biographer and author
Born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, Andrew Lycett lived in East Africa (Tanganyika) until he was eight, and then in Yorkshire, Dublin and Sussex.
He was educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Modern History and edited Cherwell, the university newspaper.
After graduating, he travelled in and began writing about India. Some of his earliest articles appeared in the Illustrated Weekly of India and the Rising Nepal. He also worked briefly for a development agency in newly independent Bangladesh. In the mid-1970s he returned to Africa and later spent considerable time in the Middle East, working in both areas as a foreign correspondent, mainly for The Times and Sunday Times. Over a period of twenty years he also edited several magazines and other publications dealing primarily with the Arab world. He acted as a consultant to the Economist Intelligence Unit and was a contributing editor of GQ.
As a result of regular visits to Libya, he wrote his first book, 'Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution' (with his Sunday Times colleague, the late David Blundy). This was published in Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1987 and in the United States by Little, Brown in 1988.
Since the mid-1990s, he has concentrated on writing non-fiction books, mainly biographies. His 'Ian Fleming', published in 1995, is the definitive life of James Bond's creator. Reviewing it in the Sunday Telegraph, Selina Hastings, herself a celebrated biographer, wrote, 'This is an exemplary biography, beautifully written, fast-paced and extremely perceptive.'
His 'Rudyard Kipling', published in 1999, drew an equally enthusiastic response. The influential critic Terry Eagleton described it as 'magisterial' and chose it as one of his International Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement.
This was followed by ‘Dylan Thomas – A New Life’ in 2003. Martin Booth in the Literary Review found this ‘frankly, stunning … a gripping, unputdownable read’. Jan Morris chose it as her biography of the year in The Times, referring to it as ‘majestically thorough, readable and compassionate’.
‘Conan Doyle – The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes’ appeared in 2007 and was hailed by John Carey in The Times as ‘(an) excellent biography……Comprehensive and authoritative, it is undoubtedly the best account of Doyle to date, and the best we are likely to get.’ It was Book of the Week in the Guardian where Giles Foden found it ‘(a) splendid biography’. In the United States, where it was published by Free Press, it was one of Booklist’s top ten biographies of 2008. It was a Notable Book of 2008 in the Washington Post.
'Kipling Abroad', an anthology of Rudyard Kipling’s travel writing, was published in 2010. The Sunday Telegraph described it as 'this perfect bedside book'. According to the Times Literary Supplement, '(Kipling) has a startling ability – generously represented in Andrew Lycett’s selection – to bring to life the colour and texture and, if need be, the perfume of wherever he found himself.'
Lycett has edited and contributed to several other books (see subsequent pages). He has also contributed to the new Oxford DIctionary of National Biography. His journalistic output includes feature articles, book reviews and radio broadcasts.
He speaks regularly at literary festivals, in schools and in universities, and at other events where his subject matter includes his books, biography in general, and aspects of current affairs in countries he knows, such as Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, India and elsewhere.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, as well as of the Royal Historical Society.
He lives in North London. At weekends in the summer he is to be found somewhere in the Home Counties, keeping wicket for the Authors, a travelling team of writers, one of whose earliest members was his own biographical subject, Arthur Conan Doyle.
About Andrew Lycett