Peter Ackroyd
Peter Ackroyd
PETER ACKROYD was born in London in 1949.

He achieved a Double First at Cambridge and studied in America at Yale as a Mellon Fellow. His first two publications were books of poetry; his first biography was about Ezra Pound and his first novel was about Oscar Wilde. He is a successful novelist, author of such classics as CHATTERTON, HAWKSMOOR and THE LAST TESTAMENT OF OSCAR WILDE, and has also written biographies of T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake and Thomas More. He has written and presented two TV series for the BBC (Dickens and London).

 

 

'Ackroyd is a force of nature.’ Financial Times

'Ackroyd is that timeless figure, a man of letters, dipped in ink, apparently versatile in a breathtaking variety of genres.' Observer

CHARLIE CHAPLIN
Charlie Chaplin

'Ackroyd offers a compact, engrossing, intelligent, resifting of the available evidence. Like many geniuses, Chaplin gave joy to millions and hell to a few close to him. Ackroyd leaves us to decide which matters more.' The Sunday Times

He was the very first icon of the silver screen, and is one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood, even a hundred years on from his first film. But what of the man behind the moustache? The director holding the camera as well as acting in front of it?

Peter Ackroyd's new biography turns the spotlight on Chaplin's life as well as his work, from his humble theatrical beginnings in music halls to winning an honorary Academy Award. Everything is here, from the glamour of his golden age to the murky scandals of the 1940s and eventual exile to Switzerland. This masterful biography (circa 90,000 words) offers fresh revelations about one of the most familiar faces of the last century, in his day the most famous man on the planet, and brings the Little Tramp into vivid colour.

'Chaplin's rise makes an entralling story, and it's one perfectly suited to Peter Ackroyd's prodigious and idiosyncratic talents... In this admirable concise and evocative biography Ackroyd ackowledges Chaplin's many human failings, while at the same time giving us a vivid sense of what made the man a genius.' The Telegraph

'Ackroyd, a key London chronicler defines his subject as "a great cockney visionary who was, for some years, the most famous man on Earth". Chaplin was a child of London poverty and performer of genius who became an obsessive husband and director - and an icon. This biography is like the wedge the Little Tramp liberates from beneath a docked ocean liner in Modern Times: it starts a thing of unstoppable momentum.' Monocle

'The book is a mesmerising account of the incendiary brilliance that propelled a man from the humblest origins to cultural immortality.' Harrods Magazine

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UK publication: April 2014

Material: PDF.

three brothers
Three Brothers

Ackroyd's brilliant new novel is contemporary, a departure for the author. It follows the lives of Harry, Daniel and Sam Hanway, brothers born in the middle of last century, in a grim council estate in Camden. After their mother disappears, each boy is forced to make his own way. Harry, tough and ambitious, climbs high in the cut-throat world of Fleet Street; Daniel retreats into his books and becomes a professor; Sam is the dreamer who ends up as the odd-job man for a ruthless landlord. Then there is the cockney thief Sparkle, lover to one brother, friend to another, source of political scandal to another. The London of newspapers, publishing offices, the comfort of Chelsea, the shadowy streets of Limehouse and Hackney, are presented in vivid detail in this gripping tale.

'The waspish vignettes of literary London and fusty academe are a delight. The air is full of poison – and echoes of other Ackroyd novels. He sees the capital as “a web so taut and tightly drawn” that the slightest movement sets off a chain of events. The repercussions of Mrs Hanway’s profession contain horror and hilarity in equal measure. The brilliant result is the quintessence of Ackroyd.' The Telegraph

'his (Ackroyd's) prose.. is simple yet possesses great consonance and depth. Ackroyd's own latest contribution to the London novel marks a further stage of his literary love affair with the city that he conjures so brilliantly in fiction and non-fiction alike.' Independent

'At heart, it's a creepy, melancholy love letter to London and the layers of history that haunt it, breaking into the present as hallucinations and spectres... Ackroyd picks out vibrant details... He steers his characters through Fleet Street offices and Limehouse slums, and bumps them against expertly drawn literati, pickpockets, prostitutes and politicians... this book is suffused with his intelligence and learning.' Observer

