William Boyd (writer)

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William Boyd
William Boyd.jpg
Boyd in 2009
Born (1952-03-07) 7 March 1952 (age 66)
Accra, Gold Coast[1]
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter
Language English
Nationality British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Alma mater University of Nice,
University of Glasgow,
Jesus College, Oxford
Notable works A Good Man in Africa
Notable awards various

William Boyd, CBE (born 7 March 1952) is a British novelist and screenwriter.


Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana, and spent his early life in Ghana and Nigeria.[1] He was educated at Gordonstoun school; and then the University of Nice, France, the University of Glasgow, and finally Jesus College, Oxford. Between 1980 and 1983 he was a lecturer in English at St Hilda's College, Oxford, and it was while he was there that his first novel, A Good Man in Africa (1981), was published.

He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005. In August 2014, Boyd was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[2]



Although his novels have been short-listed for major prizes, he has never had the same publicity as his contemporaries. Boyd was selected in 1983 as one of the 20 "Best of Young British Novelists" in a promotion run by Granta magazine and the Book Marketing Council.

Boyd's novels include: A Good Man in Africa, a study of a disaster-prone British diplomat operating in West Africa, for which he won the Whitbread Book award and Somerset Maugham Award in 1981; An Ice-Cream War, set against the background of the World War I campaigns in colonial East Africa, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was nominated for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1982; Brazzaville Beach, published in 1991, which follows a female scientist researching chimpanzee behaviour in Africa; and Any Human Heart, written in the form of the journals of a fictitious twentieth century British writer, which was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2002. Restless, the tale of a young woman who discovers that her mother had been recruited as a spy during World War II, was published in 2006 and won the Novel Award in the 2006 Costa Book Awards. Boyd published Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel in early 2012.[3]

Solo, the James Bond novel

On 11 April 2012 it was announced that Boyd was to write the next James Bond novel.[4] The book, Solo, is set in 1969; it was published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in September 2013.

Boyd used Bond creator Ian Fleming as a character in his novel Any Human Heart. Fleming recruits the book's protagonist, Logan Mountstuart, to naval intelligence during World War Two.[5]

Boyd has also worked with three of the actors who have portrayed Bond in the film series: Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.[6]


As a screenwriter Boyd has written a number of feature film and television productions. The feature films include: Scoop (1987), adapted from the Evelyn Waugh novel; Stars and Bars (1988), adapted from Boyd's own novel; Mister Johnson (1990), based on the 1939 novel by Joyce Cary; A Good Man in Africa (1994), also adapted from his own novel; and The Trench (1999) which he also directed. He was one of a number of writers who worked on Chaplin (1992). His television screenwriting credits include: Good and Bad at Games (1983), adapted from Boyd's short story about English public school life; Dutch Girls (1985); Armadillo (2001), adapted from his own novel; A Waste of Shame (2005) about Shakespeare; Any Human Heart (2010), adapted from his own novel; and Restless (2012), also adapted from his own novel.


In 1998, Boyd published Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960, which presents the paintings and tragic biography of a supposed New York-based 1950s abstract expressionist painter named Nat Tate, who actually never existed and was, along with his paintings, a creation of Boyd's. When the book was initially published, it was not revealed that it was a work of fiction, and some were duped by the hoax; it was launched at a lavish party, with excerpts read by David Bowie (who was in on the joke), and a number of prominent members of the art world claimed to remember the artist. It caused quite a stir once the truth was revealed.[7]

The name "Nat Tate" is derived from the names of the two leading British art galleries: the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery.

Nat Tate also appears in Any Human Heart, also by Boyd, with a wry footnote to the 1998 book.


Boyd adapted two Anton Chekhov short stories—A Visit to Friends and My Life (The Story of a Provincial)[8]—to create the play Longing. The play, directed by Nina Raine, stars Jonathan Bailey, Tamsin Greig, Natasha Little, Eve Ponsonby, John Sessions and Catrin Stewart. Previews begin 28 February 2013; Press Night is 7 March 2013.[9][10] Boyd, who was theatre critic for the University of Glasgow in the 1970s and has many actor friends, refers to his ambition to write a play as finally getting "this monkey off my back."[10]




  • Bamboo; Hamish Hamilton, 2005


  • Longing, 2013 (based on two Anton Chekov stories)


  • School Ties; Hamish Hamilton, 1985

Uncollected short fiction


  • Against the Day[11]
  • Truelove at 29[12]

Literary prizes and awards


  1. 1.0 1.1 "William Boyd - Biography". williamboyd.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Kirby, A. J. (17 April 2012). "Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel". nyjournalofbooks.com. Retrieved 2012-04-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "William Boyd to write new James Bond book". itv.com. ITV News. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2012-04-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Lang, Kirsty (27 December 2012). "James Bond author William Boyd on Restless, and the spy who thrilled him". Radio Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The name's Boyd. William Boyd: New author named for latest James Bond book". Daily Mail. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2012-04-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Bowie and Boyd "hoax" art world". BBC. 1998-04-07. Retrieved 2007-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Snetiker, Marc (4 January 2013). "Tamsin Greig and John Sessions to Lead William Boyd's Longing in London".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Main Stage: Longing".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Susie Mesure (16 December 2012). "William Boyd: The man who knows the real 007". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Boyd 2008, p. 4-5.
  12. Boyd 2008, p. 5.


  • The Times Literary Supplement, "Edge of Armaggedon", August 2006,[1]
  • British Council, Arts, Contemporary Writers [2]
  • William Boyd, Penguin UK authors [3]
  • Stars and Bars, New York Times, 21 May 1983, "New Territory for Explorer in Fiction", Eleanor Blau [4]
  • The Guardian, 2 October 2004 "Brief Encounters" (William Boyd on the art of short story writing) [5]
  • The Telegraph, 17 October 2004 "Writers' Lives: William Boyd" [6]
  • The Observer, 3 October 2004, Fascination, "Too many tricks spoil the book" [7]
  • Prospect magazine, "A Short history of the short story" [8]
  • British Arts Council's emcompassculture [9]
  • The Observer, 3 September 2006, "My week: William Boyd"
  • Toronto Globe and Mail, Ben King interview, Profile of William Boyd, 2002 [10]
  • Financial Times, 14 February 2005, Arts & Style: "A soft spot for cinema" [11]
  • Guardian Unlimited, 12 September 1999, "Boyd's own story", The Trench [12]
  • Boyd, William (2008). The Dream Lover.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Patten, E. (2005). William Boyd biography, British Council, Contemporary Writers.

External links