Hamilton, (Charles) Nigel 1944-
HAMILTON, (Charles) Nigel 1944-
PERSONAL: Born February 16, 1944, in Alnmouth, Northumberland, England; son of Denis (a journalist) and Olive (a writer; maiden name, Wanless) Hamilton; married Hannelore Pfeifer, 1966 (died, 1973); married Outi Palovesi, July 31, 1976; children: Alexander, Sebastian, Nicholas, Chris. Education: Trinity College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1965, M.A., 1976.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—John W. McCormack Institute, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 100 Morissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125; fax: (617) 287-5544. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author, lecturer, and broadcaster. Employed by Andre Deutsch (publishers), London, England, 1965-66; secondary schoolteacher in London, 1966; Greenwich Bookshop, Greenwich, England, founder and proprietor, 1966-79; Biography Bookshop, founder, 1987; University of Massachusetts, Boston, John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs, John
F. Kennedy Scholar and visiting professor, 1989-94, visiting fellow, 2000—; Royal Holloway College, London, England, visiting professor of history, 1995-2000; British Institute of Biography, director, 1996—; De Montfort University, Leicester, England, professor of biography, 1999. Serves as joint chairman of the BIORAMA Real Lives Centre Steering committee (project for a national biographical arts centre), 1996—, and director of Real Lives Ltd., 2000—. Also wrote and narrated two films for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): Monty, In Love and War, 1987, and Frontiers, Finland and the Soviet Union, 1989.
AWARDS, HONORS: Whitbread Prize for best biography, 1981; Templer Medal for best contribution to military history, 1987; Blue Ribbon Award for best documentary, New York Film and Video Association, 1988.
(With mother, Olive Hamilton) Royal Greenwich: A Guide and History to London's Most Historic Borough, foreword by Sir Arthur Bryant, photographs by Stanley Devon and Elizabeth Lewis, Greenwich Bookshop (London, England), 1969.
Greenwich in Colour, Greenwich Bookshop (London, England), 1970.
Guide to Greenwich (also known as Nigel Hamilton's Guide to Greenwich: A Personal Guide to the Buildings and Walks of One of England's Most Beautiful and Historic Areas), Greenwich Bookshop (London, England), 1971.
America Began at Greenwich, Poseidon (London, England), 1976.
Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942, McGraw (New York, NY), 1981.
Master of the Battlefield: Monty's War Years, 1942-1944, McGraw (New York, NY), 1983.
Monty: Final Years of the Field-Marshal, 1944-1976, McGraw (New York, NY), 1987.
JFK: Reckless Youth, Random House (New York, NY), 1992, published in England as JFK: Life and Death of an American President, Volume 1: Reckless Youth, Century, 1992.
Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, 1st condensed ed., Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942,, Allen Lane (London, England), 2001.
Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
Writer of films for the British Broadcasting Corporation, including Monty, In Love and War, 1987, and Frontiers, Finland and the Soviet Union, 1989. Also author of books under undisclosed pseudonyms.
ADAPTATIONS: Bill Broyles dramatized JFK: Reckless Youth for television in 1993.
SIDELIGHTS: Nigel Hamilton is a biographer who specializes in chronicling the lives of prominent men in politics and the arts. Among his many subjects are German writers Thomas and Heinrich Mann, British Field-Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, and American presidents John F. Kennedy and William Jefferson Clinton. His The Brothers Mann tells of the relationship between German novelist Thomas Mann and his brother Heinrich, a bond marked by their rivalry as writers. Hamilton's three-volume biography of Montgomery follows the illustrious soldier's career from his childhood, through his triumphs during World War II, to his murder at the hands of Irish Republican terrorists in 1976. With JFK: Reckless Youth Hamilton begins a multi-volume work on the early years of the young president, focusing on JFK's youthful indiscretions, including a love affair with a Nazi spy. Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations presents the first volume of the life of Bill Clinton, from his childhood to his election to the Presidency in 1992.
The Brothers Mann, wrote Jack Dierks in the Chicago Tribune Book World, "shows a conception imaginative enough and an execution absorbing enough to make one wonder why it has all taken so long" to write such a biography. Thomas, the younger of the two brothers, was the Nobel Prize-winning author of such works as Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, and Death in Venice. Although Heinrich, also a writer, is well known in Europe, most of his writings remain un-translated into English. Today he is known principally as the author of the novel on which the Marlene Deitrich film Blue Angel is based.
