Linklater, Andro 1944-
Linklater, Andro 1944-
Born 1944, in Scotland; son of Eric Linklater (a writer).
Home—England. Agent—International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
Journalist, editor, and author.
(With father, Eric Linklater) The Black Watch: The History of the Royal Highland Regiment, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1977.
Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade (juvenile), illustrated by Joanna Carey, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
An Unhusbanded Life: Charlotte Despard, Suffragette, Socialist, and Sinn Feiner, Hutchinson (London, England), 1980.
Compton Mackenzie: A Life, Basil Blackwell (New York, NY), 1987.
Wild People: Travels with Borneo's Head-Hunters, Murray (London, England), 1990, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(Editor) Eric Linklater, The Goose Girl and Other Stories, Canongate Publishing, 1992.
The Code of Love: A True Story (includes audio CD), Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2000, published as The Code of Love: The True Story of Two Lovers Torn Apart by the War that Brought Them Together, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.
(With others) Shetland Breeds: Lessons in Husbandry and History, Posterity Press (Chevy Chase, MD), 2001, 2003.
Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2002.
The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the London Sunday Times.
British journalist Andro Linklater has written books on a variety of subjects. His first published volume is The Black Watch: The History of the Royal Highland Regiment, a collaboration with his father, author Eric Linklater. Andro next tried his hand at writing for children, and the result is Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade, the story of a girl and her talking camel. Linklater later composed the biographies of women's rights activist Charlotte Despard and Scottish writer Compton Mackenzie. Another of his well-received books is Wild People: Travels with Borneo's Head-Hunters.
In Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade Linklater presents the appealing protagonist Cosima, a girl who lives in Timbuktu. Though she is discouraged by others because she is a girl, Cosima buys a camel for only twenty-five cents. The camel, named Maisie, talks, and the camel dealer is anxious to get rid of it because it scares away his customers. In the process of entering the Great Christmas Camel Race, Cosima and Maisie get mixed up with the Wicked Wallah, who heads the Cold Porridge Brigade. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade for being "decidedly different."
Linklater's biography, An Unhusbanded Life: Charlotte Despard, Suffragette, Socialist, and Sinn Feiner, tells the story of a strong, opinionated woman whose life spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from the Victorian era through the Great Depression. Charlotte Despard was the sister of the viceroy of Ireland, Sir John French. After being widowed as a young woman she became active in causes ranging from women's rights to Irish independence, which led to a certain amount of embarrassment for her prominent brother. "This is a fascinating biography," declared A.N. Wilson in Spectator, "sympathetic to its extraordinary subject, and patient in its explanations of the context in which Charlotte Despard's political and religious notions must be placed." Kathleen Nott praised the biography in the Observer, calling An Unhusbanded Life "a good book, solid as well as readable. Mr. Linklater sets his subject, eccentric, extravagant and, it seems, extraordinarily charismatic, in a framework of facts and history, with some expert disentangling of the ramifications of the women's suffrage movements."
For his next biographical subject, Linklater chose a man he had known and who had been a good friend of his late father's. In Compton Mackenzie: A Life Linklater tells the story of this prolific author of the early twentieth century, who was almost as well known for his happy-go-lucky lifestyle as for his books. As Michael Levey pointed out in his Spectator review of the biography, however, this colorful public persona concealed a more complex personality. Levey wrote: "There was more to the life of … Mackenzie than [the author himself] told, or indeed could tell. And it is in that area that Andro Linklater most deftly and sympathetically operates, leaving largely intact the persona … while skillfully probing beneath it (with judicious use of evidence from the novels), to present a figure more complex and ultimately more interesting." Gerald Mangan, in a review for the Times Literary Supplement, praised Compton Mackenzie as well, calling it "meticulous" and noting that "Linklater has drawn on a large archive of personal documents, two unfinished studies, and several living memories to assemble this first full biography" of Mackenzie.
During the 1980s, Linklater accepted an assignment from Time-Life books to write the text for a book in a proposed series called "People of the Wild." Explaining that his words would be secondary to the photographs, Time-Life sent Linklater, along with a photographer and an anthropologist, to Borneo's Iban country to study the Iban people, who had been headhunters until recent times. When Linklater and his coworkers arrived, they found that the Iban's "wild" culture was now infiltrated by modernity; the natives wore T-shirts with slogans on them, and tribal dancers often wore patches of shag carpeting rather than the traditional animal skins. Chain saws were prevalent. Although this situation caused Time-Life to abandon the proposed series, Linklater believed that the Iban people were still worth writing about; the result is Wild People. In it, he relates his personal experiences among the Iban, and, in addition to describing the odd juxtaposition of modern and tribal lifestyles, he goes on to explore those things that make the Iban essentially different from Westerners despite the cultural trappings they have embraced.
