(British, 1949– )
Born in London, Ackroyd is well known as a biographer; his frequently amusing fiction habitually imagines the lives of diverse artistic figures, from Thomas Chatterton to Dan Leno, Nicholas Hawksmoor to John Milton. Such books link the past and present to great effect; complex but generally accessible, they often pastiche genres and period speech. The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983) brilliantly evokes Wilde's manner. Hawksmoor (1985), which won the Whitbread and Guardian fiction prizes, uses the crime thriller to blend a multi-layered narrative in which a detective tries to solve cases of ritual murder in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. English Music (1992) shifts between the world of dreams and visions and the story of a psychic small boy and his spiritualist father in 1925 London; they have to come to terms with their gifts, and each other. An alternative life for Milton, escaping to the New World to be the leader of a puritan settlement, is proposed by Milton in America (1996). The novel turns on experiences within an Indian camp by which the poet regains his sight. The erudite and witty Plato Papers (1999) is set in a futuristic London (c.3700 AD). The city's orator, Plato, introduces his citizens to London's history, but his analyses of Charles Dickens' satirical novel The Origin of the Species and Edgar Allen Poet's (sic) Tales and Histories (‘the unique record of a lost race’) lead to his trial for spreading lies among the corruptible youth.
Alasdair Gray, John Fowles, John Banville JS