographers’ Club and Slightly Foxed are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2017 Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize is Edmund Gordon for The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography (Chatto & Windus)

‘This was an exceptional shortlist, in which every book showed not only thorough knowledge of its subject but deep and sympathetic understanding. From the Tudor court, to the battlefields of the First World War, from a busy Obs/Gynae wardon the NHS to the august halls of the National Gallery, from a book-lined study to a Japanese love-hotel, we were thoroughly immersed, too, in the worlds these books inhabit. In the end, though, we had to pick a first among equals. And for its elegant writing, fastidious research and becomingly modest yet entirely authoritative portrait of its fascinating subject and her unique work, we chose Edmund Gordon’s The Invention Of Angela Carter as our winner.’ Sam Leith, Literary Editor of The Spectator.


Edmund Gordon was born in 1982. He studied philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and modern literature at University College London, and since 2011 has taught creative writing at King’s College London. A regular contributor to the TLS and the London Review of Books, he has also written for a variety of national newspapers, including the Guardian, Observer and Sunday Times.

In this finely judged and elegantly written biography, Gordon teases out the truth behind Angela Carter’s fictions about her own life, while recounting the brilliant and volatile career of this born writer, critic and fabulist. Widely acknowledged as one of the most important English writers of the last century, Angela Carter’s work stands out for its bawdiness and linguistic zest, its hospitality to the fantastical and the absurd, and its extraordinary inventiveness and range. Her life was as vigorously modern and unconventional as anything in her fiction. This is the story of how Angela Carter invented herself – as a new kind of woman and a new kind of writer – and how she came to write such seductive and distinctive masterworks as The Bloody Chamber, Nights at the Circus, and Wise Children. Author Edmund Gordon has followed in Angela Carter’s footsteps – travelling to the places she lived in Britain, Japan, and the USA – to uncover a life rich in adventure and incident. With unrestricted access to her manuscripts, letters, and journals, and informed by interviews with Carter’s friends and family, Gordon offers an unrivalled portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most dazzlingly original writers. (£10.99 • Chatto & Windus)


This is the fourth year of the literary quarterly and independent publisher Slightly Foxed’s sponsorship of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, with a winner’s award of £2,500. Previous winners: Hisham Matar, The Return; Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son; Claudia Renton, Those Wild Wyndhams; Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography; Thomas Penn, Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England; and Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France.


Caroline Moorehead has written biographies of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn, and is currently at work on a quartet about resistance in France and Italy during the Second World War.

Ian Kelly is an actor, and author of lives of Beau Brummell, Casanova and Samuel Foote: his prize-winning Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, Tragedy and Murder in Georgian England was adapted for the stage with great success.

Sam Leith is Literary Editor of The Spectator.


·         Thomas Dilworth, David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet (Jonathan Cape)
This comprehensive life of the great Modernist poet-artist David Jones is the fruit of a lifetime’s research and understanding, and brings new light to shine on Jones’s rare originality and genius.
·         Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography (Chatto & Windus)
In this finely judged and elegantly written biography, Gordon teases out the truth behind Angela Carter’s fictions about her own life, while recounting the brilliant and volatile career of this born writer, critic and fabulist.
·         Adam Kay, This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor (Picador)
A best-selling, no-holds-barred account of life at the coalface of the NHS by a comedian and former doctor, hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking by turns.
·         Gareth Russell, Young & Damned & Fair: The Life & Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII (William Collins)
A stunning reappraisal of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as scholarly as it is readable, that uses extensive research into her household to bring her chequered story vividly to life.
·         Helen Smith, The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett (Jonathan Cape)
An exemplary life of the writer and editor with a gift for spotting genius, champion of Conrad, Galsworthy, D.H. and T.E. Lawrence and Somerset Maugham, literary godfather to the Edwardian age.
·         James Stourton, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation (William Collins)
As a new version of Civilisation comes to our screens, the complex figure of Kenneth Clark, aesthete, broadcaster, writer and cultural panjandrum, is dissected in this perceptive and entertaining biography.
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