Fife, Graeme

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Fife, Graeme


Children: Lucy. Education: Durham University (graduated).


Home—Kent, England.


Writer, historian, playwright, broadcaster, translator, and educator. University of Reading, lecturer in Greek and Roman literature. Gresham's School, head of classics, 1970. Has worked as a schoolmaster, furniture maker, builder, and singer in a rock band; served as head of classics at a school in Lancashire, England.


The Wrong Side of the Bed, illustrated by Jolyne Knox, Ginn (Aylesbury, England), 1988.

Building the Trireme, Constable, 1988.

Polly Polestar, Ginn (Oxford, England), 1989.

Arthur the King, BBC Books (London, England), 1990, reprinted, Sterling Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.

(With George Francis) George Francis: Trainer of Champions, Mainstream (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1998.

Tour de France: The History, the Legend, the Riders, foreword by Chris Boardman, Mainstream (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1999.

(Translator) Albert Londres, Tour de France: Tour de Suffrance, Cycle Sport, 1999.

Inside the Peloton: Riding, Winning, & Losing the Tour de France, Mainstream (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2001.

The Terror: The Shadow of the Guillotine: France, 1792-1794, Portrait (London, England), 2003, reprinted, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Massif: Guide to the Great Climbs of the Pyrenees, Rapha, 2006.

The Beautiful Machine, Mainstream (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2007.

Also author of The Man in Black, 1990; Bogota Bandit: The Outlaw Life of Charlie Mitten: Manchester United's Penalty King, 2005, and Bob Chicken: A Passion for the Bike, 2005.

Author of plays, including Praise Be to God, 1987, Reg, 1987, The Great French Revolution Show, Lysistrata (translated and adapted from play by Aristophanes), The Silver Nutmeg (musical, with Peter Thorne), Grimaldi (musical, with Peter Thorne), Once upon a Time … (with Peter Thorne), The Andria (translated from play by Terence, with Sebastian Eden), The Weaker Sex, Gesualdo, Mr. Shakespeare … Mr. Liebowitz, Jam, and The Door (opera).

Author of film screenplays, including Chavasse Park and Ghosts of Deptford.

Author of radio scripts and plays, including Elias Howe, Thirty Stories, Monologues, and Duologues, Snipe 607,Earth to Earth, Vivaldi, The Whisper of the Axe, Arthur the King, La Mogador, The March of the Ten Thousand, The Misfortune at Seaham, A Breath of Fresh Air, Pearls Go with Pearls, Godslots, Surviving Wagner, St. Cecilia of Sicilia, WILF, Cat's Whiskers,The Figaro Letters, The Athenian Trireme, Doggett's Coat and Badge, Revolutionary Portraits, The Night Stairs, Timbuktu: Drowning in Sand, Vegetarian Cyclists, Pause for Thought, Bikesongs, Bicycle Music, The Fighting Temeraire, Saint-Saens, Samson et Dalila, and the Lost Glory, The Fighting Temeraire, the Battle and the Breeze, and In Search of Saint-Saens.


With dozens of books and plays to his credit, Graeme Fife is a prolific historian, nonfiction writer, playwright, and radio scriptwriter. In his book The Terror: The Shadow of the Guillotine: France, 1792-1794, Fife "draws a detailed, chronological—and often overwhelming—portrait of the causes behind the reign of a device used to execute ‘counterrevolutionaries’ by decapitation," commented Pauline Forte in the Chicago Sun-Times. Using numerous first-person accounts as his foundation, Fife explores the origins of the Terror, the period in the early 1790s when France suffered in the deadly grip of the politically radical Jacobins and their leader, Maximilien Robespierre. A lawyer by profession, Robespierre also served on the French Committee of Public Safety, an organization originally convened in response to French invasion by foreign armies. When the Jacobins dismantled the French monarchy and accused King Louis XVI of treason, the Committee served as the country's executive government. With almost unlimited power to accuse, denounce, and bring to trial those who opposed them, the Committee instituted the Terror, characterized by many thousands of executions conducted via the grisly but efficient engine of death, the guillotine. Particularly targeted were hated members of the privileged aristocracy, as well as church officials. However, Fife explains that the Terror was not simply an uprising of the workers and peasants against the upper classes. Ironically, almost ninety-five percent of the nearly 40,000 victims of the guillotine were poor or middle class, observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. He explores some of the underlying causes of the revolution and describes signal events of the time, such as the storming of the Bastille Prison and the beheading of Louis XVI. He also tells a number of "small, mostly appalling stories" of persons who were executed for reasons ranging from clerical errors to casual remarks overheard by the wrong people. Fife "writes with skill, confidence and considerable wit, displaying a shrewd instinct for the important detail, the ironic twist and the poignant moment," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. "Fife is a gifted writer who has captured the temper of that turbulent era," remarked Jim Doyle in the Library Journal. The "contradictions and ironies of the Terror … are well described by Fife in his part-narrative, part-character study of that dreadful era," noted the Publishers Weekly contributor.



Chicago Sun-Times, January 7, 2007, Pauline Forte, "A Slice of ‘Terror,’" review of The Terror: The Shadow of the Guillotine: France, 1792-1794.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of The Terror, p. 885.

Library Journal, February 15, 2002, Larry R. Little, review of Inside the Peloton: Riding, Winning, … Losing the Tour de France, p. 152; October 15, 2006, Jim Doyle, review of The Terror, p. 72.

Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2006, review of The Terror, p. 59.


Graeme Fife Home Page, (February 24, 2007).