Mark Archer explained one of the characteristics that distinguish the Iban in his Spectator review of Wild People, writing that "the world of the Iban is unitary. The augury of birds or an auspicious dream instructs them whether to hunt or where to plant." There is little or no differentiation between the realm of the spiritual and the realm of the practical. Other reviewers noted Linklater's use of humor and compelling detail in Wild People. New York Times Book Review critic Bradd Shore labeled the work a "splendidly wacky account," and New Statesman & Society contributor Peter Metcalf lauded the "appealing portraits of individual Iban, and several sharply observed incidents."
The Code of Love: A True Story, published in the United States as The Code of Love: The True Story of Two Lovers Torn Apart by the War that Brought Them Together, was described as "a true romance, evocative of a passing generation and their triumphs and tribulations" by a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Model Pamela Kirrage fell in love with pilot Donald Hill in 1939. Six months after they met, Hill was sent to Hong Kong, where he was captured by the Japanese. Now a prisoner of war, Hill kept a diary, coding it through the use of mathematical tables. In 1946, Hill returned to England with the diary, but he refused to translate it and eventually forgot the code. Meanwhile, he and Kirrage married and had three children. Hill's life was shadowed by his war experience, though, and the couple eventually divorced. Hill's second marriage failed, too, and he was placed in a mental hospital; Kirrage found him there and the two were remarried in an unofficial ceremony. Their second marriage was cut short when Hill died a year later.
Kirrage submitted Hill's diary to a number of people, hoping that its contents would give her insight into her husband's war years. The code was cracked by mathematician Philip P. Aston after five months' work. Aston wrote of his discovery on the University of Surrey's Web site, where he included samples of the mathematical tables used by Hill and the steps that were taken to understand the code and translate it to text. Aston called Linklater's account of this wartime saga "an unforgettable book." Booklist reviewer Michelle Kaske called The Code of Love "an intriguing read for those interested in survival stories or romance."
Linklater interviewed Kirrage, the couple's children, and others to write the story. Kirrage read The Code of Love in the spring of 2000, after which she gained closure over what happened to her husband during his internment. She died six days later. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Linklater's book will captivate readers hungry for a wartime story of love and intrigue." The entire text of the diary is included in the book, which is accompanied by an audio CD of a British Broadcasting Corporation radio documentary made by Linklater.
Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy takes a look at the expansion of the United States into the West, the ways in which Americans measure things, and how these two subjects are related. While much of the world uses the metric system, America clings to an archaic measuring system that includes inches and feet and gallons. Linklater's book delves into the historic personalities behind these decisions and how they affected politics, the economy, and international business dealings over the centuries. He also explains how these systems of measurement were carried westward to become inextricably linked to both the American legal system and the nation's sense of identity. Library Journal critic Michael D. Cramer called Linklater's work an "expertly written and eminently enjoyable chronicle." In a review for the Guardian, contributor Andy Beckett commented that "diligence, respect for figures, and slightly bloody-minded defiance of the elements is a very American combination. So to try to understand the country by describing how it was first surveyed and divided up, as this book does, is likely to be a fruitful enterprise." Business Week reviewer Eric Schine noted that "the book does have shortcomings. Colorful anecdotes appear too infrequently, while much space is given over to metric-system minutiae," but ultimately concluded that Linklater "succeeds at a difficult undertaking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2001, Michelle Kaske, review of The Code of Love: The True Story of Two Lovers Torn Apart by the War that Brought Them Together, p. 907.
Business Week, January 20, 2003, Eric Schine, "Forty Acres and a Rule," review of Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2001, review of The Code of Love, p. 35.
Library Journal, November 15, 2002, Michael D. Cramer, review of Measuring America, p. 95.
New Statesman & Society, October 26, 1990, Peter Metcalf, review of Wild People: Travels with Borneo's Head-Hunters, p. 38.
New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1991, Bradd Shore, review of Wild People, p. 8.
Observer (London, England), January 20, 1980, Kathleen Nott, review of An Unhusbanded Life: Charlotte Despard, Suffragette, Socialist, and Sinn Feiner, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, August 27, 1979, review of Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade, p. 385; December 4, 2000, review of The Code of Love, p. 59.
Spectator, March 8, 1980, A.N. Wilson, review of An Unhusbanded Life, pp. 19-20; May 30, 1987, Michael Levey, review of Compton Mackenzie: A Life, pp. 29-30; October 20, 1990, Mark Archer, review of Wild People, pp. 36-37; March 18, 2000, Kate Grimond, review of The Code of Love, p. 59.
Times Literary Supplement, May 29, 1987, Gerald Mangan, review of Compton Mackenzie, p. 572.
Cooperative Individualism Web site,http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/ (May 8, 2003), H. William Batt, review of Measuring America.
Guardian Online,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (July 27, 2002), Andy Beckett, "Rulers of the Territory."
University of Surrey, Department of Mathematics and Statistics Web site,http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/ (September 13, 2001), P.J. Aston, "A Decoded Diary Reveals a War Time Story."