William Boyd (writer)

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William Boyd
William Boyd.jpg
Boyd in 2009
Born (1952-03-07) 7 March 1952 (age 65)
Accra, Gold Coast[1]
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter
Language English
Residence London, England
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater University of Nice,
University of Glasgow,
Jesus College, Oxford
Notable works A Good Man in Africa
Notable awards Grand prix des lectrices de Elle

William Boyd, CBE (born 7 March 1952) is a Scottish[2] novelist and screenwriter.


Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana, to Scottish parents, both from Fife, and has two younger sisters. His father Alexander was a doctor specialising in tropical medicine moved with his mother, who was a teacher, to the then Gold Coast in 1950 to run the health clinic at the University of Ghana, Legon (formerly University College of the Gold Coast). In the early 1960s the family moved to western Nigeria, where Boyd’s father held a similar position at the University of Ibadan.[3][4] Boyd spent his early life educated in Ghana and Nigeria[1] and, at the age of nine, he went to Gordonstoun school in Scotland, and then the University of Nice, France, followed by the University of Glasgow, where he gained an M.A.(hons) in English & Philosophy, and finally Jesus College, Oxford. His father died of a rare disease when Boyd was 26.

Between 1980 and 1983 Boyd was a lecturer in English at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and it was while he was there that his first novel, A Good Man in Africa (1981), was published. He was also the New Statesmans′ television critic between 1981 and 1983.[3] Boyd is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has been presented with honorary Doctorates in Literature from the universities of St. Andrews, Stirling, Glasgow, and Dundee[1] and is an honorary fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.[5]

Boyd is married. He met his wife Susan, a former editor and now a screenwriter, while they were both at Glasgow University. He has a house in Chelsea, London and a farmhouse and vineyard (with its own appellation Château Pecachard) in Bergerac in the Dordogne in SW France.[3] He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for services to literature.

In August 2014 Boyd was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[6]

Boyd is a member of the Chelsea Arts Club.[7]



Although his novels have been short-listed for major prizes, he has never had the same publicity as his contemporaries. Boyd was selected in 1983 as one of the 20 "Best of Young British Novelists" in a promotion run by Granta magazine and the Book Marketing Council.

Boyd's novels include: A Good Man in Africa, a study of a disaster-prone British diplomat operating in West Africa, for which he won the Whitbread Book award and Somerset Maugham Award in 1981; An Ice-Cream War, set against the background of the World War I campaigns in colonial East Africa, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1982; Brazzaville Beach, published in 1991, which follows a female scientist researching chimpanzee behaviour in Africa; and Any Human Heart, written in the form of the journals of a fictitious twentieth century British writer, which won the Prix Jean Monnet and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002. Restless, the tale of a young woman who discovers that her mother had been recruited as a spy during World War II, was published in 2006 and won the Novel of the Year award in the 2006 Costa Book Awards. Boyd published Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel in early 2012.[8] Following Solo in 2013 he published Sweet Caress in 2015, his fourth novel written from a woman's viewpoint.

Solo, the James Bond novel[edit]

On 11 April 2012 it was announced that Boyd was to write the next James Bond novel.[9] The book, Solo, is set in 1969; it was published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in September 2013.

Boyd used Bond creator Ian Fleming as a character in his novel Any Human Heart. Fleming recruits the book's protagonist, Logan Mountstuart, to naval intelligence during World War Two.[10]

Boyd has also worked with three of the actors who have portrayed Bond in the film series: Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.[11]


As a screenwriter Boyd has written a number of feature film and television productions. The feature films include: Scoop (1987), adapted from the Evelyn Waugh novel; Stars and Bars (1988), adapted from Boyd's own novel; Mister Johnson (1990), based on the 1939 novel by Joyce Cary; Tune in Tomorrow (1990); A Good Man in Africa (1994), also adapted from his own novel; and The Trench (1999) which he also directed; Man to Man (2005) Golden Berlin Bear nominated; Sword of Honour (2001 TV film). He was one of a number of writers who worked on Chaplin (1992). His television screenwriting credits include: Good and Bad at Games (1983), adapted from Boyd's short story about English public school life; Dutch Girls (1985); Armadillo (2001), adapted from his own novel; A Waste of Shame (2005) about Shakespeare; Any Human Heart (2010), adapted from his own novel into a Channel 4 series which won the 2011 Best Drama Serial BAFTA award; and Restless (2012), also adapted from his own novel.[12]

