From poker to poetry, poisoners to princes, opera to the Oscars, Shakespeare to Olivier, Mozart to Murdoch, Anthony Holden seems to have rolled many writers’ lives into one. Author of 40 books on a wide range of subjects, this Lancashire lad-turned-bohemian citizen of the world has led an apparently charmed life from Merseyside to Buckingham Palace, the White House and beyond.
As he enters his 70s, the award-winning journalist and biographer – son of a seaside shopkeeper, grandson of an England footballer, friend of the famous from Peter O'Toole to Princess Diana – spills the beans on showbiz names to literary sophisticates, rock stars to royals as he looks back whimsically and wittily on a richly varied, anecdote- and action-packed career – concluding, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, that ‘Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well’.
Anthony Holden is an award-winning journalist who has published more than thirty books, including He Played For His Wife…And Other Stories and biographies of Laurence Olivier, Tchaikovsky, and Shakespeare. He has published translations of opera, ancient Greek plays, and poetry. He was director of European Film and Television at Exclusive Media, where he helped relaunch Britain’s most famous film production label, Hammer. Anthony Holden lives in London.
'A writer’s life told by a born writer – beautifully observed, brilliantly written, wonderfully evocative. It’s a story of our time – featuring some of the most remarkable characters of our time – funny, moving and telling; a roller-coaster of a good read, at times hilarious, at times heart-breaking. My book of the year.'
– Gyles Brandreth
‘Unputdownable … Everything Holden touches, whether Arsenal or Tchaikovsky, he lights up with a fresh eye and zest. I can’t think of a more enjoyable memoir, which is also a portrait of a man of remarkable talents, expressing his own brilliance with politicians in Washington, with the literati in London watering-holes, and pursuing a never-ending affair with Shakespeare.’
– Melvyn Bragg
‘An absolute page turner … A latter-day Laurence Sterne hurtling through a picaresque life of creative adventure. What is truly inspiring is the way Anthony has nourished so many amazing friendships with extraordinary people. This should be read by every young person of ambition to remind them that what lasts is the love of friends and family.’
– Tina Brown
‘What a life! I admired and enjoyed the colossal range of Holden's interests, his energy and delight in the daily business of writing, along with his gift for friendship. And what a rich cast his life embraces, each player so vividly evoked. His prose is deftly turned, with a clear smack of authority, intelligence and wit, of which his very opening sentence is a fine example. His generosity and sweetness of spirit in the face of a sudden, profound affliction touched me deeply. This is a lovely, varied, fizzy life, in which so much was achieved, so much pleasure rendered.’
– Ian McEwan
'I read Holden's book pretty much in one sitting and enjoyed it so much. Those Sunday Times years are still of course the pinnacle of serious journalism, and remain so vivid and amazing in his chapters. But the whole story is so deftly told, and left me marvelling at his energy and multiple talents. The last few years have been tough for him, but even these he writes about with humour and grace.’
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