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Lycett, Andrew 1948–

Lycett, Andrew 1948–

PERSONAL: Born December 5, 1948, in Stamford, Lincolnshire, England; divorced. Education: Christ Church, Oxford, M.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o A.P. Watt and Co., 20 John St., London WC1N 2DR, England.

CAREER: Journalist and foreign correspondent, 1971–; biographer, 1987–.

WRITINGS:

(With David Blundy) Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1987.

Ian Fleming: The Man behind James Bond, Turner (Atlanta, GA), 1995.

From Diamond Sculls to Golden Handcuffs: A History of Rowe & Pitman, Hale (London, England), 1999.

Rudyard Kipling, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1999.

Dylan Thomas: A New Life, Overlook Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including the London Sunday Times.

SIDELIGHTS: English journalist and author Andrew Lycett's first book, Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution, is a biography of the notorious Muammar Qaddafi. It follows him from his Bedouin childhood through his accession to the leadership of Libya. Written in collaboration with David Blundy, the book gives readers a picture of Qaddafi at school where, the authors contend, he began to develop his radical political philosophies. Lycett and Blundy also provide a critical look at the historical practices of this country and the effect that Qaddafi's regime had on it. Having spent much time in Libya themselves, the authors draw their conclusions about this elusive man from hundreds of interviews that they conducted with people associated with him.

For Lycett's second biography, he chose a subject very different from the Libyan leader. Ian Fleming: The Man behind James Bond chronicles the colorful life of the author who created the popular fictional British spy. Fleming, who has often been compared to his most famous secret agent character, had an equally intriguing life and was a notorious character himself. During World War II he served with British Naval Intelligence, which probably laid the seeds for his later novels. But after the war he went on to much more typical jobs as a stockbroker and journalist. Though, like Bond, Fleming was a handsome man and an avid womanizer, he also engaged in a number of more pedestrian pastimes like golfing, fishing, playing bridge, and collecting books.

Thirty years after the death of the famous author, Lycett wrote Ian Fleming to explore the author's complex personality. In the New York Times Book Review, Andrea Higbie described Fleming as "arrogant, egotistical, manipulative, pretentious, nasty, unfaithful, self-indulgent and self-involved." Lycett's thorough research revealed a number of personal anecdotes about this colorful character, such as his favorite drink—pink gin—and his favorite travel destination—Jamaica, where he began writing his Bond novels in 1952. Higbie wrote in her review: "It is to Andrew Lycett's credit that his biography makes you feel that while you would not want to be Ian Fleming's friend, you might want to enjoy having dinner with him now and then."

From Diamond Sculls to Golden Handcuffs: A History of Rowe & Pitman is a history of the British brokerage firm of the title. This old and aristocratic firm was a longtime power in the world of corporate finance. The personalities of the people at Rowe & Pitman and their high-stakes business make this an interesting read full of intrigue, according to some critics, not unlike that of the James Bond stories. This history is connected with Lycett's previous book in that Ian Fleming worked intermittently at Rowe & Pitman. In fact, one of the firm members, Hilary Bray, whom Lycett describes in these pages, provided the pseudonym for Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Lycett's Rudyard Kipling is a full-scale biography of the popular British writer best known as the author of The Jungle Books and Kim, who started his career as a journalist in colonial India. The author had access to new papers and letters, which helps the book become an original guide to both the life and writings of Kipling. Independent contributor Terry Eagleton described Rudyard Kipling as a "magnificently thorough biography … [and] magisterial study," while Sunday Telegraph reviewer Noel Malcolm called the book "richly detailed." Malcolm added that the work "will still be read after the latest psycho-histories and literary deconstructions have deconstructed one another to bits."

Lycett tells the tragic life story of one of the twentieth century's most famous poets in Dylan Thomas: A New Life. Thomas's early work is often hailed as great modern verse, and his play Under Milk Wood is regarded as a classic. Yet Thomas was also infamous for his debauchery and failure to live up to his early promise. He took money freely and rarely repaid it, and was repeatedly unfaithful to his wife, Caitlin. He was often vulgar and violent, particularly in his arguments with Caitlin. Thomas died at the age of thirtynine, the victim of chronic alcoholism. Despite his dissolution and abusive personality, there were those who remained loyal to him to the end. Commenting on the biography in Contemporary Review, Tony Thomas credited Lycett with exploring how the poet was able to retain his connections with some people simply "through being so vulnerable, so open, so charming and such good fun."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Barron's, July 27, 1987, review of Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution, p. 43.

Contemporary Review, June, 2004, Tony Thomas, review of Dylan Thomas: A New Life, p. 371.

Current History, May, 1988, review of Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution, p. 234.

Independent (London, England), September 19, 1999, Terry Eagleton, review of Rudyard Kipling, p. 26.

Library Journal, September 1, 1987, David P. Snider, review of Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution, p. 186; May 1, 1998, Barbara Mann, review of Ian Fleming: The Man behind James Bond, p. 158.

National Review, August 12, 1996, Anthony Lejeune, review of Ian Fleming, p. 54; September 13, 2004, Algis Valjunas, review of Dylan Thomas, p. 55.

New Criterion, June, 2004, David Pryce-Jones, review of Dylan Thomas, p. 72.

New York Times Book Review, May 26, 1996, Andrea Higbie, review of Ian Fleming, p. 14.

Playboy, June, 1996, Digby Diehl, review of Ian Fleming, p. 42.

Sunday Telegraph (London, England), September 12, 1999, Noel Malcolm, review of Rudyard Kipling, p. 6.

Time, June 21, 2004, Christopher Porterfield, review of Dylan Thomas, p. 78.

Times Literary Supplement, December 1, 1995, Michael David, "A Vulgarian in Clubland," pp. 17-18; April 16, 1999, Colin Leach, review of From Diamond Sculls to Golden Handcuffs: A History of Rowe & Pitman, p. 36.

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