Pringle, Peter 1940–

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Pringle, Peter 1940–


Born June 28, 1940, in England; son of Herbert John (an air force officer) and Leslie Pringle; married Eleanor Randolph (an editorial writer); children: Victoria. Education: Oxford University, B.A. (with honors), 1962. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, walking, flying, collecting fossils.


Agent—Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management LLC, 521 Fifth Ave., 26th Fl., New York, NY 10175.


London Sunday Times, London, England, Middle East and Africa reporter, 1968-75, New York City bureau chief, beginning 1975. Washington correspondent for the London Observer and the Independent of London; Moscow correspondent for the Independent, 1990-93, New York correspondent, 1993-95.


(With others) Insight on Middle East War, Viking (New York, NY), 1974.

(With others) Insight on Portugal, Deutsch (London, England), 1974.

(With Peter Cole) Can You Positively Identify This Man? George Ince and the Barn Murder, Deutsch (London, England), 1975.

(With James Spigelman) The Nuclear Barons, Holt (New York, NY), 1981.

(With William Arkin) S.T.O.P.: The Secret U.S. Plan for Nuclear War, Norton (New York, NY), 1983.

(With Nigel Hawkes, Geoffrey Lean, David Leigh, Robin McKie, and Andrew Wilson) The Worst Accident in the World: Chernobyl—The End of the Nuclear Dream, William Collins (London, England), 1986, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1987.

Cornered: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice, Holt (New York, NY), 1998, published in England as Dirty Business: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice, Aurum (London, England), 1998.

(With Philip Jacobson) Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto; The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

The Day of the Dandelion: An Arthur Hemmings Mystery, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic, and New Republic. Author's works have been published abroad in countries, including France, Germany, Japan, and Spain.


British journalist Peter Pringle has written nonfiction books, several in collaboration, on a variety of topics, including nuclear energy and weapons, lawsuits against the tobacco industry, and strife in Northern Ireland. The Nuclear Barons by Pringle and James Spigelman aims to provide a thorough history of nuclear energy in terms of both its military and commercial development. According to Nation reviewer Jessica Mitford, Pringle and Spigelman's "valiant effort" has succeeded: "For the general reader, The Nuclear Barons is an excellent overview; for those who want to probe deeper, a valuable research tool with meticulous notes and bibliography. A felicitous collaboration." Mitford thought Pringle and Spigelman at their best when describing the expansion of nuclear power from weaponry into the commercial arena, a description that also includes the authors' recollection of "the extravagant hopes once held out for this source of energy … [and] the Machiavellian attempts to suppress data pointing to its dangers." In the Washington Post Book World, Gregg Easterbrook directed his attention to Pringle and Spigelman's argument that "making electricity from atoms never made much sense, either economically or technologically. Yet utility executives and government officials the world over have longed for it, like boys dreaming of hot rods. They've sunk hundreds of billions of dollars into it, then often looked the other way when their dream machines produced more grief than power…. [Pringle and Spigelman] attribute most of nuclear power's appeal to the lure of ‘Big Science.’ … It is here that Pringle and Spigelman are most convincing, where so many critiques of the nuclear industry falter. They understand that human foibles and well-intentioned blunders, not sinister conspiracies, lie at the heart of the nuclear mess." Mitford, while impressed with The Nuclear Barons on the whole, was disturbed by what she called its ironic conclusion, the fact that Pringle and Spigelman feel there may be no alternatives to nuclear power. She felt that the authors should spend time discussing alternate sources of energy. If they did, she wrote, "I should be first in line to buy such a book by these authors."

Pringle's Cornered: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice details the history of the multistate lawsuit against tobacco companies that led the industry to agree in 1997 to pay the states 369 billion dollars to help cover the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses. "The dramatic events that led to the settlement make for a remarkable story, and Pringle gets the human details just right," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. New York Times Book Review contributor Laura Mansnerus remarked, "There are many threads to be pulled together, and Peter Pringle pulls them nicely." She voiced reservations, however, about his "conclusion that the system works." She allowed that in the tobacco suit, "the system did work in that it promised to accomplish something that many people want accomplished," but she observed: "Pringle does not ask what a corporation's obligation to public health consists of, or how much we want any arm of government to protect us from ourselves." Still, Pringle's narration of the legal battle won praise from several other reviewers. "It is meticulously researched yet reads like a novel," wrote Eris Weaver in Library Journal, while Booklist critic Mary Carroll added that "Pringle recounts this extraordinarily complex story gracefully." Business Week reviewer David Greising called the book "a deftly written, comprehensive account," and thought that Pringle's "particular strength is his use of detail and shrewd character judgments to humanize the story."

Pringle and Philip Jacobson discuss one of the most traumatic events in the troubled history of Northern Ireland in Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972, which details British soldiers' killing of thirteen Irish civilians during a civil rights march in the city of Derry. The authors use interviews and government documents to support their position that British political and military leaders planned and sanctioned the attack. Pringle and Jacobson describe the tragedy "in wrenching fashion," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, while providing a broader context with background on the persistent Irish-British, Catholic-Protestant strife in Northern Ireland. The book is "a lucid and bitter chronicle of yet another day that lives in infamy," the critic concluded.

