William Boyd, CBE (born 7 March 1952) is a Scottish novelist and screenwriter.
Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana to Scottish parents, both from Fife, and has two younger sisters. His father Alexander was a doctor specialising in tropical medicine moved with his mother, who was a teacher, to Ghana in 1950 to run the health clinic at the University of Legonwho and in the early 1960s the family moved to western Nigeria, where Boyd’s father held a similar position at the University of Ibadan. Boyd spent his early life educated in Ghana and Nigeria then, at the age of nine, he went to Gordonstoun school, Scotland; and then the University of Nice, France, then the University of Glasgow where he gained an M.A.(hons) in English & Philosophy, and finally Jesus College, Oxford. His father died of a rare disease when Boyd was 26. 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 also the New Statesman's television critic between 1981 and 1983. Boyd is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has been presented with honorary Doctorates in Literature from the universities of St. Andrews, Stirling, Glasgow and Dundee and is an honorary fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.
Boyd is married. He met his wife Susan, a former editor and now a screenwriter, while they were both at Glasgow University. He has a house in Chelsea, London and a farmhouse and vineyard (with its own appellation Château Pecachard) in Bergerac in the Dordogne in SW France. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for services to literature. 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.
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 shortlisted 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 won the Prix Jean Monnet and was longlisted 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 of the Year award in the 2006 Costa Book Awards. Boyd published Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel in early 2012. Following Solo in 2013 he published Sweet Caress in 2015, his fourth novel written from a woman's viewpoint.
Solo, the James Bond novel
On 11 April 2012 it was announced that Boyd was to write the next James Bond novel. 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.
Boyd has also worked with three of the actors who have portrayed Bond in the film series: Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
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; Tune in Tomorrow (1990); A Good Man in Africa (1994), also adapted from his own novel; and The Trench (1999) which he also directed; Man to Man (2005) Golden Berlin Bear nominated; Sword of Honour (2001 TV film). 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 into a Channel 4 series which won the 2011 Best Drama Serial BAFTA award; and Restless (2012), also adapted from his own novel.
Nat Tate hoax
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 and Gore Vidal (who were 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.
The name "Nat Tate" is derived from the names of the two leading British art galleries: the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. Boyd, who also paints, made a drawing artwork under the pseudonym of Nat Tate and sent it to auction where it raised funds for an art charity.
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)"—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 began 28 February 2013; press night was 7 March 2013.
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."
Literary prizes and awards
- 1981 Whitbread First Novel Award A Good Man in Africa
- 1982 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize An Ice-Cream War
- 1982 Somerset Maugham Award A Good Man in Africa
- 1983 Selected as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists' by Granta magazine and the Book Marketing Council
- 1990 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) Brazzaville Beach
- 1991 McVitie's Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year Brazzaville Beach
- 1993 Sunday Express Book of the Year The Blue Afternoon
- 1995 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Fiction) The Blue Afternoon
- 2003 Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne Any Human Heart
- 2004 International Dublin Literary Award (shortlist) Any Human Heart
- 2006 Costa Book Award Restless
- 2007 British Book Awards Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year (shortlist) Restless