If the younger brother eclipsed the elder as a writer, the elder was more involved in the political and social upheaval of modern Europe. Reviewers found the strength of The Brothers Mann to be in its portrayal of the Manns' life against this backdrop of societal conflict. Dierks commented that "the story of the Manns' productive life is the story of the capsizing of the cultural, intellectual, and social traditions into which they were born and attained maturity; and of their struggle to keep artistic heads above the undertow. . . . Hamilton plays on the right dramatic chord here as world conflict, economic and domestic chaos are used as backdrops to the literary growth and evolving political convictions of the brothers." Peter Gay of the New York Times Book Review wrote that Hamilton has "an irresistible subject: the maturation of two immensely gifted brothers, their quarrel about World War I which, in miniature, reflected quarrels between cultures, and their moving reconciliation in the face of personal illness and the growing threat of Nazism. In general, Mr. Hamilton deals with his complex subject with effective and sober impartiality; he flags only toward the end—without significantly marring his book as a whole—in his inability to take distance from the Manns' embittered anti-American statements."
Hamilton's three-volume biography of British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, authorized by Montgomery's family and based in part on the general's personal diaries, "throws fresh light on matters around which controversy has raged unceasingly," according to Michael Carver in the Times Literary Supplement. Titles in the multi-volume set include Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942, Master of the Battlefield: Monty's War Years, 1942-1944, and Monty: The Final Years of the Field-Marshal, 1944-1976. Hamilton and Montgomery were friends, Robin Higham noted in the New York Times Book Review, "thus it is all the more surprising not only that this is a sound and sympathetic biography but also that its author has some very damning things to say about its hero." Among the character flaws Hamilton finds in Montgomery are an enormous arrogance and a tendency to find fault with others.
Despite Montgomery's personal flaws, his career as England's leading general of World War II made him one of the most respected military leaders of the twentieth century. Montgomery played a pivotal role in the Allied invasion of Normandy—leading the British and American forces in the difficult landings on the beaches of northern France against overwhelming Nazi forces—and in the subsequent battle across France and into the heart of Germany. Although he was sometimes at odds with other Allied generals over strategy—favoring a bolder attack against the German heartland, for example, than was thought prudent by the High Command—Montgomery was beloved by those who served under him. Hamilton quotes General Dwight Eisenhower's observation of Montgomery, that he was able to inspire "an intense devotion and admiration" among his soldiers, "the greatest personal asset a commander can possess."
Although some critics believe Hamilton is ultimately too much an apologist for Montgomery, most find his biography to be of much value nonetheless. Despite finding several shortcomings in Hamilton's presentation of Montgomery, Russell F. Weigley admitted in the Washington Post Book World that "no other work has approached Hamilton's as a portrayal of the man and his character." Carver called Hamilton's biography "a notable contribution to history and to the psychological assessment of a man who, for all his grave defects of character, became Britain's greatest military commander of the twentieth century."
Since the publication of the three original volumes on Montgomery, Hamilton has continued his study of Montgomery's life and has added more works to his collection. The author condensed portions of the original Montgomery biography in Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. A Publishers Weekly critic commented: "This shortened version brings into clearer focus the reasons for the high regard in which students of the military art hold Montgomery." In 2001, Hamilton completed the first volume of a planned two-volume update of the biography, which includes new materials. Titled The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, the updated biography restates much of the information from the original text, but Hamilton also adds a new element: he claims that Montgomery was, according to a Contemporary Review writer, "a suppressed homosexual." The reviewer continued, "[Hamilton] has something of a moral duty to promote tolerance of 'gays' in the military. A more cynical view is that he wishes to capitalise on our age's prurient obsession about sex . . . Whether this revamped biography will add substantially to our understanding and knowledge of this great and controversial general is a moot point." Likewise, Hew Strachan of the Times Literary Supplement surmised, "Montgomery matters because he was a general: what underpinned his achievements were his conscious thoughts on war, not his repressed feelings on sex (whatever they might have been). It is a pity that Nigel Hamilton has not, for all the repetitiveness of his book, probed the former as imaginatively as the latter."
With JFK: Reckless Youth, Hamilton presents what Roger Morris in the New York Times Book Review called "the gripping first volume of an ambitious full-scale life of John F. Kennedy." Covering Kennedy's life until he was first elected to Congress in 1946, JFK: Reckless Youth reveals much new material about the future president and his family. "Kennedyland, a theme park of family values, has flourished in the American imagination," Martin F. Nolan commented in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "Hamilton has dismantled it."