'a very enjoyable read' Independent on Sunday

'Three Brothers is a surprise, and a welcome one... It is a book full of rich and sudden moments of delight.' The Scotsman

'If you are going to read a novel that plays with literary conventions you want it written with aplomb. In Three Brothers we are not disappointed, as Peter Ackroyd shows a deftness of touch that comes from being a real master.' The Statesman

'Suffused with Ackroyd's intelligence and learning.' Observer

'Born in consecutive years in the late 1940s, the three Hanway brothers share the same birthday, but that’s all they have in common. The eldest, Harry is ambitious, thrusting his way to success in the newspaper business; the middle child, Daniel, is bookish and becomes a Cambridge English literature Don and book reviewer. Sam, the youngest, is a loner, uninterested in a career and unable to settle at anything. They drift apart and yet their very different lives somehow end up intersecting, linked by their relationships to a Rackman-style slum landlord, his secretary, a male prostitute, and their mother, who mysteriously walked out on them when they were young.

The unlikely coincidences that have their paths criss-crossing are a deliberate part of the fabric of the book, harking back to Dickens and an essential part of Ackroyd's London where, if you look hard enough, everyone is connected.

And London is a major character in the novel, from gay Soho pubs, discreet restaurants, the dark streets of Limehouse, to the drinking holes of Fleet Street as it was in its heyday, and posh but rotten Chelsea. In Ackroyd's accomplished hands the city becomes a mystical place, where visions abound. Highly recommended' Daily Mail

Cultural pick of the week (Mail on Sunday)

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Material: edited text (280pp).

the death of king arthur: The immortal legend
King Arthur

An immortal story of love, adventure, chivalry, treachery and death brought to new life for our times. The legend of King Arthur has retained its appeal and popularity through the ages: Mordred's treason, the knightly exploits of Tristan, Lancelot's fatally divided loyalties, his love for Guinevere and the quest for the Holy Grail. Now retold by Peter Ackroyd with his signature clarity, charm and truth to the spirit of the text, the result is not only one of the most readable accounts of the knights of the Round Table but also one of the most moving.

'I thought Peter Ackroyd's Morte d'A was masterful. The quality I admired most was the absolute clarity of the storytelling. This story - or set of stories - has to move with both swiftness and dignity, and yoking those two qualities together is not an easy task; but Ackroyd does it with ease. I think he can probably do anything. I admire this version enormously.' Phillip Pullman

‘Peter Ackroyd lightly trims and streamlines Le Morte d'Arthur, making it eminently readable.’ Sunday Times

'In this ingenious decanting of an old wine into a new bottle, he has taken a glorious part of our glorious heritage and made it more accessible to the readers of the twenty-first century.' Telegraph

' ...the majesty of Malory's book survives too, not least in the final chapters telling of the internal conflicts that destroy the Round Table, the passion of Lancelot and Guinevere, and the destiny that Arthur has had coming to him for a long time: death in battle. This, as retold by Peter Ackroyd, remains a bizarre but thrilling piece of writing.' Michael Caines Wall Street Journal

‘A controlled, brisk, purposeful, highly approachable version, something of an heroic undertaking’ Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Times

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Material: finished copies (316pp).

THE CANTERBURY TALES
The Canterbury Tales

The cook, the trickster, the priest, the wronged woman, the lawyer, the hero, the villain. Tales of love, sex, infidelity, villainy, drunkenness, murder.

A motley group of travellers meet at a London inn on their way to Canterbury, where they agree to take part in a storytelling competition. As they make their way on the road, they drink, laugh, flirt, argue, interrupt and try to outdo each other with their tales.

Funny, moving, outrageous and life-affirming, the twenty-four stories here blend comedy and tragedy, heroic adventure, high romance and salacious humour. Peter Ackroyd’s fresh, modern retelling infuses The Canterbury Tales with new and vigorous life.

