The critically acclaimed best seller by Neil Hanson
"An unforgettable picture of life in the hottest sectors of the Western Front"
- William Grimes, New York Times.
Neil Hanson is the author of an acclaimed series of popular histories - The Custom of the Sea; The Dreadful Judgement; The Confident Hope of a Miracle; The Unknown Soldier; First Blitz; Priestley's Wars; and Monk Eastman: The Gangster Who Became A War Hero. Critics around the world have hailed them as “astonishing”, “brilliant”, “compelling”, “gripping”, “extraordinary”, “marvellous”, “superb”, “a triumph” and “a masterpiece”. A more unusual tribute was paid to his work when the American folk/rock band The Avett Brothers based their album, "Mignonette", on Neil's book The Custom of the Sea. He's also written the hugely popular, The Inn at the Top - the James Herriot-style story of his time as owner of Britain's highest inn at the top of the Yorkshire Dales - and with Lynn Russell he's co-authored the Sunday Times Top 10 book The Sweethearts (about women workers at Rowntree's chocolate factory) and now Wish You Were Here! about women at Butlin's in the Golden Age of holiday camps.
"The path that led me to become an author was a pretty rambling one. Along the highways, byways and frequent cul de sacs of a very chequered career, I've been a plasterer's mate, an ice-cream salesman, a holiday camp redcoat, an art gallery director, and simultaneously an art critic and a rugby league commentator - now there's a combination you don't see every day! I've also been the editor of the drinker's bible, The Good Beer Guide, and the owner of the highest pub in Britain, and I've travelled round the world twice, edited an assortment of obscure magazines, been a radio broadcaster in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and written for newspapers around the world.
However, the world's longest adolescence finally had to come to an end one day and since then I've been pretty much a full-time author with around 50 published books to my name so far. Under my own name I write narrative non-fiction - popular history, though the sales figures suggest it's not quite as popular as I'd like it to be.
I'm not a member of what you might call "the David Starkey School" of history, I'm less interested in kings, queens, prime ministers and generals than I am in what happens to ordinary people caught up in great events. I don't like "winner's history" either; I want to know the view from all sides of a conflict or issue and I'm as interested - and sometimes more interested - in the aftermath of great events than I am in the events themselves. Some of the best stuff I've written (in my opinion at least) really catches fire at the point where most other historians leave off, and that's as true, I think, of my book about the Spanish Armada "The Confident Hope of a Miracle", "The Dreadful Judgement" about the Great Fire of London, and The Custom of the Sea, as it is of "The Unknown Soldier", my book about the Unknowns buried in Westminster Abbey and at national shrines in Paris, Washington and all over the world.
My day-job is as a ghostwriter: a writer of other people's books for them, including a New York Times Number One best-seller. Clients have included a treasure diver, a kidnap negotiator, an explorer, a spy, a long-distance walker, a submariner, an England football coach, a world famous cricketer, an American show business legend, a controversial historian, an undercover investigator, an IRA informer, several travellers and adventurers, two fast-jet pilots and half a dozen SAS men.
People in the literary world can be extremely sniffy about ghostwriting, but I make no apologies whatsoever for it; not only have I made a good living from it, but it's made me a better writer and it's also given me access to worlds that would otherwise have been closed to me, so for all those reasons I'm grateful to the individuals who chose to work with me... and the publishers who chose to pay me for doing so!
At various times I've also written screenplays, thrillers, short stories, a serious novel, a playscript for a musical, travel journalism, and book reviews. The one thing missing from my portfolio is poetry and believe me, there's a very good reason for that..."