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Piers Paul Read FRSL (born 7 March 1941) is a British novelist and non-fiction writer.

Contents

Background

Read was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He is the son of Sir Herbert Read, a poet, art critic and theorist of anarchism, and Margaret Ludwig Read, a professional musician, who was a convert to Catholicism.

When Read was eight, his family moved to North Yorkshire, where he was educated at Gilling Castle and Ampleforth College. His years at Ampleforth would later provide much of the material for the first part of his third novel Monk Dawson (1969). In 1959 he went to St John's College, Cambridge, where he read history. He received his B.A. in 1961 and M.A. in 1962. In 1963-64, he spent a year in West Berlin on a Ford Foundation Fellowship. There he made friends with two other beneficiaries of the Ford Foundation, Tom Stoppard and Derek Marlowe, and worked on his first novel Game in Heaven with Tussy Marx (1966).[1] His stay in Berlin inspired his second novel The Junkers (1968, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize) and confirmed the general sympathy towards the Germans that he felt on account of his mother's part-German ancestry. On returning to England, he took a job as sub-editor on The Times Literary Supplement and shared a flat in Pimlico with Stoppard and Marlowe.[2] At 24 he briefly dated Anna Wintour, then 15.[3] In 1967-68, he spent a year in New York - an experience he used in his fourth novel The Professor's Daughter (1971).

Read is a practising Catholic and Vice-President of the Catholic Writers' Guild of England and Wales. He is married to Emily Boothby (of the Boothby baronets). They have two sons and two daughters. Read lives in London. In 2005, he correctly predicted the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope[4].

Work

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Alive

Read is best known for his non-fiction book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors which documented the story of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in the Andes mountains. Alive won the Thomas More Medal for the most distinguished contribution to Catholic literature in 1974 and has sold more than five million copies worldwide. The book was adapted into the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes.

Other work

Read's first notable success was his book Monk Dawson (1969), which won him a Hawthornden Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award, and was later made into the 1998 film of the same name by Tom Waller.

In 1978 he wrote the book The Train Robbers about the Great Train Robbery (1963) in England in 1963.

In 1988 he was awarded a James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his book, A Season in the West.

In 2003 his authorized biography of the actor Alec Guinness was published.

In 2009 he wrote The Death of a Pope (ISBN: 9781586172954) set with the 2005 Papal conclave as a backdrop.

Themes

Read's novels are strongly influenced by his Catholic faith.[5] His stories focus on the religious themes of sin and redemption. Read writes in a fairly traditional, linear style and he often uses plot elements from popular fiction, especially the thriller, like espionage, murder and conspiracy theories. Most of his main characters are fairly unsympathetic and some of them commit horrific deeds before they finally convert to God.

Almost all of Read's novels are set in Europe. Many of his books show a great interest and sympathy especially for Germany - quite unusual in British literature - and for Eastern European countries like Russia and Poland. In The Knights of the Cross, he explicitly satirizes the expectations and prejudices of the British readership towards the Germans.

List of works

Fiction

  • Game in Heaven with Tussy Marx (1966)
  • The Junkers (1968)
  • Monk Dawson (1969)
  • The Professor's Daughter (1971)
  • The Upstart (1973)
  • Polonaise (1976)
  • A Married Man (1979)
  • The Villa Golitsyn (1981)
  • The Free Frenchman (1986)
  • A Season in the West (1988)
  • On the Third Day (1990)
  • A Patriot in Berlin (1995)
  • Knights of the Cross (1997)
  • Alice in Exile (2001)
  • The Death of a Pope (2009)

Non-fiction

  • Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (1974)
  • The Train Robbers (1978)
  • Quo Vadis? The Subversion of the Catholic Church (a 45-page pamphlet in the Claridge "Blasts" series) (1991)
  • Ablaze: The Story of Chernobyl (1993)
  • The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades (1999)
  • Alec Guinness. The Authorised Biography (2003)
  • Hell and Other Destinations (US title: Hell and Other Essays) (2006)

References

  1. ^ Stoppard, Tom (2005). Introduction to Lord Malquist and Mr Moon (1966). New York: Grove Press, p. vi.
  2. ^ Cullen, Miguel (2009). "Interview - Piers Paul Read" Notes from the Underground
  3. ^ Oppenheimer, Jerry (2005). Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief. New York: St Martin's Press, pp. 31-35.
  4. ^ Read, Piers Paul (2005). "The Man who should be Pope" The Spectator, 5 March 2005.
  5. ^ Read, Piers Paul (2009). Interview in The World Over with Raymond Arroyo EWTN, 6/19/2009.

Literature about the Author

  • Crowe, Marian E. (2007). Aiming at Heaven, Getting the Earth: The English Catholic Novel Today. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 285-350. (Chapters on Monk Dawson, Polonaise and On the Third Day) ISBN 0739116401; ISBN 073911641X.
  • Head, Dominic (2002). The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction. Cambridge University Press, pp. 28-29. (Discusses A Married Man) ISBN 0521660149; ISBN 0521669669.
  • Whitehouse, J.C. (2004). "Piers Paul Read, A Season in the West", in Reichardt, Mary R. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Catholic Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, pp. 517-605. ISBN 9780313322891; ISBN 0313322899.
  • Woodman, Thomas (1991). Faithful Fictions: The Catholic Novel in English Literature. Milton Keynes: Open University Press. (Briefly discusses all Read's novels up to The Free Frenchman) ISBN 0335096387.
  • Read, Piers Paul. Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Vol. 38, pp.353–355.

See also

External links


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