According to Hamilton, John's father, Joe Kennedy, was a notorious philanderer who early in his marriage moved to a hotel where he could entertain showgirls without interference from his wife. His mother, Rose, was an emotionally distant woman who spent as much time away from her children as possible, leaving them in the care of a string of housekeepers. The young John Kennedy, sickly and scholarly, was bullied by his older brother Joe, Jr. In addition, Hamilton claims that Kennedy developed a fetish for cleanliness which moved him to shower five times a day. He suffered from Parkinson's Disease, venereal disease, and, while serving in the Navy during the Second World War, had an affair with a woman suspected of being a Nazi spy.
JFK: Reckless Youth became a bestseller in the United States. It also garnered critical praise for its incisive portrait of the troubled president. Hamilton's biography, Nolan commented, is an "investigative sweep of letters, school transcripts, books, newspapers and magazines, archives and oral history projects, all funneled into a narrative that neither demonizes nor sanctifies its subject." Morris concluded that "by the very detail and depth of the revelations, the flashes of brilliance and consistency of insight, JFK: Reckless Youth easily takes its place beside the best of recent Presidential portraits. . . . By turns poignant and horrifying, but always awe-inspiring, the first volume gives us back a lost history."
Hamilton tackled the life of another American president, whose White House scandals rocked the nation and resulted in an impeachment trial. However, in Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, Hamilton begins the biography of William Jefferson Clinton with his troubled childhood in Hope, Arkansas and ends it in 1992 when he was elected to the Presidency, prior to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that would overshadow his second term as President. A second volume is set to cover Clinton's White House years. Based primarily on secondary sources, Hamilton examines Clinton's childhood, his excellent college education, his marriage to Hillary, and his quick rise in politics. "What Hamilton does rather cleverly," wrote New Statesman's Suzanne Moore, "is to refract this material through the prism of sexual politics. This works well because Clinton's whole world has always depended on his relationships with women, be they his mother, wife, mistresses, party workers, or adoring female voters."
Reviews of the Clinton biography were mixed. Library Journal's Robert F. Nardini found Hamilton too willing to "reach for cliché and to draw easy lessons from pop psychology and sociology." Overall, Nardini felt that the biography was "far less impressive" than Hamilton's JFK: Restless Youth. William H. McNeil of New Leader pointed out, "Gossip, hearsay, and speculation abound. . . . Hamilton's effort to understand [the Clintons] is hung up by an excessive preoccupation with their sexual adventures. Meanwhile, he fails to answer questions that are central to Bill's political success." A Kirkus Reviews contributor found the biography to be "overblown, often out of tune, but oddly fascinating." According to Ilene Cooper of Booklist, the Clinton biography "is as much a psychological portrait and picture of an era as it is an examination of the facts and motivations of Clinton's life. . . . Hamilton's fleshed-out picture shows how easily Bill Clinton could charm, empathize, manipulate, and disappoint." Spectator's Graham Stewart called Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, "a gripping account of the rise of one of the most charismatic politicians of our age." Stewart concluded, "This first volume of Nigel Hamilton's fascinating and fluidly written biography, reading at times like a modern morality play, ends just as Clinton realises his dream of entering the White House. We have traveled with him not only from Hope, but also in hope. It is a good place to pause, before we arrive in disappointment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage Ltd. (London, England), 2004.
American Historical Review, December, 1982, p. 1412; October, 1994, review of JFK: Reckless Youth, p. 1412.
American Libraries, September, 1999, review of JFK: Reckless Youth, p. 97.
American Spectator, March, 1982, p. 34.
Atlantic Monthly, March, 1984, p. 125.
Booklist, May 1, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 1578; September 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 3.
Books, August, 1987, p. 20.
Books and Bookmen, October, 1983, p. 16; August, 1986, p. 17.
Books Magazine, June, 1997, review of Nehru, p. 17; Christmas, 2001, review of The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, p. 19.
Book World, May 22, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 9.
British Book News, October, 1981, p. 602; February, 1984, p. 90; September, 1986, p. 529; May, 1987, p. 289; September, 1987, p. 594.
Business Library Review, February, 1994, review of JFK: Reckless Youth, p. 141.
