Piers Paul Read
Biography of Piers Paul Read
Piers Paul Read (born 7 March 1941) is an award-winning English novelist, historian and biographer.
He was first noted for a book of reportage Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, later adapted as a feature-film and a documentary. This was followed by some well-acclaimed novels that criticised English middle-class ethics from the less-usual viewpoint of a right-wing practising Catholic, with sin and redemption as recurring themes.
Among his most popular works are The Professor's Daughter, A Married Man, and A Season in the West. Read is also a dramatist and TV scriptwriter.
Piers Paul Read was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He is the third son of Sir Herbert Read, a poet, art critic and theorist of anarchism, and Margaret (née Ludwig) Read, a professional musician. His mother was a convert to Roman Catholicism and he was raised in that religion.
When Read was eight, his family moved to North Yorkshire. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Gilling Castle and Ampleforth College. His years at Ampleforth would later provide much of the material for the first part of his third novel Monk Dawson (1969) and rural Ryedale was the setting of his fifth novel, The Upstart (1973). In 1959 he went to St John's College, Cambridge, where he read history. He received his B.A. in 1961 and M.A. in 1962. In 1963–64, he spent a year in West Berlin on a Ford Foundation Fellowship. There he came into contact with German writers in the Gruppe 47, the French nouveau romancier Michel Butor, and the Polish novelist, diarist and playwright, Witold Gombrowicz.; and worked on his first novel Game in Heaven with Tussy Marx (1966). He later enrolled in an academy for writers funded by the Ford Foundation, the Literarisches Colloquium, where he made friends with fellow members Tom Stoppard and Derek Marlowe.
His stay in Berlin inspired his second novel The Junkers (1968, which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize) and confirmed the general sympathy towards the Germans that he felt on account of his mother's part-German ancestry. On returning to England, he took a job as sub-editor on The Times Literary Supplement and shared a flat in Pimlico with Stoppard and Marlowe. In 1967–68, he spent a year in New York – an experience he used in his fourth novel The Professor's Daughter (1971).
Read is a practising Catholic and has served on the board of Catholic charities such as Aid to the Church in Need (UK) and the National Catholic Library. He was Master and remains Vice-President of the Catholic Writers' Guild of England and Wales. He has served on the governing bodies of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (1971-1975), the Society of Authors (1973-1976) and the Royal Society of Literature (2001-2007). He is married to Emily Boothby (of the Boothby baronets). They have two sons and two daughters. Read lives in London. In 2005, he correctly predicted the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope.