Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lee Child, Author Biographies

Lee Child (pseudonym for Jim Grant) was born in 1954 in Coventry, England. When Lee was four years old, his parents moved the family to Handsworth Wood in Birmingham. He says that he was a tough guy in a tough neighborhood, growing large at a young age.

Although Lee Child didn’t get the bug to write until he was 35 years old, he loved the library and was a voracious reader. He says there were only two channels on television back in the day, and for lack of alternate entertainment, he read. He says he was bitten by the mystery bug even as a youngster and loved book series.

Lee Child studied Law at Sheffield University in Sheffield, England even though he never intended on being a lawyer. He says “Studying the law gives you a streetwise frame of reference.” The law, he say encompasses all the things he is interested in, history, politics, sociology, language and economics.

One of Lee’s dreams was to be an actor but says he had no talent as an actor, singer or dancer, so he worked backstage. He did not think about being a writer until he was about 35 years old. Today he says that “writing is the ultimate backstage job.”

After graduating college, Lee worked as a presentation director with a British television network until he was let go at the age of 40. In retrospect, this was a blessing in disguise.

It was at this time that Lee Child decided to be an author. He said that his wife took it quite well and even helped him name his protagonist, Reacher. He wrote his first book in longhand sitting at the dining room table. He bought his first computer with his first advance. His first book, “Killing Floor” was published in 1997.

In 1998, Lee and his wife, Jane and their daughter Rachel, moved to New York where Jane was a native. Today they reside in New York and France.

According to one interviewer, Lee Child has been called “the poster boy of American crime Fiction and the best thriller author at the moment.” Lee has a brother, Andrew Grant, 14 years younger, who is also a successful author.

In 2008, Lee was invited to be a visiting professor at his Alma Mater, The University of Sheffield. He received an Honorary Doctorate in 2009. Lee funded 52 Jack Reacher scholarships at the university.

Lee Child was elected the president of the Mystery Writers of America organization for 2009.
Lee has a fan base that is vast and varied. He seems to appeal to young and old, male and female. He says he likes to interact with his fans through his official website. And of course there is great personal satisfaction seeing people reading and enjoying his books. Lee says, “I use the complainers as a rough gauge to how many people I’m actually reaching. Twenty serious complainers as a percentage implies a million satisfied customers, in my experience.”

Jack Reacher Series:
Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, No. 1) (1997)
Tripwire (1999)
The Visitor (2000)
Echo Burning (2001)
Without Fail (2002)
Persuader: A Reacher Novel (Jack Reacher Novels) (2003)
One Shot (2005)
The Hard Way (2006)
Bad Luck and Trouble (2007)
Nothing to Lose (2008)
Gone Tomorrow (Jack Reacher, No. 13) (2009)

Killing Floor/Die Trying/Tripwire
Running Blind/Echo Burning/Without Fail

Monday, October 12, 2009

Alexander McCall Smith, Author Biographies

Alexander McCall Smith (nicknamed Sandy) was born on August 24, 1948 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. Back then it was a British colony, and now is named Zimbabwe. His education was at Christian Brothers College. He moved to Scotland where he attended the University of Edinburgh to study law. He later moved to Botswana, Africa to help set up a law school and teach at the University of Botswana.

After Alexander returned to Edinburgh he married Elizabeth, a physician. They have two daughters. Back at the University of Edinburgh he became a professor of medical law and is now an Emeritus Professor.

Alexander says that he submitted his first manuscript when he was eight years old and was kindly rejected. When he was 28 years old, he had his first book, a children’s novel, published. He says that he wrote around 30 children’s books, but he was disappointed to be only moderately successful. He was told that his writing style was too gentle and whimsical.

Then he began writing short stories, some to be broadcast on the BBC and even wrote a radio play. Then he started writing some Botswana stories. Alexander McCall Smith’s career took a dramatic turn when he published “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”, which was intended to be a series of very short stories but turned into a series of novels. Now he has three more series and several stand alone novels.

Alexander and his wife started “The really Terrible Orchestra”, which he says is a truly amateur orchestra. He is a bassoonist. He said they have played on NPR and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Alexander also cofounded the “No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House”, an opera training center in Botswana.

Alexander says he always wears a kilt to his book signings. In Scotland kilts are worn for special occasions and his book signings are special occasions.


