Scottish novelist, short story writer, and screen writer

William Andrew Murray Boyd CBE FRSL (born 7 March 1952) is a Scottish[1][2] novelist, short story writer and screenwriter.

Boyd was born in Accra, Gold Coast, (present-day Ghana),[3] to Scottish parents, both from Fife, and has two younger sisters. His father Alexander, a doctor specialising in tropical medicine, and Boyd’s mother, who was a teacher, moved to the Gold Coast in 1950 to run the health clinic at the University College of the Gold Coast, Legon (now the University of Ghana). In the early 1960s the family moved to western Nigeria, where Boyd’s father held a similar position at the University of Ibadan.[4][5] Boyd spent his early life in Ghana and Nigeria[3] and, at the age of nine, went to a preparatory school and then to Gordonstoun school in Scotland,[5] and, after that, to the University of Nice in France, followed by 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 Boyd 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 television critic for the New Statesman between 1981 and 1983.[4]
Boyd was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for services to literature. He 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[3] and is an honorary fellow of Jesus College, Oxford.[6] Boyd is a member of the Chelsea Arts Club.[7]
Boyd 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 south-west France.[4]
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.[8]

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 scientist researching chimpanzee behaviour in Africa; and Any Human Heart, written in the form of the journals of a fictitious male 20th-century British writer, which won the Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne 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’s novel Waiting for Sunrise was published in 2012.[9] Following Solo in 2013, Sweet Caress was published in 2015, the fourth novel Boyd has written from a woman’s viewpoint. His sixteenth novel, Trio, was published in 2020.

Solo, the James Bond novel[edit]
In April 2012 Ian Fleming’s estate announced that Boyd would write the next James Bond novel.[10] 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 British Naval Intelligence during World War Two.[11]

Short stories[edit]
Several collections of short stories by Boyd have been published, including On the Yankee Station (1981), The Destiny of Nathalie ‘X’ (1995), Fascination (2004) and The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth (2017). In his introduction to The Dream Lover (2008), Boyd says that he believes the short story form to have been key to his evolution as a writer.[12]

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), based on the Mario Vargas Llosa novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter; A Good Man in Africa (1994), also adapted from his own novel; The Trench (1999) an independent war film which he also directed; Man to Man (2005), a historical drama which was nominated for a Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival; and Sword of Honour, based on the Sword of Honour trilogy of novels by Evelyn Waugh. 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’s composition of his sonnets; Any Human Heart (2010), adapted from Boyd’s own novel into a Channel 4 series starring Jim Broadbent, which won the 2011 Best Drama Serial BAFTA award; and Restless (2012), also adapted from his own novel. Boyd created the miniseries Spy City which aired in 2020.[13]

Boyd adapted two Anton Chekhov short stories – “A Visit to Friends” and “My Life (The Story of a Provincial)”[14] – to create the play Longing. The play, directed by Nina Raine and performed at London’s Hampstead Theatre, starred Jonathan Bailey, Tamsin Greig, Natasha Little, Eve Ponsonby, John Sessions and Catrin Stewart. Previews began on 28 February 2013; the press night was 7 March 2013.[15][16] 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”.[16] A further play by Boyd, The Argument, described as a Strindberg-like take on human dynamics,[17] was performed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in March 2016.[18] Both plays have been published.

Protobiography, an autobiographical work by Boyd that recalls his early childhood, was published initially in 1998 by Bridgewater Press in a limited edition. A paperback edition was published in 2005 by Penguin Books.[19] A collection of Boyd’s journalism and other non-fiction writing was published in 2005 as Bamboo.

Nat Tate hoax[edit]
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 (both of whom 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.[20] 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 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.


