Robert Harris, the son of a printer, was brought up in
Nottingham, England. He has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a
newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times and The Daily
His novels have sold more than ten million copies and been translated into
thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and four
He got started as a writer of books when he won a contract to write a biography of John le Carré; but le Carré said the book could not be published until his death, so Harris started roughing out a novel exploring what would have happened if the Nazis had won the war.
He sent a few chapters to his American agent and didn't hear from him for two weeks. Then a call came through to tell him that there was to be an auction with 12 publishers involved. Harris says, "The American rights went through the roof, hardback about half a million, I think, and paperback more than a million. So that solved the mortgage problem and we moved to the country in 1993 and lived happily ever after."
His preferred method for laying out the plot of his books is to lay hundreds of index cards across a snooker table. He says, "From the age of 13 or 14 I wanted to write about [politics], because to say simply that politicians are crooks or that politics is boring is to miss one of the fundamental dramas of life. Politics has such fantastic elements to it ambition, power, obsession, soaring idealism and cynical betrayal." His interest in politics started young - he claims that his first school essay, written when he was six was entitled, "Why me and my dad don't like Sir Alec Douglas-Home" (Douglas-Home was Conservative Prime Minister from 1963-64).
When asked why he didn't go into politics himself he replies, "Well, because I think by temperament I'm an observer and I don't really like giving orders or bossing people about. To go and do the daily round of politics would be deadly for me. I'm not very good with bores and I'm hopeless with faces and names - I once introduced Gill [his wife] as Elizabeth! And I am a writer naturally and always wanted to be. At eight, nine, 10, I was inventing fake newspapers and I've always just wanted to earn my living by writing. The best thing is to go into my study in the morning and stay there and put words together."
He says that he reads very little fiction, and when he does he tends to revisit old favorites such as Greene, Conrad, Orwell and Waugh. He particularly hates "literary" novels and that people who claim to like them are victims of snobbery - "It must be good if it's difficult. Oldest con trick in the world!"
The Ghost (2007)
The Fear Index (2011)
A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare (1982, with Jeremy Paxman)
Gotcha! The Government, the Media and the Falklands Crisis (1983)
The Making of Neil Kinnock (1984)
Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries (1986)
Good and Faithful Servant: Unauthorized Biography of Bernard Ingham (1990)
This biography was last updated on 08/01/2011.
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