Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

A gripping short biography of the extraordinary Alfred Hitchock, the master of suspense. Alfred Hitchcock was a strange child. Fat, lonely, burning with fear and ambition, his childhood was an isolated one, scented with fish from his father's shop. Afraid to leave his bedroom, he would plan great voyages, using railway timetables to plot an exact imaginary route across Europe. So how did this fearful figure become the one of the most respected film directors of the twentieth century? As an adult, Hitch rigorously controlled the press's portrait of him, drawing certain carefully selected childhood anecdotes into full focus and blurring all others out. In this quick-witted portrait, Ackroyd reveals something more: a lugubriously jolly man fond of practical jokes, who smashes a once-used tea cup every morning to remind himself of the frailty of life. Iconic film stars make cameo appearances, just as Hitch did in his own films: Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, and James Stewart...
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Shakespeare

Shakespeare

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

Drawing on an exceptional combination of skills as literary biographer, novelist, and chronicler of London history, Peter Ackroyd surely re-creates the world that shaped Shakespeare--and brings the playwright himself into unusually vivid focus. With characteristic narrative panache, Ackroyd immerses us in sixteenth-century Stratford and the rural landscape--the industry, the animals, even the flowers--that would appear in Shakespeare's plays. He takes us through Shakespeare's London neighborhood and the fertile, competitive theater world where he worked as actor and writer. He shows us Shakespeare as a businessman, and as a constant reviser of his writing. In joining these intimate details with profound intuitions about the playwright and his work, Ackroyd has produced an altogether engaging masterpiece.From the Trade Paperback edition.
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The Canterbury Tales – A Retelling

The Canterbury Tales – A Retelling

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

Ackroyd's retelling of Chaucer's classic isn't exactly like the Ethan Hawke'd film version of Hamlet, but it's not altogether different, either. Noting in his introduction that the source material is as close to a contemporary novel as Wells Cathedral is to an apartment block, Ackroyd translates the original verse into clean and enjoyable prose that clears up the roadblocks readers could face in tackling the classic. The Knight's Tale, the first of 24 stories, sets the pace by removing distracting tics but keeping those that are characteristic, if occasionally cringe-inducing, like the narrator's insistence on lines like, Well. Enough of this rambling. The rest of the stories continue in kind, with shorter stories benefiting most from Ackroyd's treatment, though the longer entries tend to… ramble. The tales are a serious undertaking in any translation, and here, through no fault of Ackroyd's work, what is mostly apparent is the absence of the original text, making finishing this an accomplishment that seems diminished, even if the stories themselves prove more readable. *** A fresh, modern prose retelling captures the vigorous and bawdy spirit of Chaucer's classic Renowned critic, historian, and biographer Peter Ackroyd takes on what is arguably the greatest poem in the English language and presents the work in a prose vernacular that makes it accessible to modern readers while preserving the spirit of the original. A mirror for medieval society, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales concerns a motley group of pilgrims who meet in a London inn on their way to Canterbury and agree to take part in a storytelling competition. Ranging from comedy to tragedy, pious sermon to ribald farce, heroic adventure to passionate romance, the tales serve not only as a summation of the sensibility of the Middle Ages but as a representation of the drama of the human condition. Ackroyd's contemporary prose emphasizes the humanity of these characters-as well as explicitly rendering the naughty good humor of the writer whose comedy influenced Fielding and Dickens-yet still masterfully evokes the euphonies and harmonies of Chaucer's verse. This retelling is sure to delight modern readers and bring a new appreciation to those already familiar with the classic tales.
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Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

A gripping short biography of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone and The Woman in White, two early masterpieces of mystery and detection. Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely near-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colorful clothes, Wilkie Collins looked distinctly strange. But he was nonetheless a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women--and avidly read by generations of readers. Peter Ackroyd follows his hero, "the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists," from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as a writer, his years of fame and his lifelong friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. As well as his enduring masterpieces, The Moonstone--often called the first true detective novel--and the sensational The Woman in White, he produced an intriguing array of...
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Three Brothers