Peter Ackroyd also provides an introduction, detailing some of the historical background to Chaucer and the Tales, and why he has been inspired to translate them for new generations of readers.

'The welcome appearance of Peter Ackroyd's new prose version of The Canterbury Tales is compulsive, bold and rare and will surely become a vital crib for generations of students to come.' Robert McCrum Observer

'The pivotal nature of Chaucer's masterpiece is certainly not lost on Ackroyd, who treats the text with sensitivity and humour. The work exists as groups of manuscripts put together later by various editors, and it is this aspect of the book that makes Ackroyd's take on the work even more intriguing, as he has focused his attention before on London poets, bards and authors. Ackroyd's accessible writing style and obvious passion for the subject is evident in this enthusiastic interpretation.' Times Online

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Material: finished copies (436pp).

THE CASEBOOK OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN
The casebooke of Victor Frankenstein

At Oxford University, the long-haired poet, 'Mad Shelley', and a serious-minded Swiss student spark each other's interest in the new philosophy of science. Perhaps there is no God. If so, where is the divine spark, the soul? Victor Frankenstein begins his anatomy experiments in a local barn. The coroner's office provides corpses, often putrifying. Victor moves to a deserted pottery factory in Limehouse, and makes contact with the Doomsday Men. He pays better than any hospital but even so perfect specimens are hard to come by. Until that Thames-side dawn when Victor hears the splashing of oars and sees in the half-light the corpse of a handsome young man.

‘Terrifying and fascinating in equal measure. Mary Shelley's book, with its hotchpotch structure and multiple viewpoints, is often compared to the monster within it. Ackroyd's, too, resembles his protagonist's creation, but this is a beast of a different nature: an intelligent, creepily beautiful and haunted thing. Definitely not one you would want to encounter alone on a dark night.’ The Times

‘A characteristically gamesome effort. Ackroyd loves taking what we, the general reading public, think we know about great writers, only to twist that knowledge into new (and preposterous) fictional shapes. He has given this treatment to Dickens and Defoe (The Great Fire of London, 1982), Milton (Milton in America, 1996) and Oscar Wilde (The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde, 1983). Ackroyd is the great pretzel-baker of contemporary fiction. And this is one of his tastiest, and twistiest, products so far.’ Financial Times

'Frankenstein has inspired films and many novels, now Peter Ackroyd's version arrives, flourishing its own exuberant twist...The novel leaps to its climax nimbly as a pursuing fiend, and ends suitably in fiery revelation.' The Independent

‘Ackroyd's depiction of the fetid air and teeming streets of the city is meticulously researched and recreated. But this is also Ackroyd at his most playful, skewing facts - both literary and historical - to create his own eerie and plausible version of events.’ Daily Mail

'Ackroyd deftly brings to life the atheist rebellion and Enlightenment values of the time while giving full vent to his imagination...What amazes is how effortless this feels. Within the context of his oeuvre, the book seems like merely a pleasing diversion but it's also a consummate and blood-freezing piece of writing' Metro

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Film option sold to Vespa Pictures

Material: finished copies (296pp).

VENICE: PURE CITY
Venice

The language and way of thinking of Venetians sets them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and the tides rather than to the land. For Ackroyd Venice followed naturally from his Thames biography. With his gift for encapsulating the grand sweep of history, Ackroyd provides a comprehensive history of Europe's most remarkable city: its humble origins, its importance as a centre for trade, the sieges, scandals and its inspiration to artists.

‘It's the combustible mix of scholarly rigour and instinct that brings his inimitable words to life.’ The Times

'Venice: Pure City, is a personal interpretation of the place, both as human artefact and cultural concept, in which the author manages to appear quite miraculously unobtrusive... Readers will be captivated soon enough by Ackroyd’s talent for conjuring inspired generalisations from a bizarre flotsam of detail' Spectator

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Material: finished copies (403pp).