Business Week, September 28, 1981, p. 15; December 28, 1981, p. 9.
Chicago Tribune Book World, April 8, 1979.
Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 1987, p. 24.
Contemporary Review, February, 1984, p. 106; December, 2001, review of The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, p. 381; March, 2004, review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 190.
Economist, June 13, 1981, p. 91; November 19, 1983, p. 109; September 27, 1986, p. 98; January 16, 1993, p. 88.
Encounter, June, 1985, p. 23.
Foreign Affairs, summer, 1984, p. 1257.
Guardian Weekly, June 21, 1981, p. 22; November 22, 1981, p. 18; November 6, 1983, p. 21; July 20, 1986, p. 21.
History Today, October, 1983, p. 64; March, 1985, p. 53; November, 1986, p. 36; May, 1995, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 72; January, 2002, Alistair Horne, review of The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, p. 56.
Illustrated London News, July, 1981, p. 58; December, 1983, p. 92; August, 1986, p. 69.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 474; August 1, 2003, review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 1003.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1994, review of JFK: Reckless Youth, p. 24.
Library Journal, May 1, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 114; September 15, 2003, Robert F. Nardini, review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 65.
Listener, June 18, 1981, p. 780; October 27, 1983, p. 26.
London Review of Books, December 22, 1983, p. 7; September 4, 1986, p. 3; January 28, 1993, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 22, 1987, p. 2; November 22, 1992, p. 1; June 5, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 2.
Maclean's, December 15, 1986, p. 62.
Marine Corps Gazette, December, 1994, review of Master of the Battlefield, p. 83, review of Monty: Final Years of the Field Marshal, 1944-1976, p. 83, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, review of Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942, p. 83.
Military Review, May, 1995, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 106.
Nation, December 28, 1992, p. 813.
National Review, August 21, 1981, p. 965.
New Leader, December 14, 1992, p. 3; September-October, 2003, William H. McNeil, "Asking the Wrong Questions," review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 24.
New Statesman, June 12, 1981, p. 17; November 17, 2003, Suzanne Moore, "All Technique and No Trousers: Bill Clinton Is Celebrated for His Almost 'Carnal' Relationship with Voters," review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 46.
Newsweek, September 14, 1981, p. 82; September 14, 1992, p. 70.
New York, September 14, 1992, p. 111.
New Yorker, July 9, 1979; April 23, 1984, p. 131; April 27, 1987, p. 105.
New York Review of Books, January 14, 1993, p. 3.
New York Times, May 3, 1979; April 16, 1984, p. 21.
New York Times Book Review, August 5, 1979; October 4, 1981, p. 14; March 11, 1984, p. 24; December 28, 1986, p. 11; November 22, 1992, p. 1.
Observer (London), June 7, 1981, p. 32; July 19, 1981, p. 29; December 6, 1981, p. 25; August 15, 1982, p. 31; November 6, 1983, p. 31; March 3, 1985, p. 27; July 21, 1985, p. 22; June 29, 1986, p. 22; July 20, 1986, p. 23; June 28, 1987, p. 22; July 19, 1987, p. 23; January 15, 1989, p. 49; July 16, 1989, p. 42; November 15, 1992, p. 64; May 14, 1995, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 15.
Parameters: US Army War College Quarterly, winter, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 142.
Publishers Weekly, April 18, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 50.
Punch, June 24, 1981, p. 1023.
Spectator, June 27, 1981, p. 20; December 31, 1983, p. 20; July 5, 1986, p. 28; December 12, 1992, p. 36; October 13, 2001, review of The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, p. 59; October 11, 2003, Graham Stewart, "Northward and Upward," review of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, p. 46.
Times Educational Supplement, November 23, 1984, p. 29; December 26, 1986, p. 11.
Times Literary Supplement, June 12, 1981, p. 657; July 18, 1986, p. 777; October 12, 2001, Hew Strachan, review of The Full Monty, Volume 1: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887-1942, p. 26.
Tribune Books (Chicago), June 5, 1994, review of Monty: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, p. 3.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1982, p. 51.
Washington Post Book World, April 15, 1979.
John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies,http://www.mccormack.umb.edu/ (June 29, 2004), "The Clinton Biography Project," description of Bill Clinton: An American Journey, Great Expectations, brief biography of Nigel Hamilton, description of other works by Hamilton, and contact information.*