Balfour, Sandy 1962–

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Balfour, Sandy 1962–

PERSONAL: Born 1962; emigrated from South Africa to England, 1983; children (with partner): three.

ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Group, Jeremy P. Tarcher, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Television journalist for CNN, Discovery, and British Broadcasting Corporation; Double Exposure, director, 2005–; writer.

WRITINGS:

Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): The Puzzling Memoir of a Man in Love with Words, [London, England], 2002, published as Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love and Crosswords, Jeremy P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 2003.

Nursing America: One Year behind the Nursing of an Inner-City Hospital, Jeremy P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 2004.

Columnist, Manchester Guardian.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Vulnerable Hearts, "a book about contract bridge in the same sense that Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) is about crosswords. Really I am using the story of bridge to explore various sensibilities of the twentieth century and to write a little about my relationships with my father and my son."

SIDELIGHTS: After working for several decades as a producer of British television documentaries about war-torn areas around the globe, Sandy Balfour published Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): The Puzzling Memoir of a Man in Love with Words, a cryptic memoir which Christopher Howse of the London Daily Telegraph described as "a love story for his girlfriend."

In 1983 Balfour and his girlfriend had come from South Africa to live in London, where they have since made their home and raised three children. Over time, Balfour became an enthusiast of the crossword puzzles in the London Guardian newspaper. Unlike American crossword puzzles, whose clues are relatively straightforward, British crossword clues are more complicated, with an added layer of meaning. Take for example, "Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8)." "A dreamy image, rudely shaken by the puzzling eight-letter answer: rebelled. To elucidate graphically. REBELLE-D. BELLE, that is enveloped in RED," explained New York Times Book Review reviewer Richard Eder, adding, "So far so neat, but then the magic strikes with 'rose,' a synonym for 'rebelled' as reassembled from its pieces." Within this crossword puzzle matrix Balfour mixed autobiographical sketches that recall his rebelling against apartheid, against others' plans for him, and against the convention of marriage.

Eder described Balfour's memoir as "autobiographical sketches dropped into a glass of dry Champagne and stirred well. It fizzes back and forth between experiences and crosswords, and manages to convince us they are akin." Indeed, Balfour wrote in the memoir: "Like a crossword clue, history never quite makes sense at first reading. The surface is plausible, but discordant. We need a second reading to impose order." The second reading, and the rearranging thematically of a life story, are the jobs of the memoirist and, according to Balfour, the crossword puzzle writer. According to New Statesman reviewer Don Manley, Balfour "appreciates how a good clue can provide a cultural insight…. He draws parallels between the oddities of life and the oddities of clues." In grappling with the language of his adopted country, Balfour learns to understand its culture. Rebecca Bollen, reviewing Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) for Library Journal, praised Balfour's "simple prose, thoughtfulness, and wry humor," and a Kirkus Reviews writer found that the puzzle conceit brings "pleasing structure and metaphor to a witty, literate, and lucid memoir." "Anyone who enjoys crosswords will relish how Balfour lovingly describes his favourite clues," Manley predicted.

Balfour's Nursing America: One Year behind the Nursing of an Inner-City Hospital is a radical departure from his memoir. Based on a year of on-site research at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, Nursing America follows the lives of eight nurses of diverse backgrounds, educational levels, and medical specialty. The Medical Center is an urban hospital known for its treatment of trauma and burn victims as well as high-risk obstetrical and neonatal patients. The facility is constantly under financial stress due to the fact that many of its patients are uninsured.

While Balfour's focus in Nursing America the work jumps from one subject to another and one nurse to another, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, "the portraits are sharp and well observed." Among these portraits include those of the chief nursing officer, the vice president of patient services, and a nurse who flies in the medical evacuation helicopter. In the opinion of Library Journal reviewer Bridget Faricy-Beredo, Nursing America is "well written and enjoyable to read."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Balfour, Sandy, Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): A Memoir of Love and Crosswords, Jeremy P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 2003.

Balfour, Sandy, Nursing America: One Year behind the Nursing of an Inner-City Hospital, Jeremy P. Tarcher (New York, NY), 2004.

PERIODICALS

Daily Telegraph (London, England), February 22, 2003, Christopher Howse, "Tales from the Crypt," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8): The Puzzling Memoir of a Man in Love with Words.

Economist, March 29, 2003, "One Who Rebelled," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8).

Guardian (London, England), February 22, 2003, Nicholas Lezard, "Look Again (6)," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 13.

Independent (London, England), January 29, 2003, John Walsh, "Confessions of a Crossword Fanatic," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 7.

Independent Sunday (London, England), March 2, 2003, Matthew J. Reisz, "How to Make a Crossword out of the City Skyline," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 18.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 1814; December 1, 2004, review of Nursing America: One Year behind the Nursing of an Inner-City Hospital, p. 1127.

Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Rebecca Bollen, review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 85; February 1, 2005, Bridget Faricy-Beredo, review of Nursing America, p. 108.

New Statesman, March 31, 2003, Don Manley, "Cryptic Clue," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 54.

New York Times Book Review, April 4, 2003, Richard Eder, "The Pregnant Possibility of Words," review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 43.

Publishers Weekly, February 10, 2003, review of Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), p. 176; December 20, 2004, review of Nursing America, p. 44.

ONLINE

Sandy Balfour Home Page, http://www.sandybalfour.com (October 23, 2005).