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Members' News

Rolling news and notices from the club and its members, as well as items of interest from the world of biography.

Are you a Club member with news of your own? Get in touch to let us know about your book launches, rights deals, appearances, events, prizes and more, via our contact page.

Daisy Dunn on the Plinys

Daisy Dunn follows her acclaimed biography of Catullus with In the Shadow of Vesuvius, out from William Collins on 30 May. The new book is a biography of the two Plinys: the Younger, whose writings are known to many students of Latin; and his uncle, the naturalist Pliny the Elder, who perished following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Collins promises that In the Shadow of Vesuvius “breathes vivid life back into the Plinys… Dunn’s biography is a celebration of two outstanding minds of the Roman empire, and their lasting influence on the world thereafter”.

Member Jennifer Holmes publishes new book 

 Matador has recently published A Working Woman: The Remarkable Life of Ray Strachey by Club Member Jennifer Holmes, whose proposal for the book was shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize in 2015. A leading feminist (and writer) of the early 20th century, Ray Strachey was a close colleague of both Millicent Fawcett and Nancy Astor, remembered in particular for her classic history of the Women’s Movement, The Cause (1928). She played a major role in gaining many women the vote in 1918, stood for Parliament three times, and devoted much of her life to fostering employment opportunities for women. Alongside this she was a working mother with overwhelming family responsibilities and an unusual (some said eccentric) private life on the fringes of the Bloomsbury set. Based on extensive research, the book is the first full biography of Ray Strachey, illuminating not only her fascinating life but also the social and political worlds to which she belonged.

Fiction debut by Gary Hicks

Club member Gary Hicks is to publish his first novel, which he describes as a gentle satire on political life in the South Wales Valleys of the 1960s, with SilverWood books in September. It is “The Little World of Don Camillo meets Under Milk Wood“.

Hicks has previously written a biography of the lottery (History Press) and a book on Thomas Bish, 19th-century advertising pioneer (Victorian Secrets). He completed Girl in a Green Gown; the History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait (Chatto & Windus), which his wife, Cambridge art historian Carola Hicks, had been writing at the time of her death.

Heald’s Magnificent Women

Club member Henrietta Heald, whose William Armstrong: Magician of the North was shortlisted for the Best First Biography Prize (then sponsored by HW Fisher) in 2011, has written Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines, due from Unbound in September. The book has more than reached its funding target at the Unbound website, and is in pre-production, meaning that further supporters will not be listed in the back; but it is available for pre-orders. It is a portrait of the women, largely unrecognised, who were pioneering members of the Women’s Engineering Society. The society celebrates its centenary this year.

TLP winner’s Noble Savages due in June

Cape is to publish on 6 June Noble Savages: The Olivier Sisters – Four Lives in Seven Fragments by Sarah Watling, whose proposal for the book won the Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize (TLP) in 2016. Watling offers a group portrait of four women who intrigued figures including Rupert Brooke, DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. Margery and Daphne studied at Cambridge when education was still thought by some to be damaging to ovaries. Noel became a doctor; Daphne, a pioneering teacher; Margery’s promising trajectory was shot down by mental illness; Brynhild, the great beauty of the four, excelled as a Bloomsbury hostess, yet gave it up for love and a life of uncertainty.

Cape bills Noble Savages as “a compelling portrait of sisterhood in all its complexities, which rediscovers the lives of four extraordinary women within the varied fortunes of the feminism of their times, while illuminating the battles and ethics of biography itself”.

Noble Savages at Waterstones

Award for Phyllida Scrivens

Phyllida Scrivens has won the Biography & Memoir Prize at the East Anglian Book Awards 2018 for her group biography The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017 (Pen & Sword). At a ceremony held in Norwich in November, Phyllida was awarded the trophy in front of seven of her “subjects”, former Lord Mayors who feature in the book. The East Anglian Book Awards are presented annually and sponsored by the National Centre for Writing, University of East Anglia and the Eastern Daily Press.

Clare Mulley’s TLP winner reissued

Clare Mulley’s first book, The Woman Who Saved the Children: A Biography of Eglantyne Jebb, Founder of Save the Children (Oneworld, 2009), is to be republished with a new cover, and a new introduction by the author, on 11 April, to mark the centenary of Save the Children.

The book won the Biographers’ Club Tony Lothian Prize (TLP), then sponsored by the Daily Mail, in 2007. All royalties go to Save the Children’s international programme work.

People’s Book Prize winter 18/19 contenders

Titles by two Biographers’ Club members, Philippa Bernard (Mithras to Mormon, Shepheard-Walwyn) and Jane Dismore (Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II, Thistle), are longlisted in the winter collection of the People’s Book Prize. Voting is open now, and remains open until 15 March. You can vote for them here:

Ian Strathcarron – Crikey!

Ian Strathcarron, biographer and chairman of the Unicorn Publishing Group, has written a biography of a man about whom we know surprisingly little: Sir Bertram Wooster, KG. In Crikey! How Did That Happen?, Strathcarron fills in the gaps that PG Wodehouse left. Ten chapters centre on incidents throughout Wooster’s life: education at Malvern House, Eton and Oxford; pursuing a musical career in the south of France, in a milieu also including Alfred Hitchcock and Somerset Maugham; wartime captivity, in common with his creator but at the hands of the Italians; adventures in Hollywood. The final chapter is a murder mystery set on Mustique in the Seventies. As for Jeeves: he graduates from employment by Wooster to work in the Royal Household.

Strathcarron says: “Wodehouse never mentioned any dates, but it is generally accepted that the stories take place in the late ‘20s when Bertie was also in his late 20s. I therefore imagined him born in 1900 and take it forward seven years at a time from then.

“In the stories Wodehouse makes many references to Bertie’s childhood and schooling and I have included all of these in the early chapters. Of course from 1928 onwards I’ve made it all up, on the basis that while the main plot is pure fiction all the subplots are real events.”

Rasheed Kidwai – Neta Abhineta

Rasheed Kidwai’s new book, Neta Abhineta: Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics, has just come out from Hachette India. It gives biographical sketch of 18 Indian film stars who have entered the Indian parliament. “With an eye for detail and an elephantine memory, Kidwai makes a compelling raconteur,” says the Indian Express.