Me: The Authorised Biography
Byron Rogers' two previous biographies have been real critical and sales successes: 7000 hardbacks sold of The Man Who Went into the West, three printings of the paperback already, the award of the James Tait Black Prize and reviews praising "a work of genius"; The Last Englishman hailed by Simon Jenkins as "a minor masterpiece", serialised on Radio 4, five hardback printings alone. Now Byron tackles, in his own idiosyncratic and compulsively readable way, a third biographical subject: himself. Several years ago he started receiving letters forwarded to him by his then-employer, the Daily Telegraph Magazine. But these weren't the usual readers' letters. These were passionate, not to say, steamy, love letters. They were also from women he'd never met. But they seemed to know all about him, the illustrious journalist... Rogers' quest to find out about this other Mr Rogers - not your normal kind of imposter, but one who did you the double-edged favour of spreading far and wide your undeserved reputation for unbridled priapism - is what sets off this strange and hilarious memoir. For, having written two acclaimed biographies of singular, indeed maverick, literary figures - J.L.. Carr and R.S. Thomas - there remained only one eligible subject for the completion of the trilogy: B.D. Rogers... Byron Rogers' books for Aurum include his biography of R.S. Thomas, The Man Who Went into the West, which won the James Tait Black Prize, The Last Englishman, The Bank Manager and the Holy Grail and An Audience with an Elephant. He lives in Northamptonshire and in Wales.
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Here's a wonderful thing. I recently read a novel called "A Month In The Country" by JL Carr. The book was first published in 1980, won the Guardian Fiction Prize that year, and was also nominated for the Booker Prize. It is also a masterpiece and you should read it. I then read another - very different - book by JL Carr based on his years as a head teacher called "The Harpole Report". It was very good. I was now intrigued by JL Carr, and so I read a biography called "The Last Englishman: The Life of J. L. Carr" written by his friend, the journalist and writer Byron Rogers. The biography was excellent, and reading it prompted me to look at other books by Byron Rogers. So, a few weeks later, I read "Me: The Authorised Biography". The first thing to say is it's a wonderful autobiography. Whilst only half way through, I bought a copy for my Welsh brother-in-law. I concluded that the only thing that might make it more enjoyable would be a Welsh ancestry for added resonance and recognition. That said, although Byron Rogers calls it an autobiography, much of the book is devoted to other people. The first chapter quite brilliantly describes how, in the 1980s, Byron Rogers started to receive lurid and explicit letters from women who were in awe of his sexual prowess. A man, with a case full of Bryon Rogers' press clippings, was passing himself off as Byron Rogers. From this surreal and amusing opening, the book rewinds back to Byron Roger's childhood and then, over the course of the rest of the book, meanders back to old age. The main theme is just how much things have changed in a generation or three. This is a topic that always fascinates me. The book is full of wonderful vignettes that illustrate this change. These include growing up in a staunchly methodist family in the 1950s; being educated in a Carmarthen grammar school; working on a regional newspaper; working for The Times and the Telegraph; writing speeches for Prince Charles; characters in his local pub; the life and death of an eccentric friend; and so on. Every page contains a strange incident, or a hilarious anecdote, or a bizarre image. It's a very enjoyable read. The only criticism I can find to level is that the book is a bit incoherent and goes off on all kinds of tangents, however that didn't impinge on my enjoyment and I will definitely be reading more books by Byron Rogers.
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