Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2017: The Winner

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We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Biographers’ Club Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2017 is Edmund Gordon for The Invention of Angela Carter.

Edmund Gordon was born in 1982. He studied philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and modern literature at University College London, and since 2011 has taught creative writing at King’s College London. A regular contributor to the TLS and the London Review of Books, he has also written for a variety of national newspapers, including the Guardian, Observer and Sunday Times. In his finely judged and elegantly written biography, Gordon teases out the truth behind Angela Carter’s fictions about her own life, while recounting the brilliant and volatile career of this born writer, critic and fabulist.

‘This was an exceptional shortlist, in which every book showed not only thorough knowledge of its subject but deep and sympathetic understanding. From the Tudor court, to the battlefields of the First World War, from a busy Obs/Gynae ward on the NHS to the august halls of the National Gallery, from a book-lined study to a Japanese love-hotel, we were thoroughly immersed, too, in the worlds these books inhabit. In the end, though, we had to pick a first among equals. And for its elegant writing, fastidious research and becomingly modest yet entirely authoritative portrait of its fascinating subject and her unique work, we chose Edmund Gordon’s The Invention Of Angela Carter as our winner.’ Sam Leith, Literary Editor of The Spectator and judge of the Best First Biography Prize.

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About the prize

This is the fourth year of the literary quarterly and independent publisher Slightly Foxed’s sponsorship of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize, with a winner’s award of £2,500. Previous winners: Hisham Matar, The Return; Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son; Claudia Renton, Those Wild Wyndhams; Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography; Thomas Penn, Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England; and Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France.

2017 Shortlist

  • Thomas Dilworth, David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet (Jonathan Cape)
    This comprehensive life of the great Modernist poet-artist David Jones is the fruit of a lifetime’s research and understanding, and brings new light to shine on Jones’s rare originality and genius.
  • Edmund Gordon, The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography (Chatto & Windus)
    In this finely judged and elegantly written biography, Gordon teases out the truth behind Angela Carter’s fictions about her own life, while recounting the brilliant and volatile career of this born writer, critic and fabulist.
  • Adam Kay, This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor (Picador)
    A best-selling, no-holds-barred account of life at the coalface of the NHS by a comedian and former doctor, hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking by turns.
  • Gareth Russell, Young & Damned & Fair: The Life & Tragedy of Catherine Howard (William Collins)
    A stunning reappraisal of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as scholarly as it is readable, that uses extensive research into her household to bring her chequered story vividly to life.
  • Helen Smith, The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett (Jonathan Cape)
    An exemplary life of the writer and editor with a gift for spotting genius, champion of Conrad, Galsworthy, D.H. and T.E. Lawrence and Somerset Maugham, literary godfather to the Edwardian age.
  • James Stourton, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation (William Collins)
    As a new version of Civilisation comes to our screens, the complex figure of Kenneth Clark, aesthete, broadcaster, writer and cultural panjandrum, is dissected in this perceptive and entertaining biography.

2017 Judges

  • Caroline Moorehead has written biographies of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn, and is currently at work on a quartet about resistance in France and Italy during the Second World War.
  • Ian Kelly is an actor, and author of lives of Beau Brummell, Casanova and Samuel Foote: his prize-winning Mr Foote’s Other Leg: Comedy, Tragedy and Murder in Georgian England was adapted for the stage with great success.
  • Sam Leith is Literary Editor of The Spectator.

The Biographers’ Club

Founded in 1997, the Club is committed to supporting, promoting and connecting biographers at all levels. It offers three prizes each year: the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize; the Tony Lothian Prize and the Exceptional Contribution to Biography Award. President: Andrew Lownie. Committee & Associates: Jane Ridley (Chairman); Sarah Anderson; Nicholas Clee; Caroline Knox; Anne de Courcy; Ariane Bankes (Prize Administrator) and Jane Mays.

Slightly Foxed

Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly and its acclaimed list of classic limited-edition memoirs have become something of an institution in the literary world. Contributors to the magazine include Diana Athill, Quentin Blake, Ronald Blythe, Margaret Drabble, Adam Foulds, Melissa Harrison, Michael Holroyd, Amy Liptrot, Penelope Lively, Richard Mabey, Robert Macfarlane, Dervla Murphy, Sarah Perry, Jane Ridley, Christopher Rush, Posy Simmonds, Adam Sisman and Ali Smith. A subscription to the quarterly includes access to the full digital archive and offers from partner organizations, including: The Library Club, The National Trust and The Royal Society of Literature. The Slightly Foxed series of memoirs includes works by: Edward Ardizzone, Adrian Bell, Graham Greene, Diana Holman-Hunt, Michael Holroyd, Hilary Mantel, Gavin Maxwell, Rosemary Sutcliff and, forthcoming: Jennie Erdal, Jan Morris, Eric Newby and Ernest Shepard.


For more information about Slightly Foxed or the Prize please contact:

Steph Allen/Jennie Paterson
[email protected]
020 7729 9368; +44 20 7729 9368

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