Hanson, Neil 1948-

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Hanson, Neil 1948-

PERSONAL:

Born December 10, 1948, in Bradford, Yorkshire, England; son of John and Charis Hanson; married Lynn Russell, 1992; children: Jack, Drew. Education: Attended Trinity College, Oxford, 1967-70.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Ilkley, West Yorkshire, England. Agent—Mark Lucas, Lucas Alexander Whitley, 14 Vernon St., London W14 0RJ, England; Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management, 521 Fifth Ave., Ste. 2600, New York, NY 10175. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, broadcaster, and journalist. Freelance exhibition organizer, 1970-77; guest on television and radio programs, including Today Show (USA), Channels 7, 9, and 10 (Australia), TVNZ (New Zealand), TV-AM, BBC TV Breakfast News, GMTV, Today Programme, World at One, and PM (Great Britain), and on many regional BBC and ITV stations. Has run art and photography galleries.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Book Industry award, 1983, for Presences of Nature: Words and Images of the Lake District; Royal Literary Fund fellow, 2007.

WRITINGS:

Walking Through Eden: A Riverside Journey, Pavilion (Brighton, England), 1990.

Blood, Mud, and Glory: The Inside Story of Wigan's Year, Pelham (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Raymond Gilmour) Dead Ground, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Keith Jessop) Goldfinder, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998, John Wiley 2001.

The Custom of the Sea, John Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Kevin Connor) Ghost Force, Roberts Rinehart Publishers (Boulder, CO), 1999.

The Dreadful Judgement: The True Story of the Great Fire of London, 1666, Doubleday (London, England), 2001, revised edition published as The Great Fire of London: In that Apocalyptic Year, 1666, John Wiley (New York, NY), 2002.

The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True Story of the Spanish Armada, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003, published as The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of Presences of Nature: Words and Images of the Lake District, Classic Country Pubs: A CAMRA Guide, The Best Pubs of Great Britain, Two Beers, My Friend Will Pay: A Cracked Glass of Pub Humour, British Food Finds, Pubs for Families: A CAMRA Guide, Classic Town Pubs, Good Beer Guide (five volumes), and Bill Beaumont's Rugby Masterpieces.

Contributor to periodicals, including Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Times (London, England), Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Australian, New Zealand Times, Sydney Morning Herald, and to BBC Radio and other radio stations in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Published other works under a variety of pseudonyms and as a ghostwriter.

SIDELIGHTS:

Neil Hanson's work reflects his many interests. Rugby, English football, and local pubs are just some of the variety of subjects Hanson has addressed in his writings. A native of northern England, he is the editor of such award-winning books as Presences of Nature: Words and Images of the Lake District and author of works such as Walking Through Eden: A Riverside Journey. These volumes feature themes and scenes from the picturesque north country. He concentrates on the local town or country pub, a focus of community life in the United Kingdom, in books such as Classic Country Pubs: A CAMRA Guide, The Best Pubs of Great Britain, Two Beers, My Friend Will Pay: A Cracked Glass of Pub Humour, British Food Finds, Pubs for Families: A CAMRA Guide, Classic Town Pubs, and the five volumes of the Good Beer Guide. Among his titles devoted to sports are Bill Beaumont's Rugby Masterpieces and Blood, Mud, and Glory: The Inside Story of Wigan's Year, in which Hanson tells of a rugby club's rise to success.

Perhaps Hanson's best-known and most controversial sports work, however, is Venables: The Autobiography, the book he wrote with football great Terry Venables. Hanson's coauthor was at one time connected with the Tottenham Hotspur football club. The club's manager, Alan Sugar, reviewed the book for the London Sunday Times. Sugar's reaction was hostile; he claimed that Venables's opinion amounted to "a vindictive, distorted and libelous attack," and he threatened a lawsuit. Nonetheless, he found parts of the book that he admired. "One thing that is clear is the admiration, love and respect he had for his mother and still has for his father," Sugar wrote. "Out of the whole book, it is this aspect alone that even I … acknowledge and respect." Sugar concluded: "Clearly here is a man who loves the game of football, who worked his way through as a professional footballer, even playing for England, and then turned to football management. Here is a man with a good tactical football brain; a man who has a good rapport with those in the football fraternity and enjoys good man management when capturing the attention of players."

Since 1990, Hanson has been a prolific literary "ghost" with twenty works of nonfiction and five novels published under a variety of noms de plume. Goldfinder, written with Keith Jessop, tells the tale of English treasure diver Jessop's extraordinary career, culminating in the salvage of ten tons of Russian gold from a British warship lying in 900 feet of water at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

In The Custom of the Sea, Hanson tells readers about sea life, specifically about one ship that never made it to its Australian destination. Hanson tells the story of the captain and three crew members aboard the Mignonette, which left Southampton in 1884. Well into their voyage, their yacht was buried under a huge wave. About 1,000 miles away from land, afloat in a dingy and without any provisions, the four men struggled to stay alive. Eventually one man drank the seawater and fell sick. The captain did what other seagoing men had been known to do—he initiated anthropophagy. He ordered his two healthiest crew members to kill the sick man then they all ate his raw flesh. Finally rescued, the three survivors returned to England, where the captain and his mate faced criminal charges. "Hanson goes into fine detail about the extraordinary events and outcome of the trial," noted Times Literary Supplement contributor Peter Reading. The reviewer added: "His research apparatus includes contemporary newspapers, legal documents, diaries, letters and court transcripts." Read- ing praised the book, noting: "The information he includes on the appalling conditions which the authorities expected seafarers to suffer, and about the efforts made by reformers … eruditely supplements the narrative of these hapless mariners whose wretched ends seemed to mirror the struggles they had endured in life." Thomas Stritter, writing in American Lawyer, commented that "in this absorbing new book, the mystery is whether the killing, deliberate though it was, should legally be considered murder at all." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "an exciting, historically accurate depiction." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Claude Rawson remarked that "the nightmarish events of the shipwreck are reported with real power, and the account of the trial reads like an averagely good courtroom drama."

Hanson is also author The Dreadful Judgement: The True Story of the Great Fire of London, 1666, published in the United States as The Great Fire of London: In that Apocalyptic Year, 1666. Hanson's history recounts the devastation of London by an accidental fire that was generally believed to have started from a stray spark that landed on a bale of straw at a bakery. The author describes, however, how a London mob believed that the fire was not accidental but started by the Papists, leading to the forced confession of a French watchmaker who was subsequently hanged. However, the man was eventually cleared of arson by a ship's captain who testified that the watchmaker had been aboard his ship, which did not arrive in England until two days after the fire. The author also writes about the rebuilding of London. Simon Winchester, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented: "The chapters that explain the physics of what happened in 1666 are by far the best in the volume."

In The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True Story of the Spanish Armada, also published as The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada, Hanson gives an account of the English defeat of the Spanish armada, which was considered to be the mightiest navy in the world at the time. In addition to describing the events surrounding the battle between England and Spain, Hanson also delves into how the war between these countries affected the political and even cultural development of western society. He writes of the most prominent players and also provides insight into everyday life at the time. Jay Freeman, writing in Booklist, commented that the sea battle "is recounted in gripping, even gruesome detail while dispelling much of the mythology surrounding the event."

A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Confident Hope of a Miracle "richly detailed, concisely narrated: a superb, myth-shattering portrait of an epochal event." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "is superlative in doing justice to the social complexities of the time and the suffering of the many who fought." Mary Elizabeth Ailes wrote in the Journal of British Studies: "Hanson provides an exhaustively detailed account of the Spanish Armada's fate. Based upon archival research from throughout England and extensive reading within the published secondary material, the author leaves few stones unturned in describing the events surrounding the Armada."

Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War is a homage to the three million dead soldiers who were never identified in World War I. The author does so by focusing on a German, an Englishman, and an American who presumably died during a battle in the area of the Somme River. Relying on letters and diaries from the soldiers, the author recounts their wartime experiences and ultimately their cynicism about the war. The author also writes about the development of the idea for creating a symbolic tomb or monument for the "unknown soldier" and how both the British and Americans handled the funerals for these unknown men. "This book has a deeply reflective spiritual tone," wrote Thomas Murphy in America. "Hanson's tactic of allowing the three soldiers' stories simply to unfold creates a hauntingly beautiful tale of lost dreams, which led me to pause and reflect at numerous points in the narrative." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted: "Vivid, sobering and without macho swagger or sentimentality, Hanson lets the voices of the unknowns speak across a bloody century." Referring to Unknown Soldiers as a "haunting and heartbreaking account" in his review in Booklist, Jay Freeman also wrote that the author "brings home the fury and horror of the war as experienced by common soldiers." Writing in the Library Journal, Bryan Craig noted that the author also "richly describes the outpouring of grief after this war."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

America, November 13, 2006, Thomas Murphy, review of Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War, p. 31.

American Lawyer, May, 2000, Thomas Stritter, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 55.

Booklist, December 15, 2004, Jay Freeman, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True Story of the Spanish Armada, p. 702; May 15, 2006, Jay Freeman, review of Unknown Soldiers, p. 19.

Journal of British Studies, January, 2006, Mary Elizabeth Ailes, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle, p. 147.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2004, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle, p. 1079.

Library Journal, March 15, 2000, Robert F. Greenfield, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 104; April 8, 2001, Scott Veale, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 28; February 15, 2005, Robert J. Andrews, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle, p. 144; May 15, 2006, Bryan Craig, review of Unknown Soldiers, p. 112.

New York Times Book Review, April 16, 2000, Claude Rawson, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 14; September 22, 2002, Simon Winchester, review of The Great Fire of London, p. 17.

Observer (London, England), August 15, 1982, review of Presences of Nature, p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, March 20, 2000, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 84; December 20, 2004, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle, p. 49; April 3, 2006, review of Unknown Soldiers, p. 58.

Spectator, November 22, 2003, Robert Stewart Castlereagh, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle, p. 51.

Sunday Times (London, England), October 2, 1994, Alan Sugar, review of Venables: The Autobiography, pp. 1-2.

Times Literary Supplement, November 19, 1999, Peter Reading, review of The Custom of the Sea, p. 26.

ONLINE

Decatur Daily Online,http://www.decaturdaily.com/ (March 8, 2007), John Davis, review of The Confident Hope of a Miracle.

Ilkey.org,http://www.ilkley.org/ (March 8, 2007), "Neil Hanson: Ilkley Writer & Author."

Neil Hanson Web site,http://www.neilhanson.co.uk (May 3, 2007)

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (April 13, 2000), Mark Schone, review of The Custom of the Sea.

Wiley Web site,http://www.wiley.com/ (October 28, 2003), brief profile of author.

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