The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series:
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) (1998)
Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001)
The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002)
The Full Cupboard of Life (2004)
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004)
Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007)
The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (2009)

The 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom Series:
Portuguese Irregular Verbs (2003)
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (2003)
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (2003)
The Sunday Philosophy Club Series: AKA Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries
The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries) (2004)
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (2005)
The Right Attitude of Rain (2006)
The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
The Lost Art of Gratitude: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (2009)

44 Scotland Street Series:
44 Scotland Street (2005)
Espresso Tales (2005)
Love over Scotland (2006)
The World According to Bertie (2007)

Other Novels:
Children of Wax: African Folk Tales (1991)
Heavenly Date: And Other Flirtations (1995)
The Girl Who Married a Lion: And Other Tales from Africa (2004)

Stand Alone Novels:
La's Orchestra Saves the World: A Novel (2008)
Corduroy Mansions (2008)

Children’s Books:
The Perfect Hamburger (1984)
Alix and the Tigers (1988)
The Tin Dog (1990)
Calculator Annie (1991)
The Popcorn Pirates (1991)
Akimbo and the Lions (1992)
The Doughnut Ring
Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)
Paddy and the Rat Catcher (1994)
The Muscle Machine (1995)
The Bubblegum Tree (1996)
Bursting Balloons Mystery (1997)
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (1997)
Chocolate Money Mystery (1999)
Teacher Trouble (2000)
Akimbo and the Elephants (2005)
Dream Angus (2006)
Akimbo and the Snakes (2006)
Akimbo and the Baboons (2008)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Maya Angelou, Author Biographies

Dr. Maya Angelou was born, Marguerite Johnson on April 24, 1928 in St Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was three years old. She, along with her brother Bailey, went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.

While visiting her mother in Chicago, Illinois at the age of seven, Maya was molested by her mother’s boyfriend. She confided in her brother who told the family. Consequently, the man was murdered. Maya felt so guilty that for five years she remained mute.

Maya won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor School. She dropped out at the age of 14 to become the fist female African American cable car conductor. Although she returned later to complete school, she became pregnant in her senior year and gave birth to her son, Guy, a few weeks after her graduation.

After graduation, she took on many menial jobs to raise her son. Singing and dancing, and writing were in her heart, though. She met and married Tosh Angelos, a Greek sailor. She took the name Maya (her brother’s nickname for her) Angelou (a variation of her husband’s name) when she became a nightclub singer. Although the marriage didn’t last, she kept the name.

She traveled throughout Europe in the mid 1950’s with a dance troupe performing in a production of “Porgy and Bess.” In 1957 she did a recording of “Calypso Lady” for her first album. She also wrote and performed “Cabaret for Freedom.”

Wanting to hone her skills as a writer, she joined the Harlem Writers Guild in 1958 in New York. She subsequently became active in the Civil Rights Movement. She met and married the South African civil rights activist, Vusumzi Make in 1960. They moved to Cairo, Egypt where she became the editor of an English weekly newspaper.

Maya and her son later moved to Ghana where she was an assistant administrator and instructor at the University of Ghana’s School for Music and Drama. She was also and editor for The African Review and wrote for various publications.

Maya returned to the United States in 1964. She accepted the invitation from Dr Martin Luther King to serve as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Dr King was assassinated on her birthday in 1968.

Maya’s first published book, “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, is the first of five autobiographical volumes and tells of her trials and tribulations as a young girl. She continues to write and act for television and film and in 1996 directed the film “Down in the Delta.”

She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her 1972 screenplay, Georgia, Georgia. She won the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and The Lincoln medal in 2008. She has also won three Grammy awards.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton asked Dr Maya Angelou to write and recite a poem for him at his inauguration. Her beautiful poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning”, was broadcast worldwide.

Books by Maya Angelou:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970)
Gather Together in My Name (1974)
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas (1978)
The Heart of a Woman (1981)
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986)
A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002)

Other Works:
Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Die (1971)
And Still I Rise (1978)
Now Sheba Sings the Song (1987)
I Shall Not Be Moved (1990)
On the Pulse of Morning (1993)
A Brave and Startling Truth (1995)
Phenomenal Woman (1995)
Even the Stars Look Lonesome (1997)
Letter to My Daughter (2008)