Robert Harris (novelist)

Robert Harris (novelist)

Robert Dennis Harris (born March 7, 1957 in Nottingham) is a best-selling English novelist. He is a former BBC TV reporter and journalist. He specialises in historical thrillers noted for their literary accomplishment. His books have been translated into some thirty languages.

Early life

Harris spent his childhood in a small rented house on a Nottingham council estate. His ambition to become a writer arose at an early age, from visits to the local printing plant where his father worked. Harris went to Belvoir High School, Bottesford, and then King Edward VII School, Melton Mowbray, where a hall is now named after him. There he wrote plays and edited the school magazine. Harris read English literature at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was president of the Union and editor of the student newspaper "Varsity".


On coming down from Cambridge, Harris joined the BBC and worked on news and current affairs programes such as "Panorama" and "Newsnight". In 1987, at the age of thirty, he became political editor of "The Observer". He later wrote regular columns for "The Sunday Times" and "The Daily Telegraph".

Non-fiction (1982-1990)

Harris's first book appeared in 1982. "A Higher Form Of Killing", a study of chemical and biological warfare, was written with fellow BBC journalist and close friend Jeremy Paxman. Other non-fiction works followed: "Gotcha, the Media, the Government and the Falklands Crisis" (1983), "The Making of Neil Kinnock" (1984), "Selling Hitler" (1986), an investigation of the Hitler Diaries scandal, and "Good and Faithful Servant" (1990), a study of Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher's press secretary.

First historical fiction & public acclaim (1992-1999)

Harris's million-selling first novel "Fatherland" in 1992, an alternate history set in a world where Germany has won World War II, enabled him to become a novelist full-time. A film deal followed, as it did for his second novel "Enigma" in 1995, about the breaking of the Nazi Enigma code. The film version starred Kate Winslet with screenplay by Tom Stoppard. "Archangel" (1998) was another international best seller. It was made into a BBC mini-series in 2005, starring future James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Roman fiction (2003 onwards)

In 2003 Harris turned his attention to ancient Rome with his acclaimed "Pompeii", yet another international best-seller. He followed this in 2006 with the first novel in a projected trilogy: "Imperium" centred on the life of the great Roman orator Cicero.

Contemporary political fiction

In 2007 British prime minister Tony Blair resigned. Harris, a former Fleet Street political editor, dropped his other work to write "The Ghost". The title refers both to a professional ghost-writer, whose lengthy memorandum forms the novel, and to his immediate predecessor who, as the action opens, has just drowned in gruesome and mysterious circumstances.

The dead man has been ghosting the autobiography of a recently unseated British prime minister. The latter is one Adam Lang, a thinly-disguised version of Blair. [ [,,2180093,00.html Review in "The Guardian"] ] The fictional counterpart of Cherie Blair is depicted as a sinister manipulator of her husband. So astonishing are the implied allegations of the "roman à clef" that, had it concerned a lesser figure and were Harris a less eminent novelist, Britain's libel laws may have rendered publication impossible. Harris told The Guardian before publication: "The day this appears a writ might come through the door. But I would doubt it, knowing him." [] The thriller acquires an added "frisson" from the fact that Harris was an early and enthusiastic backer of Blair and a donor to New Labour funds. []

Harris said in a US National Public Radio interview that politicians like Lang and Blair, particularly when they've been in office a long time, become divorced from everyday reality, read little and end up with a pretty limited overall outlook. When it comes to writing their memoirs, they therefore tend to have all the more need of a ghostwriter.

Harris hinted at a third, far less obvious, allusion hidden in the novel's title, and, more significantly, at a possible motive for having written the book in the first place. Blair, he said, had himself been ghostwriter, in effect, to President Bush when giving public reasons for invading Iraq: he had argued the case better than had the President himself. [ National Public Radio interview, 31 October 2007.]

The New York Observer, headlining its otherwise hostile review "The Blair Snitch Project", commented that the book’s "shock-horror revelation" was "so shocking it simply can’t be true, though if it were it would certainly explain pretty much everything about the recent history of Great Britain." []

Roman Polanski is set to direct the film version of "The Ghost".

TV appearances

Harris has appeared on the BBC satirical panel game "Have I Got News for You" in episode three of the first series in 1990, and in episode four of the second series a year later. In the first he appeared as a last-minute replacement for the politician Roy Hattersley. He made a third appearance on the programme on 12 October 2007, seventeen years, to the day, after his first appearance. Since the gap between his second and third appearance was nearly 16 years, Harris enjoys the distinction of the longest gap between two successive appearances in the show's history.

Private Life

Harris lives in a Berkshire vicarage, with his wife Gill Hornby, herself a writer and sister of best-selling novelist Nick Hornby. They have four children, Holly, Charlie, Matilda and Sam.



* "Fatherland" (1992)
* "Enigma" (1995)
* "Archangel" (1999)
* "Pompeii" (2003)
*"The Ghost" (2007)

Cicero trilogy

* "Imperium" (2006)
* "Conspiracy" (forthcoming release date in October, 2008)


* "A Higher Form of Killing: 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: Story of the Hitler Diaries" (1986)
* "Good and Faithful Servant: Unauthorized Biography of Bernard Ingham" (1990)


External links

* [,%20Robert Robert Harris at House of Crime]
* [,%20Robert Robert Harris at Random House Australia]
* [] transcript of interview with Ramona Koval on The Book Show ABC Radio National 13 November 2007
*imdb name|id=0365249|name = Robert Harris

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