A Good Man in Africa; Hamish Hamilton, 1981
An Ice-Cream War; Hamish Hamilton, 1982
Stars and Bars; Hamish Hamilton, 1984
The New Confessions; Hamish Hamilton, 1987
Brazzaville Beach; Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990
The Blue Afternoon; Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993
Armadillo; Hamish Hamilton, 1998
Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928–1960; 21 Publishing, 1998
Any Human Heart; Hamish Hamilton, 2002
Restless; Bloomsbury, 2006
Ordinary Thunderstorms; Bloomsbury, 2009
Waiting for Sunrise; Bloomsbury, 2012
Solo; Jonathan Cape, 2013
Sweet Caress; Bloomsbury, 2015
Love is Blind; Viking Penguin, 2018
Trio; Viking Penguin, 2020
The Romantic; Viking Penguin, 2022
Against the Day[22]
Truelove at 29
Short-story collections[edit]



The McFeggan Offensive, 2020

Book reviews[edit]


Review article

Work(s) reviewed


Boyd, William (3–23 April 2020). “Teacher, chancer, survivor, spy”. The Critics. Books. New Statesman. 149 (5514): 70–71.

Rée, Harry. Rée, Jonathan (ed.). A schoolmaster’s war : Harry Rée, British agent in the French Resistance. Yale UP.

Literary prizes and awards[edit]


^ “The SRB Interview: William Boyd”. Scottish Review of Books. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2018.

^ Clements, Toby (3 September 2006). “A writer’s life: William Boyd”. The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 13 March 2018.

^ a b c “William Boyd – Biography”. Retrieved 4 March 2012.

^ a b c Norman, Neil (14 January 2007). “William Boyd: A good man in Chelsea”. The Independent. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ a b Brown, Mick (4 February 2012). “The master storyteller: William Boyd interview”. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 March 2018.[dead link]

^ “Emeritus Fellows”, The Jesus College Record 2011, p. 21, Jesus College, Oxford. Retrieved 11 March 2018.

^ “Chelsea Arts Club secretary signs off with ‘lunatic’ plea”. Evening Standard. London. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2017.

^ “Celebrities’ open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories”. The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.

^ Kirby, A. J. (17 April 2012). “Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel”. New York Journal of Books. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ “William Boyd to write new James Bond book”. ITV News. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2018.

^ Lang, Kirsty (27 December 2012). “James Bond author William Boyd on Restless, and the spy who thrilled him”. Radio Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ Thorpe, Vanessa (2 March 2008). “Too good to be true”. The Observer. Retrieved 11 March 2018.

^ Bonaime, Ross (23 March 2021). “Dominic Cooper Delivers ’60s Swagger in First Images From AMC+ Espionage Drama ‘Spy City'”. Collider.

^ Snetiker, Marc (4 January 2013). “Tamsin Greig and John Sessions to Lead William Boyd’s Longing in London”. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ “Main Stage: Longing”. Hampstead Theatre. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ a b Mesure, Susie (16 December 2012). “William Boyd: The man who knows the real 007”. The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

^ “The Argument”. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2018.

^ “The Argument”. Hampstead Theatre. 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2018.

^ “Protobiography”. London: Curtis Brown. 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2018.

^ “Bowie and Boyd “hoax” art world”. BBC News. 7 April 1998. Retrieved 11 March 2007.

^ Tayler, Christopher (12 September 2009). “A life in writing: William Boyd”. The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2018.

^ Frejdh, Anders (7 January 2013). “UK Release of William Boyd’s 007 Novel: Solo”. From Sweden With Love. Retrieved 10 April 2020.

^ Prix Jean Monnet List of laureates


Further reading[edit]
Blau, Eleanor (21 May 1983). “New Territory for Explorer in Fiction”. The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Boyd, William (2 October 2004). “Brief Encounters (on the art of writing short stories)”. The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Boyd, William (10 July 2006). “A short history of the short story”. Prospect magazine. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Boyd, William (3 September 2006). “My Week”. The Observer. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Boyd, William (24 December 2017). “Bethany on Jura by William Boyd: an original short story”. The Observer. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
Clements, Toby (3 September 2006). “A writer’s life”. The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Gerrard, Nicci (12 September 1999). “Boyd’s own story”. The Guardian. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
Tayler, Christopher (12 September 2009). “A life in writing: William Boyd”. The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
Testard, Jacques; Summerscale, Tristan (June 2011). “Interview with William Boyd”. The White Review. Retrieved 10 March 2018.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
External links[edit]



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