Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, Wilkie Collins looked distinctly strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women - and avidly read by generations of readers. Peter Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as a writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. As well as his enduring masterpieces, "The Moonstone" - often called the first true detective novel - and the sensational "The Woman in White", he produced an intriguing array of lesser-known works. Told with Ackroyd's inimitable verve, this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great storyteller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.
Ackroyd at his best - a gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone and The Woman in White.
Four stars, (A) perfect little biography -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday With deft strokes, Peter Ackroyd's biography portrays his character and sets him in context, weaving critical appraisals seamlessly into the story of his life. The bravura of this biography lies in its brilliantly judged brevity. -- Iain Finlayson The Times Unfailingly perceptive -- Andrew Taylor Independent This biography is compulsive reading The Economist Insightful -- Judith Flanders Sunday Telegraph
Peter Ackroyd has written acclaimed biographies of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Charles Dickens, William Blake, Shakespeare and Thomas More, as well as short books about Chaucer, J.M.W. Turner, Isaac Newton and most recently, Edgar Allen Poe. A bestselling biographer, historian, novelist and broadcaster, he holds a CBE for services to literature. He is the author of London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River, and lives in London.