THAMES: SACRED RIVER
Thames - Sacred River

Ackroyd follows this great river from its source to the sea. Its history, the flora and fauna, its geology, smells and colours, its literature, laws and landscape, its magic and myths, its architecture, trade and weather. We learn about the fish; about floods and tides; hauntings and suicides; sewers, weirs and embankments. Ackroyd has a genius for digging out surprising details, and for writing about them in magisterial prose.

‘Ackroyd's gift is to write history in the idiom of a poet. As soon as you open this account of the Thames, you will want to immerse yourself in it.’ Telegraph

'As always with Ackroyd, it’s not just the subject that sets this book apart but also the compelling new perspectives he brings.’ The Times

‘The Thames's daily flow (four-and-a-half billion gallons, measured at Teddington Weir) rivals that of the prolific Ackroyd, and this sturdy book twists and turns into an entertaining historical and geographical account redolent of England's very heart...At first, Thames: Sacred River appears a meditation upon the shared subconscious but is in fact, as with the river itself, something where one can halt at any point, cast off, and land a gem. Many readers set about Ackroyd's London: The biography in that random fashion, as they did his less popular but equally engrossing study of the English imagination, Albion. These are hefty works which can be rewardingly snacked upon.’ The Independent

'You might well think that the garlanded biographer of Dickens and Turner was born to write this extraordinary book. Ackroyd notes how great chroniclers of the Thames, from Chaucer to Conrad, have added to an outpouring of poetry and prose. His own contribution is a powerful current in this 'river of words'. The Observer

'A very enjoyable and highly idiosyncratic account of the subject. Plenty of books, sane, mad, analytical and fanciful, have been written about the River, and plenty more will be. This one I recommend strongly.' Philip Hensher, The Spectator

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Material: finished copies (490pp).

THE FALL OF TROY
Fall of Troy

NOMINATED FOR THE PRIX MEDICIS 2008

'Archaeology is not a science,' Obermann says. 'It is an art.' Obermann is very good at the art of archaeology. Obsessive and intuitive, he is a romantic visionary. Ackroyd brings Troy electrifyingly to life in this dazzling work which, like the ancient epics so loved by Obermann, is in part accurate and in part fantastic. It tells stories about the deaths of heroes; stories that blur the boundaries between truth and fiction, stories of mistakes, human folly and the temptation to cover up.

‘However you read The Fall of Troy - as a love story and mystery told in Homeric style, or as a deeper meditation on the relationship between reality and imagination - Ackroyd the novelist re-emerges triumphantly.’ The Times

‘It is Peter Ackroyd's remarkable achievement, in this complex and fascinating novel, to take a figure who was already a legend in his own lifetime, and recreate him as a creature of myth. Provoking, unsettling, ingenious - and a delight to read.’ Barry Unsworth, The Guardian

'This is Ackroyd’s most exuberant novel for years.' Daily Mail

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Material: finished copies (215pp).

SHAKESPEARE: THE BIOGRAPHY
Shakespeare - The Biography

Ackroyd richly conjures up the texture of Shakespeare’s life, and at the same time imparts an amazing amount of vivid, interesting material about place, period and background.

‘Ackroyd at the height of his powers. A tour de force.’ Sunday Times

‘Superb. The book Peter Ackroyd was born to write.’ Daily Mail

‘A leading biographer at the top of his game.’ FT

‘Fascinating. An elegant synthesis of previous scholarship and offering us an intuitive feel for the man and his times. Ackroyd comes into his own as he brings sixteenth-century Stratford to life with the deftest touches.’ Tatler

‘Ackroyd is the best and most panoramic of biographers. Powerful’ Mail on Sunday

‘Ackroyd’s enthusiasms are most apparent in the sub-sections about individual plays, which are well tied in with the overall narrative, relating the works to the career and to the growth of Shakespeare’s reputation.’ Observer