Nat Tate hoax[edit]

In 1998, Boyd published Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928–1960, which presents the paintings and tragic biography of a supposed New York-based 1950s abstract expressionist painter named Nat Tate, who actually never existed and was, along with his paintings, a creation of Boyd's. When the book was initially published, it was not revealed that it was a work of fiction, and some were duped by the hoax; it was launched at a lavish party, with excerpts read by David Bowie and Gore Vidal (who were in on the joke), and a number of prominent members of the art world claimed to remember the artist. It caused quite a stir once the truth was revealed.[13]

The name "Nat Tate" is derived from the names of the two leading British art galleries: the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. Boyd, who also paints, made a drawing artwork under the pseudonym of Nat Tate and sent it to auction, where it raised funds for an art charity.

Nat Tate also appears in Any Human Heart, also by Boyd, with a wry footnote to the 1998 book.


Boyd adapted two Anton Chekhov short stories—"A Visit to Friends" and "My Life (The Story of a Provincial)"[14]—to create the play Longing. The play, directed by Nina Raine, stars Jonathan Bailey, Tamsin Greig, Natasha Little, Eve Ponsonby, John Sessions and Catrin Stewart. Previews began 28 February 2013; press night was 7 March 2013.[15][16]

Boyd, who was theatre critic for the University of Glasgow in the 1970s and has many actor friends, refers to his ambition to write a play as finally getting "this monkey off my back."[16]



Short-story collections[edit]

  • On the Yankee Station; Hamish Hamilton, 1981
  • School Ties; Hamish Hamilton, 1985
  • My Girl in Skin Tight Jeans; 1991
  • The Destiny of Nathalie 'X'; Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995
  • Killing Lizards; Penguin, 1995
  • Fascination; Hamish Hamilton, 2004
  • The Dream Lover; Bloomsbury, 2008


  • Protobiography; Bridgewater Press, 1998 (Limited edition)
  • Bamboo; Hamish Hamilton, 2005


  • Longing, 2013 (based on two Anton Chekhov stories)


  • School Ties; Hamish Hamilton, 1985

Uncollected short fiction[edit]


  • Against the Day[17]
  • Truelove at 29[18]

Literary prizes and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "William Boyd – Biography". williamboyd.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-04. 
  2. ^ Clements, Toby, "A writer's life: William Boyd", The Telegraph, 3 September 2006.
  3. ^ a b c Norman, Neil, "William Boyd: A good man in Chelsea", The Independent, 14 January 2007.
  4. ^ Brown, Mick, "The master storyteller: William Boyd interview", The Telegraph, 4 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Emeritus Fellows", The Jesus College Record 2011, p. 21.
  6. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Chelsea Arts Club secretary signs off with 'lunatic' plea". London Evening Standard. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  8. ^ Kirby, A. J. (17 April 2012). "Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel". nyjournalofbooks.com. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  9. ^ "William Boyd to write new James Bond book". itv.com. ITV News. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Lang, Kirsty (27 December 2012). "James Bond author William Boyd on Restless, and the spy who thrilled him". Radio Times. 
  11. ^ "The name's Boyd. William Boyd: New author named for latest James Bond book". Daily Mail. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2012. 
  12. ^ IMDB William Boyd
  13. ^ "Bowie and Boyd "hoax" art world". BBC. 7 April 1998. Retrieved 11 March 2007. 
  14. ^ Snetiker, Marc (4 January 2013). "Tamsin Greig and John Sessions to Lead William Boyd's Longing in London". 
  15. ^ "Main Stage: Longing". Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Susie Mesure (16 December 2012). "William Boyd: The man who knows the real 007". The Independent. 
  17. ^ Boyd 2008, p. 4-5.
  18. ^ Boyd 2008, p. 5.
  19. ^ Prix Jean Monnet List of laureates


External links[edit]