Pringle's next work of investigative journalism is Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto; The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest. The book explores the scientific, corporate, and political issues surrounding genetically modified food. Pringle also traces the development of the biotech industry, from the first vine-ripened tomatoes (designed to ripen without rotting before reaching the supermarket) to golden rice, the nutrient-rich rice distributed in third-world countries. According to Pringle, some of the more interesting conflicts that have arisen from these developments are the ethics of patenting produce and the practice of suing farmers when cross pollination between patented plants occurs (a natural and completely unavoidable phenomenon). While popular concerns regarding genetically modified foods tend toward safety and health, Pringle observes that the real concern should be about how private-sector businesses are beginning to control the food supply. Reviewers found the book to be a critical, but unbiased exploration of the genetically modified food industry. "Pringle manages to avoid the hype and sensationalism that color both sides of the argument," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Christine C. Menefee, writing in School Library Journal, found the book to be one that will "satisfy curiosity and engender concern, and any of its chapters would provide an excellent subject for discussion groups."

Following Food, Inc., Pringle broke away from nonfiction, authoring his first novel, The Day of the Dandelion: An Arthur Hemmings Mystery, which features a botanist as the protagonist. Pringle then returned to nonfiction with The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century, which is also about a botanist (and geneticist), albeit one who was not a fictional character. In The Day of the Dandelion, Oxford geneticists identify a gene that will allow crops to clone themselves, and the implications for the world's food supply are numerous. Professor Alastair Scott, the man responsible for the discovery, drowns. Scott's assistant, Tanya Petrovskaya goes missing, and another lab assistant dies from anaphylactic shock. In the meantime, Scott's research disappears. Arthur Hemmings, a botanist who also happens to be an undercover agent in the British Secret Service, is assigned to the case. As Hemmings investigates, he also begins dating his neighbor. Many critics commented both on the substantial scientific research that bolsters the novel and on the novel's interesting mixture of a James Bond adventure with a Sherlock Holmes tone. Booklist critic Connie Fletcher noted that Pringle gives his modern adventure "an old-fashioned overlay with his introduction of a hero with strong whiffs of Holmesian Victoriana." Although Washington Post Book World critic Art Taylor felt that the story "seems unsure whether it's a high-stakes espionage tale or a more sedate English cozy," he noted that Pringle's "research grounds this novel with real-world urgency." Calling the book a mixture of "academics meet[s] 007," a Kirkus Reviews contributor said "the results, based in part on Pringle's nonfiction work Food, Inc. (2003), are original, fast-paced and altogether delightful."



Booklist, February 15, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Cornered: Big Tobacco at the Bar of Justice, p. 956; April 1, 2007, Connie Fletcher, review of The Day of the Dandelion: An Arthur Hemmings Mystery, p. 31.

Business Week, February 23, 1998, David Greising, "War and Peace on the Tobacco Front," p. 23.

E, September 1, 2003, "Bio-food Basics," p. 59.

Futurist, September 1, 2003, "Science and Technology," p. 60.

Insight on the News, July 6, 1998, Kenneth Smith, review of Cornered, p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2000, review of Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972, pp. 1534-1535; May 1, 2003, review of Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto; The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest, p. 664; March 1, 2007, review of The Day of the Dandelion, p. 199; April 1, 2008, review of The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century.

Library Journal, March 1, 1998, Eris Weaver, review of Cornered, p. 108; June 15, 2003, William H. Wiese, review of Food, Inc., p. 92.

Nation, May 8, 1982, Jessica Mitford, review of The Nuclear Barons.

Nation's Restaurant News, September 22, 2003, "Tome Explores Interest in Genetically Modified Foods," p. 160.

Natural History, October 1, 2003, "Crop Circles: Spin Notwithstanding, Can GM Food Still Save the World?," p. 58.

New Yorker, September 22, 2003, "Readers Digest," p. 62.

New York Times Book Review, March 15, 1998, Laura Mansnerus, "The Suing of Mr. Butts," p. 34; August 17, 2003, "I Say It's … Broccoli?," p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, January 19, 1998, review of Cornered, p. 366; April 28, 2003, review of Food, Inc., p. 59; March 26, 2007, review of The Day of the Dandelion, p. 63; March 31, 2008, review of The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, p. 51.

School Library Journal, December 1, 2003, Christine C. Menefee, review of Food, Inc., p. 178; October 1, 2004, review of Food, Inc., p. 63.

Washington Post Book World, September 20, 1981, Gregg Easterbrook, review of The Nuclear Barons; July 15, 2007, Art Taylor, review of The Day of the Dandelion; July 13, 2008, Anne Applebaum, review of The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov, p. 10.


On the Media, (January 26, 2002), author interview.

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Pringle, Peter 1940–

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