‘As straightforward as it is ambitious… A sort of sequel to London: The Biography. Ackroyd invokes not only the national culture of an age, but something still more abstract. Shakespeare, here, is the “greatest exemplar” of “the English imagination”, properly belonging in the company of Dickens, Turner and Chaucer, but more quintessential than any of them. Ackroyd powerfully evokes the jostling, youthful, lethal city, and speculates convincingly on the intimate connections between this brave new world and the unprecedented drama that Shakespeare was to create in its crucible. A paradoxical figure emerges. He is elusive and self-contradictory, a pragmatic visionary who reveals no opinions about anything; the author of plays that seem obsessed with hierarchy and apologetic for establishment power, but that are, at the same time, individualistic and egalitarian. This is a story as old as Shakespeare. But Ackroyd tells it well, with a combination of carefully marshalled evidence and rich imaginative empathy. He is an enthusiast and he makes an eager, engaging guide, tirelessly scattering nuggets of fact and diving with gusto into Shakespeare’s writing at every opportunity. In the end, it is because of his keen critical feeling for the plays themselves that Ackroyd’s portrait of the man convinces.’ Scotland on Sunday

‘Everything one would expect from a leading biographer at the top of his game. His recreation of Elizabethan London is masterful. He knows the plays and understands better than academic biographers how Shakespeare went about researching and writing. Ackroyd’s great gift as a biographer is his capacity to engage sympathetically with his subject. What he has accomplished is impressive. And his biography ranks with the best of them.’ Financial Times

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Material: finished copies (546pp).

THE LAMBS OF LONDON
Lambs

A gripping story of art imitating art, THE LAMBS OF LONDON brilliantly recreates an urban world of scholars and entrepreneurs, actors and theatre managers, a world of betrayal and deceit.

‘The Lambs of London is a delicious entertainment, faithful to it’s period, but done with the lightest of touches. Nobody knows this world better than Peter Ackroyd, and his latest foray into bygone London finds him at the top of his form.’ David Robson, Sunday Telegraph

‘The theme and setting of this novel allow Ackroyd’s rare talent full scope. It is literary, clever, subtle and touching, also often funny and always highly intelligent.’ Allan Massie, Scotsman

‘Touching and ingenious’ Paddy Bullard, Times Literary Supplement

‘Peter Ackroyd is one of the pioneers of the modern historical novel.’ Lindsay Duguid, Sunday Times

‘A marvellously adroit tale.’ Penelope Lively, Independent

‘This new novel is light and funny, familiar and convincingly offbeat … fast, …. colourful and touching too.’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

‘As always Ackroyd brings the bustle, stench and hazards of 19th century London vividly to life and keeps readers on their toes until the final page.’ Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail

‘This is a quick, beautiful novel, strongly recommended.’ Andrew Martin, Daily Express

‘It is a delightful read, which resonates long after is has been laid aside.’ Sarah Burton, Spectator

‘His book is a loving tribute and a dazzling entertainment.’ Kate Chisholm, London Evening Standard

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Material: finished copies (216pp).

THE CLERKENWELL TALES
Clerkenwell Tales

Visionary nuns, religious terrorists, rival popes, and aspiring kings all feature in THE CLERKENWELL TALES, a medieval thriller par excellence…

'Such detailing is as exquisite as the corners of old paintings, as one would expect from Ackroyd, with the city's sights, smells, colours and sounds carefully recreated; but what surprises most is the rumbustious pacing. Whereas Chaucer's tales can often feel like tableaux, The Clerkenwell Tales roars and leaps through the London streets with thrilling energy. Ackroyd has abandoned the stateliness that sometimes accompanies his prose for a more appropriate form to the time, and the result is tremendous... It is unlikely that the reader will ever have experienced such total immersion into the reek and bustle of medieval London. Ackroyd is a wonderful guide and torchbearer, bringing light to the darkest corners of humanity.' Independent on Sunday

‘A truly extraordinary feat of historical imagination.’ Sunday Telegraph

'Ackroyd’s ‘colour’ is so curious, so rich and so variegated that there is something in almost every sentence to sharpen one’s sense of late 14th-century London as squirmingly alive — and extremely pungent… a cunning little intrigue.' The Spectator

