Now in paperback—Donald Sturrock’s Storyteller is “a major literary biography...packed with intimate details, sharply intelligent commentary, and surprising revelations” (The Washington Post) of one of the greatest writers in the twentieth century, whose work still delights millions around the world today.
A single-minded adventurer and an eternal child who gave us the iconic Willy Wonka and Matilda Wormwood, Roald Dahl lived a life filled with incident, drama and adventure: from his harrowing experiences as an RAF fighter pilot and his work in British intelligence, to his many romances and turbulent marriage to the actress Patricia Neal, to the mental anguish caused by the death of his young daughter Olivia. In Storyteller, the first authorized biography of Dahl, Donald Sturrock—granted unprecedented access to the Dahl estate’s archives—draws on personal correspondence, journals and interviews with family members and famous friends to deliver a masterful, witty and incisive look at one of the greatest authors and eccentric characters of the modern age, whose work still delights millions around the world today.
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Only a special author can enter the imaginative realm of a child to write a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet this authorized biography, written by someone who knew Dahl and worked with the cooperation of the author's adult children and both wives--one of whom was film star Patricia Neal--covers the man and his reputation thoroughly while veering from deeper psychological readings of his work. This is not to say the book is superficial. Neal observed that her husband was a modern Pied Piper to children, and an element of the conjurer runs insightfully through this solid biography. Dahl considered himself a wanderer between his native Norway, the U.K., New York, and Hollywood, and a depressed one at that. He was drawn to the high life and celebrities such as Chaplin, Dorothy Lamour, and Robert Altman, and to expensive artwork and furnishings. Well covered are Dahl's English boarding-school years, his flying for the RAF during WWII; prickly relations with agents, editors, and publishers; the tragic lives of two of his children; and his up-and-down marriage to Neal. Yet because this biography is authorized, one comes away feeling that there is more to tell. 16 pages of b&w photos.
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Today, Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, is primarily celebrated for his iconoclastic children’s novels. Sturrock successfully peels away the layers of this complicated and accomplished public figure, revealing a life as fascinating and, at times, as darkly humorous as one of his own novels. Dahl himself lived life on a very large canvas as a fighter pilot, intelligence agent, diplomat, novelist, screenwriter, family man, and bon vivant. Married twice, the first time to actress Patricia O’Neal, he relished his lavish lifestyle and socialized with a formidable array of literati and popular celebrities. Handpicked by the Roald Dahl Estate to write this authorized biography, Sturrock doesn’t offer much detailed literary analysis; however, he does do an exceedingly admirable job of capturing Dahl’s theatrical personality, while at the same time probing beneath the larger-than-life surface to reveal what made both the world-famous author and the private man tick. --Margaret Flanagan
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