Sinclair, David 1945-

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SINCLAIR, David 1945-

PERSONAL:

Born 1945, in Northumberland, England.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Random House Group, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England.

CAREER:

Author, journalist, and newspaper executive and editor. Financial Mail on Sunday, London, England, executive editor.

WRITINGS:

Edgar Allan Poe, Rowman and Littlefield (Totowa, NJ), 1977.

Queen and Country: The Life of Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Dent (London, England), 1979.

Snowdon: A Man for Our Times, Proteus (London, England), 1982.

Dynasty: The Astors and Their Times, Dent (London, England), 1983, Beaufort Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Shades of Green: Myth and Muddle in the Countryside, Grafton (London, England), 1990.

Two Georges: The Making of the Modern Monarchy, Hodder and Stoughton (London, England), 1988.

The Pound: A Biography, Century (London, England), 2000.

Hall of Mirrors, Century (London, England), 2001.

Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Land That Never Was: The Extraordinary Story of the Most Audacious Fraud in History, Review (London, England), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

British journalist and writer David Sinclair has written a number of biographical and historical books dealing with topics ranging from the British monarchy to the pound currency and to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. His 1977 title, Edgar Allen Poe, is a "humanely intelligent assessment," according to Simon Blow, writing in the Spectator. Blow praised Sinclair for his even-handed treatment of the American writer, "being neither denigrating nor glamorising," and thus eliminating many of the often-told myths about Poe. Sinclair's biography is, according to Blow, "the book on Poe that needed to be written." However, a reviewer for Choice came down on the opposite side of the critical equation, noting that Sinclair's book "could set back Poe biography a good half century," and that the author "adds nothing new to [the] portraiture of Poe." As Karl Miller commented in the New York Review of Books, Sinclair's biography is "mostly [the] life rather than work" type of approach, focusing on the myriad events of Poe's tumultuous life. The novelist Patricia Highsmith had particular praise for the same title in the Times Literary Supplement. She called the work an "admirably written biography" and further noted that Sinclair posits diabetes as being a determining influence on Poe. Highsmith went on to observe that Sinclair's prose style "is somehow reminiscent of Poe's era, and in the best sense: it is classical and clear, therefore forceful and easy to read."

From the topic of American writers, Sinclair turned his attention to the British monarchy in two separate titles: Queen and Country: The Life of Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Two Georges: The Making of the Modern Monarchy. The former title is a biography of the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, whose life spanned the twentieth century. As Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd commented in the Spectator, Sinclair describes the woman "with remarkable assurance," though the reviewer also found the book "a little short on humor." In his Two Georges, Sinclair examines the monarchies of George V and George VI and comes to the conclusion, as E. S. Turner remarked in the Times Literary Supplement, that they "set the pattern of monarchy as little more than a middle-class soap opera." Kenneth Rose, reviewing the same book in History Today, thought that Sinclair "writes fluently and with conviction." However, Rose also noted that the "book is drawn almost entirely from familiar published sources." And Richard Mayne, writing in Encounter, found the book a "rather gloomy study of the modern British monarchy."

Sinclair serves up more biography in Dynasty: The Astors and Their Times, tracing the powerful British and American family from their eighteenth-century German origins in the tea, real estate, and fur industries, up to the twenty-first century representative of the family, John Jacob Astor, VIII. Martin Fagg, reviewing the book in the Times Educational Supplement, called it a "bustling and crowded chronicle." Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, mentioned the author's "critical eye and at times patronizing tone," while Library Journal's Nancy C. Cridland observed that Sinclair's book "adds little to the existing accounts, but it's great fun to read." Similarly, a reviewer for the Economist concluded that Sinclair "has written a sharp, entertaining and sometimes scurrilous book."

Biography of a different sort informs Sinclair's year 2000 book, The Pound: A Biography. Here, Sinclair traces the development of the pound sterling, from its origins in the Dark Ages to the twenty-first century, when it may well be discontinued due to the advent of the single European currency. As much a story of the progress of a currency as of the people who used it, Sinclair's book follows the course of England and the British Empire and examines what many have called the world's first international exchange currency. David Smith remarked in the Sunday Times that "almost half of Sinclair's book covers the period before Henry VII's minting of the first pound coin." Sinclair covers aspects of the pound from its etymological roots to its relative value through the more than twelve centuries it has endured. Reviewing the title in Library Journal, Patrick J. Brunet found it "clearly written" and a "pleasant read." Paul Podolsky, writing in the Wall Street Journal, thought that "Sinclair offers some interesting historical tidbits."

International relations take center stage in Sinclair's 2001 book, Hall of Mirrors, a reconstruction of the peace conference set up after World War I and held at the Palace of Versailles. Sinclair's title comes from the hall of mirrors in that edifice, the salon in which the treaty was signed. As Frank Johnson, writing in the Spectator, noted, the title is intended as a metaphor. "It is … the illusion and distortion for which the treaty was allegedly to blame," wrote Johnson. For Sinclair, this peace treaty was a turning point for the twentieth century, leading to many of the major calamities of the modern world, from the Great Depression to the rise of both fascism and communism and the threat of nuclear weapons. The book itself is made up of imaginary conversations between the major actors who participated in the treaty: America's President Woodrow Wilson, Prime Minister Lloyd George of England, and France's Prime Minister George Clemenceau, among others. Johnson, though skeptical of the thesis of the work, was pleasantly surprised by the text itself. He found the conversations "brilliantly executed" and felt the "reader is swept along" in a historical study that "reads like a thriller." A contributor for Contemporary Review called the work "popular, not to say, populist analysis."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

British Book News, January, 1980, R. Innes-Smith, review of Queen and Country, p. 62.

Choice, July, 1978, review of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 693.

Contemporary Review, April, 2001, review of Hall of Mirrors, p. 251.

Economist, February 4, 1984, review of Dynasty: The Astors and Their Times, p. 94.

Encounter, April, 1989, Richard Mayne, review of Two Georges: The Making of the Modern Monarchy, pp. 52-58.

History Today, January, 1989, Kenneth Rose, review of Two Georges, pp. 52-53.

Library Journal, September 1, 1984, Nancy C. Cridland, review of Dynasty, p. 1672; February 1, 2001, Patrick J. Brunet, review of The Pound: A Biography, p. 105; March 15, 2002, Steven J. Mayover, review of The Pound (audiobook), pp. 125-126.

New York Review of Books, June 28, 1979, Karl Miller, review of Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 46-50.

Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1984, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Dynasty, p. 94.

Spectator, January 21, 1978, Simon Blow, review of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 23; December 12, 1979, Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, review of Queen and Country, pp. 21-22; April 21, 2001, Frank Johnson, review of Hall of Mirrors, p. 37.

Sunday Times, January 9, 2000, David Smith, review of The Pound, p. 41.

Times Educational Supplement, March 16, 1984, Martin Fagg, review of Dynasty, p. 32.

Times Literary Supplement, December 23, 1977, Patricia Highsmith, review of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 1492; November 11, 1988, E. S. Turner, review of Two Georges, p. 1254.

Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2001, Paul Podolsky, review of The Pound, p. A21.

ONLINE

Sunday Business Post,http://archives.tcm.iebusinesspost/2000/12/31/story295995.asp/ (December 31, 2000), Helen Boylan, "Get Your Reading List Ready for 2001."*

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