'Religious extremism, suicide bombings and an invading army known only through a veil of propoganda and conspiracy theories: although such things may seem a present and frightening reality, the closest many of us have come to them is by reading about them at a distance of hundreds of miles. In Peter Ackroyd’s latest book, we come closer to experiencing this world for ourselves, although this time at a distance not of miles, but of 600 years. … As usual, Ackroyd’s learning is as impressive as his imagination, ranging from astrology and religious debate to the deep-rooted iconography that shaped the medieval mindset. But it is the description of daily life, of meals and mystery plays, of footwear and farting, which makes the past a smelly and fascinating presence. … Like Chaucer, Ackroyd sees literature and history as part of the same tradition, wherein the author retells and rejuvenates the stories and events of his heritage, combining historical authority with literary license. … Peter Ackroyd suggests that what is strange may soon seem familiar and, more importantly, that novelty is not the only thing that makes a novel.'  The Observer

'With his famous obsession with London’s past, Ackroyd knows the roads, the habits and habiliments of its people. He brings the reader up short with Clerkenwell’s catchphrases, its potions, its noises off and the stink of its sewers… There is a constant skilful reverberation of echoes of Chaucer’s work. … exciting, fascinating, expertly researched … the cracking pleasures of his descriptions of buildings, rituals and riots, food and drink and (especially) medicine.' The Independent

'It is an odd thing about Peter Ackroyd that though he constantly writes about writers – Eliot and Wilde, Dickens and Blake and Milton, Chaucer this year, Shakespeare the next – he is compared with very few himself. Partly this is a symptom of his eclecticism: there are precious few other British authors in recent years who have worked successfully in so many forms and genres: poetry and novel, biography and pseudo-autobiography, non-fiction and science fiction. … He had written about his understanding of various writers, but it is hard to use other writers to understand him. … ‘London has always provided the landscape of my imagination,’ Ackroyd said in one interview: ‘It becomes a character – a living thing – within each of my books.’ … a crafty blend of fact and fiction…' The Times

'The Clerkenwell Tales is a truly extraordinary feat of historical imagination: a slim novel, straining at the seams with a sort of macabre relish, in which disgust and enthusiasm jostle. Sometimes the effect is almost of parody: sinister signs in five churches; linguistic over-egging of an superbly enjoyable pudding: haven’t we been somewhere like this before? Only in the ‘echoic’ pages of the inimitable Peter Ackroyd, of course.' Sunday Telegraph

'What we have here is a pacy novel brimming with Ackroyd’s imaginative use of scholarship. He introduces a prophetic nun to Richard II, who is in the throes of his last delirium; in this, he relies as much on history proper as on Shakespeare’s portrayal of the king. And he reintroduces a hobby horse – that Clerkenwell has always been a focal point for the radical Left – by putting his religious rebels there and pointing out that it is now the site of the Marx Memorial Library. In The Clerkenwell Tales, Ackroyd has drawn again on his London learning, but has expanded his range by going further back in time and choosing a fiendish structure for his tale. This is more than a reworking of earlier material, be it Chaucer’s or his own. Ackroyd is clearly out to impress, and it’s worked.' Daily Telegraph

 

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Material: finished copies (206pp).

ALBION: THE ORIGINS OF THE ENGLISH IMAGINATION
Albion

‘An explosion. Crammed, digressive, learned, brilliant.’ Telegraph

‘Covers not only literature but art, architecture, music and almost everything else that has passed through the minds of the English. Just one damn interesting thing after another.’ Sunday Times

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Material: finished copies (516pp).

Radio reading licence: Czech Radio 3-Vltava.

LONDON: THE BIOGRAPHY
London

NOW ALSO AVAILABLE IN A CONCISE VERSION (688pp).