Three Brothers

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

Rapier-sharp, witty, intriguing, and mysterious: a new novel from Peter Ackroyd set in the London of the 1960s. Three Brothers follows the fortunes of Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway, a trio of brothers born on a postwar council estate in Camden Town. Marked from the start by curious coincidence, each boy is forced to make his own way in the world--a world of dodgy deals and big business, of criminal gangs and crooked landlords, of newspaper magnates, backbiters, and petty thieves. London is the backdrop and the connecting fabric of these three lives, reinforcing Ackroyd's grand theme that place and history create, surround and engulf us. From bustling, cut-throat Fleet Street to hallowed London publishing houses, from the wealth and corruption of Chelsea to the smoky shadows of Limehouse and Hackney, this is an exploration of the city, peering down its streets, riding on its underground, and drinking in its pubs and clubs. Everything is...
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Poe

Poe

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

"Peter Ackroyd's life of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) opens with his end, his final days. No one knows what happened between the moment when friends saw him off on the steamboat to Baltimore and his discovery, raving in a tavern, six days later, by which time he was already dying. This mystery sets the scene for a short life packed with drama and tragedy (drink and poverty) combined with extraordinary brilliance. Tennyson described him as 'the most original genius that America has produced'." "Poe served as a soldier and began his literary career composing verses modelled on Byron. Soon he was trying out his 'prose tales' - often horror melodramas such as 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. He wrote for and edited a number of literary magazines, and was influential among critics and writers of the American South. His versatile writings - including for example 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' and 'The Raven' -continue to resonate down the centuries." "Poe has been claimed as the forerunner of modern fantasy, and credited with the invention of psychological dramas (before Freud), science fiction (before H. G. Wells and Jules Verne) and the detective story (before Arthur Conan Doyle). He influenced European romanticism and was the harbinger of both Symbolism and Surrealism. Peter Ackroyd, who places significance on Poe's childhood (his travelling actor parents were miserably poor, his mother had TB and he was orphaned), claims that Poe found his family among writers - writers not only of his time but of the future generations who were influenced by the power of his imagination. Poe's life was Gothic, theatrical, fatally flawed, dark, dazzling, destructive, satirical and inventive."--BOOK JACKET.
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Venice

Venice

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial -- a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice.In this sumptuous vision of Venice, Peter Ackroyd turns his unparalleled skill at evoking place from London and the River Thames, to Italy and the city of myth, mystery and beauty, set like a jewel in its glistening lagoon. His account is at once romantic and packed with facts, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the fiestas and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arrivingin the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and a trading empire, the wars against Napoleon and the tourist invasions of today.Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the mosaics of St Mark's and the glass blowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the doges...
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Queer City

Queer City

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

Peter Ackroyd is our preeminent chronicler of London. In Queer City, he looks at the metropolis in a whole new way - through the history and experiences of its gay population. In Roman Londinium the penis was worshipped and homosexuality was considered admirable. The city was dotted with lupanaria ('wolf dens' or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels) and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops and clergy, monks and missionaries. His rule was accompanied by the first laws against queer practices. What followed was an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure, from the notorious Normans, whose military might depended on masculine loyalty, and the fashionable female transvestism of the 1620s; to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early 1800s and the 'gay plague' in the 1980s. Ackroyd takes us right into this hidden city, celebrating its diversity, thrills and energy on the one hand; but reminding us of its very real terrors, dangers and risks on the other. In a city of superlatives, it is perhaps this endless sexual fluidity and resilience that epitomise the real triumph of London. 'Peter Ackroyd is the greatest living chronicler of London' Independent
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Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination

Peter Ackroyd

Biography / Fiction / Poetry

EDITORIAL REVIEW: With his characteristic enthusiasm and erudition, Peter Ackroyd follows his acclaimed **London: A Biography** with an inspired look into the heart and the history of the English imagination. To tell the story of its evolution, Ackroyd ranges across literature and painting, philosophy and science, architecture and music, from Anglo-Saxon times to the twentieth-century. Considering what is most English about artists as diverse as Chaucer, William Hogarth, Benjamin Britten and Viriginia Woolf, Ackroyd identifies a host of sometimes contradictory elements: pragmatism and whimsy, blood and gore, a passion for the past, a delight in eccentricity, and much more. A brilliant, engaging and often surprising narrative, **Albion*** *reveals the manifold nature of English genius.
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