PERSONAL: Born in New York, NY. Education: Warwick University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Houghton Mifflin Co., 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116-3764.
CAREER: Activist, novelist, and writer. Has worked as a university teacher of anthropology, an English teacher in Venezuela, a union steward and district secretary for hospital workers, a carpenter, a hospital technician, an abortion counselor, an HIV test counselor, and a magazine copy editor. Involved in U.S. civil rights and antiwar movements, 1960s and 1970s; British delegate to Genoa Social Forum, Genoa, Italy, and speaker at countersummit, 2001; spokesman and organizer for Globalize Resistance, 2001–.
Memoirs of a Callous Picket, Pluto Press (London, England), 1983.
The Cutlass and the Lash: Mutiny and Discipline in Nelson's Navy, Pluto Press (London, England), 1985.
Tigers of the Snow: How One Fateful Climb Made the Sherpas Mountaineering Legends, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
You Are G8, We Are Six Billion: The Truth behind the Genoa Protests, Vision Paperbacks (London, England), 2002.
What's Wrong with America?: How the Rich and Powerful Have Changed America and Now Want to Change the World, Fusion Press (London, England), 2004.
The Laughter of Heroes, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 1993.
Lost at Sea (for young readers), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.
Himalaya (for young readers), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
Also author of eleven plays, including Oedipus Needs Help, first produced in London, England, 1996.
SIDELIGHTS: Author and activist Jonathan Neale has produced a broad range of works reflecting his varied interests. An opponent of the Vietnam War, he wrote about this conflict in The American War: Vietnam 1960–1975. In addition, his extensive travels around the world inform both his nonfiction and fiction titles, including Tigers of the Snow: How One Fateful Climb Made the Sherpas Mountaineering Legends, Lost at Sea, and Himalaya.
The American War, which has also been published as A People's History of the Vietnam War, makes the case that the war in Southeast Asia originated largely as a Vietnamese peasants' revolt and that U.S. intervention had the goal of controlling the working class in both nations. He attributes the United States pullout to the antiwar movement and emphasizes that many U.S. soldiers came to oppose the war. Some critics noted that Neale's analysis owes much to his left-wing political beliefs. A.O. Edmonds, writing in Library Journal, called the book "essentially a Socialist Labor manifesto in serious need of editing," because it is full of "factual errors and unsupported generalizations." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor found the work "energetic in its outrage," even though the historical narrative is "refracted through [Neale's] own ideology." A Kirkus Reviews commentator characterized that ideology as "leftist (though not especially doctrinaire)" and Neale's pronouncements as ranging "from the stunningly simplistic to the satisfyingly nuanced." Neale pays attention to matters ignored by most other historians, such as antiwar sentiments within the military, the reviewer noted.
Tigers of the Snow deals with another overlooked aspect of history. Most books about Himalayan mountain climbing have centered on the climbers from Europe and North America, not on the native Sherpas who have assisted them and climbed alongside them. Neale spent more than a year among the Sherpas in Nepal and India; he details their involvement with Western mountaineers since the 1920s and gives particular attention to a 1934 expedition in which members of a German climbing party left some of their Sherpa guides behind to die in a severe snowstorm. Neale, who interviewed the climb's last surviving participant, Sherpa Ang Tsering, uses the expedition to highlight the Sherpas' endurance and their reasons for distrusting Westerners. He "engagingly profiles the Sherpas' association with Western alpinists," observed Gilbert Taylor in Booklist, while a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed Neale's book "the kind of thoughtful and informed portrait that the Sherpas richly deserve."
Dangerous outdoor adventures, including mountaineering, figure in Neale's novels as well. Neale, who once crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a small craft, puts three children in that situation in Lost at Sea. Siblings twelve-year-old Jack, eleven-year-old Orrie, and seven-year-old Andy join their divorced mother and her boyfriend for the voyage. When the boyfriend falls overboard and their mother becomes incapacitated by depression, the children find themselves in charge. Some reviewers thought the tale unlikely but exciting. "Lots of dubious events" occur in the novel, noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who nonetheless described it as a "gripping narrative." A Publishers Weekly critic concluded that "kids who crave adventure tales will likely enjoy this rocky ride."
Himalaya finds the children from Lost at Sea a year older and accompanying their father in Nepal. Orrie ends up being the hero in a difficult mountain-climbing expedition. Again, several critics praised the novel as thrilling, albeit somewhat incredible. "Readers may well be happy to suspend disbelief for the sake of the climbing and survival action," remarked a Kirkus Reviews commentator. School Library Journal reviewer Joel Shoemaker summed up the novel by saying that "the kids seem wise beyond their years, but the adventure is true enough to make readers sweat."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Tigers of the Snow: How One Fateful Climb Made the Sherpas Mountaineering Legends, p. 1292; August, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of A People's History of the Vietnam War, p. 1949.
Geographical, September, 2002, Stephen Goodwin, "The Coldest March," p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2002, review of Tigers of the Snow, p. 238; March 15, 2002, review of Lost at Sea, p. 421; June 1, 2003, review of A People's History of the Vietnam War, p. 794; July 1, 2004, review of Himalaya, p. 634.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Heather Lisowski, review of Lost at Sea, p. 24.
Library Journal, August, 2003, A.O. Edmonds, review of A People's History of the Vietnam War, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1993, review of The Laughter of Heroes, p. 58; April 8, 2002, review of Lost at Sea, p. 228; April 29, 2002, review of Tigers of the Snow, p. 60; August 23, 2004, review of Himalaya, p. 56.
School Library Journal, March, 2002, Ashley Larsen, review of Lost at Sea, p. 236; October, 2004, Joel Shoemaker, review of Himalaya, p. 173.