No one should or needs to read any other book on London. For Ackroyd London is a living organism, with its own laws of growth and change. Anecdotal, brilliant and wonderfully entertaining. LONDON is animated by Ackroyd’s concern for the close relationship between past and present as well as how its texture and history actively affect the lives and personalities of its inhabitants. (822 pp)

'His masterwork… A rich torrent of remarkable lists, bizarre anecdotage, stink, press and clatter, the gestures of the street, the violence and the cruelty, the beauty and the energy of this greatest and most horrible of cities. It is just fantastic.' Andrew Marr, Daily Telegraph

'The best known of all remarks about London is Samuel Jackson’s aphorism: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’. The same could be said with equal justice of any reader who finds no pleasure or instruction in Ackroyd’s book.' The Spectator

'In his selection of events, Ackroyd’s sure eye for what matters to Londoners presages the enjoyment in store.' Sunday Express

'The past few years have seen a millennial flood of histories of London; many of them will last, but you can be sure that none of them will match the sheer virtuosity or spirit exhibited by this flawed but compelling book.' Sunday Times

'Peter Ackroyd has written an episodically brilliant book. No one gets London – especially pungent, raucous, randy London – quite as well as he.' The Sunday Telegraph

'There are thousands of books about London. In recent years, there have been a number of perfectly excellent formal stories of the city. But it would be no exaggeration to say that Peter Ackroyd’s ‘biography’ of our capital is not a book: it is the book about London.' Daily Mail

'This is an erudite labour of love, a fan-letter to a fabulous city, and a book one suspects Ackroyd was destined to write. It illuminates the English character, and is darkly humorous in its detail, tumbling through centuries crowded with legendary events and eccentric observations, as exuberant, energetic and alarming as the city itself.' The Independent

'You will not find a better, more visionary book about a place we take for granted, despising, envying, seeing without eyes properly open … This London is our London, and if you want to know it better, to see it with eyes wide open, then Ackroyd is your indispensable companion.' The Observer


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Published but rights reverted:

Stock France

Material: finished copies (822pp).

NOW ALSO AVAILABLE IN A CONCISE VERSION (688pp).

The plato papers

'A marvellous fable for our times... funny, wise and strange... He writes like an archangel... Ackroyd has written what we always knew that he alone of his generation could produce: a timeless literary masterpiece' A.N.Wilson, Daily Mail

'An invigorating mixture of satire, history, philosophy, morality and linguistic investigation... it reads like a spoof of a New Age intellectualism.. a brave cry in the wilderness' The Times

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Material: finished copies (139pp).

BRIEF LIVES

A series of ten 50,000 word biographies.


'This series is understated and elegantly constructed, and has that reassuring quality of tone you find in an author who could have written a book five times as long on the same subject, but who has chosen not to.' Guardian

WILKIE COLLINS

 

Next in the Brief Lives series is Ackroyd's enthralling biography of famed nineteenth century novelist Wilkie Collins. Author of The Woman In White and The Moonstone, Collins died of old age in 1889.

'This biography is compulsive reading.' Economist

Chatto & Windus UK

 

Material: finished copies (144pp).

 

LONDON UNDER
London Under Cover

London Under is a wonderful, atmospheric, imaginative, oozing short study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheatres to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts and modern tube stations. The depth below is hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures that dwell in darkness, real and fictional – rats and eels, monsters and ghosts.

 

There is a Bronze Age trackway under the Isle of Dogs, Anglo-Saxon graves were found under St Paul’s, and the monastery of Whitefriars lies beneath Fleet Street. In Kensal Green cemetery a hydraulic device lowered bodies into the catacombs below – ‘Welcome to the lower depths’ – while a door in the plinth of the statue of Boadicea on Westminster Bridge leads to a huge tunnel, packed with cables for gas, water and telephone lines. When the Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864 the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulphurous fumes, and called their engines by the names of tyrants – Czar, Kaiser, Mogul – and even Pluto, god of the underworld.

 

“The vastness of space, a second earth”, writes Peter Ackroyd, “elicits sensations of wonder and of terror. It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure.” Going under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hidden world.

SALES

Chatto & Windus UK

Nan A Talese Books USA

Neri Pozza Italy

Edhasa Spain

Olga Morozova Russia

Zysk Poland

Material: finished copies (182pp).

