GARRY O‘CONNOR- BIOGRAPHER AND NOVELIST
‘I know no other biographer except Boswell who reveals so intimate and vivid a knowledge of the beliefs, certainties, strangenesses, quiddities, strengths and achievements of his subject as does O’Connor.’ Sir Harold Hobson (Sunday Times).
Garry O’Connor was born in London into a family of well-known singers. From St Alban’s School he won a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, where he read English and was President of University Actors. He worked in the theatre for a while as a director before reviewing for the Financial Times, and then became a full-time writer. He is married with six children, and lives on a farm on the Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire border.
He has published nearly twenty books; his first biography was that of his great-aunt Dame Maggie Teyte. His Universal Father: A life Of Pope John Paul II has sold worldwide in English-speaking countries, and been translated into Polish and Swedish. It was selected by the Irish Independent as part of its ‘Great Biography’ collection (2007), marketed with the newspaper. It is now also a Kindle book. A.N. Wilson wrote in the Mail on Sunday, ‘O’Connor, whose previous books include superb biographies of Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Paul Scofield, is very much at home in this warm portrait of the greatest actor manager of them all.’ The Glasgow Herald called it ‘A fine, enduring biography’. Damion Thompson’s review in the Daily Telegraph claimed that the biography was the ‘only life of the late Pope that is an artistic achievement in its own right. None of O’Connor’s predecessors has matched his exposition of the literary, philosophical and dramatic sources of John Paul’s pontificate, or his nimble untangling of the strands of theological argument.’
Of the theatre lives, Simon Callow in the Financial Times called the Ralph Richardson life, ‘A masterpiece’. Darlings of the Gods, the account of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Oliver’s marriage and Australian tour of 1948, was filmed in 1991 for television as a three-part mini-series, and shown all over the world. The highly praised biography of Shakespeare (1990, revised in US edition 2001), hailed by Publisher’s Weekly as ‘a gem’, and by the Mail on Sunday as ‘illuminating and entertaining’, is still in print. Others include his longest work, Sean O’Casey, ‘written with tenderness and great technical skill’—Richard Holmes, The Times, and ‘well and honestly done and it is highly recommended’—Anthony Burgess, Independent.
Of his most recent works, The Literary Review called O’Connor’s second biography of Alec Guinness (The Unknown, 2004) ‘A brilliant detective story…one of the truly great actor biographies of our time.’ The Independent said it was ‘riveting’, while the Guardian claimed that O’Connor’s openness to Guinness’s hitherto unexplored sexuality ‘has resulted in a theatrical biography that goes far beyond the reach of such books, and is his best so far’.
The Darlings of Downing Street: the Psycho-Sexual Drama of Power (Politico’s 2007), a joint biography of the Blairs during their tenure of power, describes how, according to Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail ‘the geo-political game, it seems, was but a sideshow to the Blairs’ marital dynamic and Mr Blair’s narcissistic urges’. Harry Reid in the Glasgow Herald said that it was ‘Eloquent, a climactic tirade, a credible mountain of condemnation…presented with coruscating force.’ Geoffrey Goodman said it ‘provided a flavour of Blairism in power which is unlikely to be bettered’. But the Blairite Financial Times viewed it as ‘the high-water mark of political pornography’. For the Contemporary Review it was ‘an interesting perspective on the politics of the UK over the last ten years…[and] a highly entertaining read with countless quotations offering surprising perspectives’. To sum up, the Sunday Express called it ‘a highly charged assessment of a pair of ham actors who saw politics as a performance art,’ recommending it with five stars.
In the other recent book, the novel Chaucer’s Triumph, Penelope Middleboe describes on Booktribes how O’Connor ‘takes on Chaucer at his own game—with a cast of tellers, this time on a journey from Leicester to London, teasing out a tale of eroticism and intrigue’. Chaucer’s Triumph is Garry O’Connor’s triumph,’ writes Roger Lewis, ‘Epic, comic, pastoral, tragical, and crammed with living energy.’ ‘O’Connor’s greatest achievement,’ says the Historical Novel Society, ‘is his warm, wise, and humorous portrayal of the poet Chaucer’. Peter Curran on Radio 4 Loose Ends said it ‘cries out for television adaptation’. ‘This is a book,’ comments Faith Magazine, ‘I can imagine D.H. Lawrence writing if he were a Catholic.’
Garry O’Connor is working on The Ultimate Doctor Faust, the biography of Hans Frank, the ‘Butcher of Poland’. He has just finished a new novel, The Book That Kills. He has written and presented programmes for Radio 4 and 3, adapted his earlier novel about John Donne, Campion’s Ghost, for Radio 4, and been interviewed frequently on TV and radio. His website is www.garryoconnor.co.uk.