Joan Aiken, English-born daughter of American poet Conrad Aiken, began her writing career in the 1950s. Working for Argosy magazine as a copy editor but also as the anonymous author of articles and stories to fill up their pages, she was adept at inventing a wealth of characters and fantastic situations, and went on to produce hundreds of stories for Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many other magazines. Some of those early stories became novels, such as The Silence of Herondale, first published fifty years ago in 1964. Although her first agent famously told her to stick to short stories, saying she would never be able to sustain a full-length novel, Joan Aiken went on to win the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for The Whispering Mountain, and the Edgar Alan Poe award for her adult novel Night Fall. Her best known children's novel, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, was acclaimed by Time magazine as 'a genuine small masterpiece'. In 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children's literature, and although best known as a children's writer, Joan Aiken wrote many adult novels, both modern and historical, with her trademark wit and verve. Many have a similar gothic flavour to her children's writing, and were much admired by readers and critics alike. As she said 'The only difference I can see is that children's books have happier endings than those for adults.' You have been warned . . .
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 -1930) was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and romances, poetry, and non-fiction.
R. Scott Bakker is the son of a tobacco share-cropper, and spent his youth either exploring the wooded bluffs of Lake Erie's north shore or working in hot summer fields. He left the countryside to study English language and literature at University of Western Ontario, and from there moved to Nashville to pursue a PhD in philosophy. He now lives in London, Ontario with his fiancee, Sharron, and their cat, Scully.
Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942, educated in Rome and made his piano debut at the age of eight and as a solo pianist at the age of eleven with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. His musical tours have taken him all over the world and he has made regular appearances at the Bayreuth, Edinburgh, Lucerne, Prague and Salzburg festivals. In 1967 he married the cellist Jacqueline du Pré (who died in 1987). In 1988 he married Elena Bashkirova. He was musical director of the Paris Orchestra 1975-88, and he has been Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1991 and of the Berlin State Opera since 1992.
A K Benedict
A K Benedict read English at Cambridge and studied creative writing at Sussex. She composed film and television soundtracks, as well as performing as a musician before becoming a full-time writer in 2012. She now writes novels, drama, poetry and short stories, and lives in St Leonards-on-Sea with her dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford. Find out more at www.akbenedict.com or follow her on Twitter @ak_benedict
Victoria Blake was born in Oxford and brought up in Queen's College. She read history at Lady Margaret Hall and then qualified as a solicitor in London, before working in publishing and bookselling.
She lives in West London with her partner and the ubiquitous cat, percipiently named Dashiell Hammett.
Barry Bostwick is an American actor and singer. He is best known for playing Brad in the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and has also had considerable fame in musical theatre.
Pamela Branch (1920-1967) was born on a tea estate in Sri Lanka. She was educated in England, studied art in Paris, and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Returning to the East, she lived for three years on a houseboat in Kashmir, and travelled extensively in Europe, India and the Middle East. According to her more famous contemporary Christianna Brand, she was 'the funniest lady you ever knew'; she adored practical jokes, of which she had a seemingly endless store, and the contemporary press lavishly praised her wit. The Sunday Times stated that 'even the bodies manage to be ghoulishly diverting' and the Times Literary Supplement compared her third novel, Murder Every Monday, to the work of Evelyn Waugh. She married twice, was, according to her friends, entertaining, glamorous, beautiful and charming, and the greatest mystery of her work is why it has not received more recognition since her untimely death from cancer at the age of forty-seven.
Mark Bryant was born in Dorset and is a philosophy graduate of London University. He also has a PhD in history from the University of Kent. After a number of years in book publishing he turned freelance, working as an editor, writer and exhibition curator. He is the author of several books -- including Dictionary of Riddles (Special Commendation in Best Specialist Reference Book Awards 1990), Literary Hymns, Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists 1730-1980 (with S. Heneage) and Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists. He lives in south-west London.
Richard Burke was born in London and read English at Oxford University. He is an award-winning producer and director of TV science programmes who began his career as an assistant producer on BBC's Tomorrow's World. His credits include the series 'Space' for the BBC, Discovery America's hit series 'Raging Planet' and Channel 4's 'Electric Skies'. He lives in Taunton, Somerset, with his wife and son.