THE ENGLISH GHOST: SPECTRES THROUGH TIME

Ackroyd English Ghost

The English see more ghosts than any other nation. From medieval times to today stories have been told and apparitions seen: ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. Packed with eerie detail, ranging from the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the violent daemon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat.

'...the idea of an Ackroyd-curated collection of true
ghost stories is appealing...the book records a folk art form, now itself deceased.' Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

'Ackroyd's book has its fair share of terrified hauntees...will make the hairs on the back of your neck bristle.' Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday

'Ackroyd's collection glides seamlessly from terror to humour to downright peculiarity...ideal read as the nights darken and Halloween approaches.' Tina Jackson, Metro

'A fascinating anthology of sightings of ghosts in England over the centuries' Andrew Lycett, Literary Review

Sales

Chatto & Windus UK

Olga Morozova Russia

Material: finished copies (276pp).

POE: A Life Cut Short
Poe

Edgar Allan Poe's life (1809-1849) was mysterious, theatrical, fatally flawed, original, dark, dazzling, satirical, inventive - in short, an ideal subject for Peter Ackroyd. Concise, dramatic and immensely readable, this is an essential addition to Ackroyd's canon of brilliant biographies.


‘Wonderfully rewarding. Poe's brilliant, erratic, abbreviated career stands to gain rather than lose from the form of brief life patented by Ackroyd. It operates by lightning strikes, atmospheric colouring, impressionistic techniques of concision and suggestion.’ Guardian


‘Poe's difficult nature and the economics of the US literary scene in the first half of the 19th century combine in Ackroyd's hands to create a trap from which every escape leads to unhappiness. The result is unsettling but hugely powerful.’ The Times

'The biography admirably captures the heady mix of the esoteric, grotesque and thoroughly modern in Poe' The Sunday Times


‘Makes the reader want to re-read Poe, and indeed to read more of Ackroyd.’ Scotsman


Sales

Chatto & Windus UK

Nan A Talese Books USA

Atena Finland

Editions Philippe Rey France

Edhasa Spain

Karaat NL

Yapi Kredi Turkey

Sareni Ducan Croatia

Patakis Greece

Atticus Russia

Saida de Emergencia Portugal

Material: finished copies (170pp).

CHAUCER
Chaucer


‘Chaucer is a natural subject for Ackroyd. He was a man in the thick of late 14th-century society: a diplomat, customs officer, court official, member of parliament, justice of the peace. He went abroad, and it was on trips to Genoa and Florence that he may have come across the works of Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch that so influenced his own. Ackroyd is never better.’
Times

Sales

Chatto & Windus UK

Nan A Talese Books USA

Philippe Rey France

Atticus Russia

Everest Turkey

Material: finished copies (175pp).

TURNER
Turner


‘Gets closer to the heart of Turner than a book ten times as long. Everything seems pertinent, vivid and miraculously revealed. Ackroyd has a sure instinct for what matters.'
Mail on Sunday

Sales

Chatto & Windus UK

 

Nan A Talese Books USA

 

Atticus Russia

 

Material: finished copies (161pp).

NEWTON
Newton

‘Written in splendidly elastic prose, it provides a concise, fair and highly readable biography of a singular genius.’ The Times

‘Ackroyd knows how to tell a story. His Isaac Newton is a strange man indeed: emotionally wounded, difficult, wilful, hypersensitive narcissist, but equipped with this extraordinarily original and elastic imagination that allowed him to venture intellectually where no man had gone before. You really get a sense of his intense solitude. And the maths is explained with considerable skill and the lightest of touches.‘ Spectator

‘Ackroyd has a fine eye for the intimate thorny details that breathe life into biographies.’ Glasgow Herald

Sales

Chatto & Windus UK

Nan A Talese Books USA

Academia Czech Republic

Atticus Russia

Fondo de Cultura Economica Mexico

Versmes Lithuania

Everest Turkey

Material: finished copies (163pp).