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Allan Massie Biography

(1938– ), Change and Decay in All Around I See, The Last Peacock, The Death of Men

scottish novel story caesar

Scottish novelist, biographer, and historian, born in Singapore, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His first novel, Change and Decay in All Around I See (1978), was an absurdist pastiche in which the well-educated Atwater, determined to fulfil no one's expectations, drifts through London from pub to betting-shop. The Last Peacock (1980) tells the story of Belinda, another drifter, who returns to Scotland after a bad marriage to witness her grandmother's death. The Death of Men (1981) owes much to Massie's personal experience of Italy and to newspaper reports of Aldo Moro's kidnapping, but it is an original and finely crafted political novel about terrorism. One Night in Winter (1984) returns to the theme of the deracinated Scot, in this case the selfmuzzled antiques dealer Dallas, reliving at last his youthful encounter with a wild Scottish Nationalist. Augustus (1986) is entirely different: the mock memoirs of the Roman emperor, a frequently ironic, but vivid, fiction clearly inspired by Massie's historical work on The Caesars (1983). His novel A Question of Loyalties (1989) was followed by The Sins of the Fathers (1991) which describes the relationship between Franz Kestner, a young man of German extraction, and Becky Szinner, who is half English, half German Jewish; the couple meet in Argentina during the 1960s and fall in love, only to discover the terrible truth about their respective pasts. For Franz's father is a former Nazi, guilty of appalling crimes against humanity, and Becky's father, a survivor of the Holocaust, is the man who eventually denounces him. Returning to the Roman world, Tiberius (1991) presents a fictional autobiography of the Emperor in a psychologically revealing portrait of tyranny, while Caesar (1993) is a retelling of Caesar's story from the crossing of the Rubicon to the Ides of March by Decimus Junius Brutus, and a wry treatment of political intrigues. In These Enchanted Woods (1993) the narrative focuses on a millionaire returning to Perthshire after 20 years to reclaim the woman he loved. The Ragged Lion (1994) is a fictional version of the life of Sir Walter Scott. Massie has also written biographies of Muriel Spark (1979), Colette (1986), and 101 Great Scots (1987); a study of five Victorian murders in Edinburgh, Ill Met By Gaslight (1980); a Portrait of Scottish Rugby (1984); a book on Byron's Travels (1988); and a historical work on Edinburgh (1994).

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