Wilson, Andrew 1967–
Wilson, Andrew 1967–
Born June 6, 1967, in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England. Education: King's College, London, degree (first class); studied journalism at City University of London until 1989.
Home—London, England. Agent—Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England.
Journalist and writer. Magazine journalist, 1989-92; freelance journalist, beginning 1992.
John Willis Memorial Prize for investigative journalism; Edgar Allan Poe Award for best critical biography, Mystery Writers of America, and Lambda Literary Award for biography, both 2003, both for Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith.
Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.
Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.
The Lying Tongue (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including London Guardian, London Daily Telegraph, Independent, London Daily Mail, Washington Post, and Independent on Sunday.
Andrew Wilson is a journalist and writer who has written a biography of noted American author Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith, who died in 1995, was an award-winning novelist who, preoccupied with tales of amorality, murder, and misanthropy, published Strangers on a Train and five novels featuring the charming gentleman murderer Mr. Ripley. As a person, Highsmith was equally as troubling as her stories of quotidian evil; business associates, family, and others who knew her commonly described her as a disagreeable person who was often cruel and deprecating to others. British-based journalist Wilson analyzes the author and her works in his biography Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith.
With access to Highsmith's correspondence, papers, and diaries, Wilson assembles what Chicago Sun-Times contributor Alice K. Turner called a "dispassionate account of her complex life." Turner noted that Wilson's "analysis of how her personality affected her books, while not exhaustive …, is accurate and illuminating." A misanthrope, lesbian, and alcoholic, Highsmith had difficulty tolerating most people. She reportedly had a better relationship with her cats—with whom she shared a secret language—than with her fellow human beings, yet she still indulged in a promiscuous sex life. This aspect of her life imbues her writing, as Wilson illustrates, as does the modern philosophy of such thinkers as Søren Kierkegaard. In Highsmith's pessimistic worldview, human beings are not evolving toward a better world, but are more likely to remain wallowing in their own despicable self-interests.
Despite the book's difficult subject matter, Spectator contributor Honor Clerk wrote that "Wilson sustains throughout his admiration and sympathy" for Highsmith, and "he is prepared to show us not just the literary genius, tortured individual and well-intentioned friend, but the rapacious lesbian, manic depressive, racist, alcoholic, scrooge and misogynist that a host of ex-lovers, agents, publishers and acquaintances recall." Critics found Beautiful Shadow to be a revealing but difficult read. As an Economist contributor noted: "If you want to know what goes on in the thoughts of a writer of fiction, this is a book to read. But a health warning: it is not very nice."
The author presents another biography of a successful writer with his next book, Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex. Called "a fascinating cautionary tale … [told] with wit and concision" by Blake Morrison in a review in the Guardian, the biography explores the life of the worldwide best-selling author who first made a name for himself because of the controversy surrounding the sexual contents of his books, especially the hugely successful The Carpetbaggers. Wilson recounts Robbins's life as it really occurred, as opposed to the tall tales that Robbins related about his past, which included being an orphan and surviving the wreck of a torpedoed submarine. The biography follows Robbins's rise to the heights of publishing success and details his own excesses, from his numerous homes, cars, and yachts to his preoccupation with sex in his personal life. The biography continues through Robbins's later years and subsequent writing failures after he suffered a stroke in 1982, eventually leading to his financial ruin after having been one of the richest authors in the world. "Wilson is too sensible to start making claims for the quality of Robbins' writing, which means he is free to get on with the real business of this book—dishing the details of Robbins' silly and sometimes squalid life," wrote Rachel Cooke in a review in the London Observer. Carolyn See wrote in Washington Post Book World: "Reading this excellent biography, you can't help but think of The Great Gatsby, as though stacks of silk shirts or plates of lettuce with a lot of fish roe on it would be the ticket—to what?—to something bigger, stranger, wilder, weirder."
The Lying Tongue, Wilson's first novel, was called "a compelling mystery about two very dark and disturbing people" by Jory Reedy in a review on the Fresh Fiction Web site. The novel revolves around recent university graduate Adam Woods and famous expatriate novelist Gordon Crace. Equipped with a degree in art history, Woods travels to Venice to start his post-college life and ends up working as the personal assistant to Grace, who has a brilliant mind and eccentric habits but lives a semi-reclusive life in a crumbling palazzo surrounded by fabulous works of art. Crace's days of literary glory are far behind him, but Woods sees an opportunity to start his own literary career as he learns about the scandal surrounding Crace's exile in Venice. As the novel progresses, the two protagonists become locked in a struggle to determine how the story of Crace's life will end. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "this standout debut novel … heralds a major new talent in the psychological thriller genre." Keir Graff wrote in Booklist that the author "fashions his twisted tale with assurance and artistry."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, November, 2007, review of Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex, p. 155.
Booklist, February 15, 2007, Keir Graff, review of The Lying Tongue, p. 42.
Bookseller, February 15, 2008, Emski Sharian, review of Harold Robbins, p. 13.
Chicago Sun-Times, August 10, 2003, Alice K. Turner, review of Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith.
Economist (U.S.), June 28, 2003, review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 82.
Entertainment Weekly, July 11, 2003, Mark Harris, review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 82.
Guardian (London, England), November 10, 2007, Blake Morrison, "The Pleasure Principle," review of Harold Robbins.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 742; July 15, 2007, review of Harold Robbins.
New Statesman, June 30, 2003, John Gray, "An Encounter with Evil," review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, October 21, 2007, Tom Carson, "Guy Gone Wild," review of Harold Robbins.
NZ Listener, March 29-April 4, 2008, David Hill, "A Dirty Mind," review of Harold Robbins.
Publishers Weekly, May 19, 2003, review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 62; January 1, 2007, review of The Lying Tongue, p. 33; June 25, 2007, review of Harold Robbins, p. 46.
Spectator, June 28, 2003, Honor Clerk, review of Beautiful Shadow, p. 35; December 15, 2007, Anthony Blond, "A Master of Self-Invention," review of Harold Robbins, p. 85.
Tapei Times, October 21, 2007, Janet Maslin "In Old Age, Harold Robbins' Failure Outstripped His Success," review of Harold Robbins, p. 18.
Times (London, England), October 14, 2007, "The Man Who Invented the Blockbluster," review of Harold Robbins.
Washington Post Book World, October 5, 2007, Carolyn See, review of Harold Robbins, p. C07.
Euro Crime, http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/ (May 12, 2008), Karen Chisholm review of The Lying Tongue.
Fresh Fiction, http://freshfiction.com/ (February 12, 2007), Jory Reedy, review of The Lying Tongue.
Observer, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/ (October 14, 2007), Rachel Cooke, review of Harold Robbins.