W.J. Burley lived near Newquay in Cornwall, and was a schoolmaster until he retired to concentrate on his writing. His many Wycliffe novels were extremely popular and were adapted for a highly successful TV series starring Jack Shepherd. W.J. Burley died in 2002.
Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates is a bestselling author. Among her many books are BLONDE, BROKE HEART BLUES, BLACK WATER, THEM and FAITHLESS. She has won a National Book Award as well as the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letter. She has also had stories selected for both BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY and BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Alex Carr grew up in Missoula, Montana. For much of her life, she has travelled and worked her way around the world, starting as a prep-cook in the scullery of a men's soup kitchen, through working in a fish cannery in Alaska pulling salmon roe, to being a nude sketch model at an art museum in Frankfurt. Her work, she says, has defined her and her writing.
CJ Carver was born in the UK. At 22 she went to Australia for a holiday and stayed for 10 years, working in publishing and travelling. In 1992 she took part in the London to Saigon Car Rally, where she and her co-driver were the only all-female crew on a 63-day, 12,500 mile journey. In 1993, she fell into freelance writing and since then has worked locally while writing and travelling. In 1998, she completed the London to Cape Town Car Rally, once again the only all-female crew. She blames her love of adventure on her parents: her mother set the land speed record in Australia and her father was a jet fighter pilot.
James Hadley Chase
Born René Brabazon Raymond in London, the son of a British colonel in the Indian Army, James Hadley Chase (1906-1985) was educated at King's School in Rochester, Kent, and left home at the age of 18. He initially worked in book sales until, inspired by the rise of gangster culture during the Depression and by reading James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, he wrote his first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish. Despite the American setting of many of his novels, Chase (like Peter Cheyney, another hugely successful British noir writer) never lived there, writing with the aid of maps and a slang dictionary. He had phenomenal success with the novel, which continued unabated throughout his entire career, spanning 45 years and nearly 90 novels. His work was published in dozens of languages and over thirty titles were adapted for film. He served in the RAF during World War II, where he also edited the RAF Journal. In 1956 he moved to France with his wife and son; they later moved to Switzerland, where Chase lived until his death in 1985.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in Campden Hill, London and educated at St Paul's School and the Slade School of Art and then made his name as a journalist. His first two books were volumes of verse and then in 1904 he wrote The Napoleon of Notting Hill. He followed this with studies of Dickens and Robert Browning and The Man Who Was Thursday. The first Father Brown book, The Innocence of Father Brown, appeared in 1911. In 1922 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. During his life he produced more than a hundred books, including various religious writings, poetry and essays. He also illustrated the novels of his friend, Hilaire Belloc.
Reginald Evelyn Peter Southouse Cheyney (1896-1951) was born in Whitechapel in the East End of London. After serving as a lieutenant during the First World War, he worked as a police reporter and freelance investigator until he found success with his first Lemmy Caution novel. In his lifetime Cheyney was a prolific and wildly successful author, selling, in 1946 alone, over 1.5 million copies of his books. His work was also enormously popular in France, and inspired Jean-Luc Godard's character of the same name in his dystopian sci-fi film Alphaville. The master of British noir, in Lemmy Caution Peter Cheyney created the blueprint for the tough-talking, hard-drinking pulp fiction detective.
J. J. Connington
Alfred Walter Stewart (1880-1947), who wrote under the pen name J. J. Connington, was born in Glasgow, the youngest of three sons of Reverend Dr Stewart. He graduated from Glasgow University and pursued an academic career as a chemistry professor, working for the Admiralty during the First World War. Known for his ingenious and carefully worked-out puzzles and in-depth character development, he was admired by a host of his better-known contemporaries, including Dorothy L. Sayers and John Dickson Carr, who both paid tribute to his influence on their work. He married Jessie Lily Courts in 1916 and they had one daughter.
Stephen Coonts is the author of fifteen New York Times bestsellers, which have been published in over 20 countries worldwide. A former Navy pilot and Vietnam combat veteran, he and his wife live in Nevada. Visit his Web site at www.coonts.com.
Peter Corris is best known as the 'father' of Australian crime fiction through his Cliff Hardy detective stories. He's written many other books, including a very successful biography of Fred Hollows and a collection of short stories revolving around the game of golf.