October 19, 1938 |
|Alma mater||Trinity College|
|Years active||1978 - Present|
|Agent||Rogers, Coleridge & White|
|Political party||Conservative Party (UK)|
|Awards||Scottish Arts Council Book Award, Frederick Niven Literary Award|
Allan Johnstone Massie CBE (born 1938) is a Scottish journalist, columnist, sports writer and novelist. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has lived in the Scottish Borders for the last 25 years, and now lives in Selkirk. He has just published The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain.
Born on October 19, 1938, in Singapore, where his father was a rubber planter for Sime Darby, Massie spent his childhood in Aberdeenshire. He was educated at the private schools Drumtochty Castle preparatory school and Glenalmond College in Perthshire before going on to attend Trinity College, Cambridge where he read history.
Massie is one of Scotland's most prolific and well-known journalists, writing regular columns for The Scotsman, The Sunday Times (Scotland) and the Scottish Daily Mail. He has been The Scotsman's chief fiction reviewer for a quarter of a century and also regularly writes about rugby union and cricket for that paper. He has previously been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, the Glasgow Herald, and was the Sunday Standard's television critic during that paper's brief existence. He is also a contributor to The Spectator - where he writes an occasional column, Life and Letters - the Literary Review and The Independent. He has also written for the New York Review of Books.
He is well known for advocating a Tory viewpoint, though this has been a losing battle given the decline of Conservative influence in Scotland (it is currently the third party). He was a leading, if lonely, campaigner against Scottish devolution and a critic of much of the legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament since it came into existence after the 1997 general election. His political views on devolution changed during the Thatcher years and he came to regret his support for the 1979 devolution referendum.
In his literary reviews, his preferences lie towards traditional novels rather than the avant-garde. He is a great admirer of Sir Walter Scott (and a past president of the Sir Walter Scott Club). Among contemporary novelists, he is a champion of the Russian writer Andreï Makine and Scotland's William McIlvanney. Though he has criticised Irvine Welsh and James Kelman, he has admired some of the latter's work, arguing that Kelman is an important voice for a section of society often ignored in literary fiction.
He is the author of nearly 30 books, including 20 novels. He is notable for writing about the distant past, and the middle class, rather than grittier elements of the present. The most successful of his novels, at least in terms of sales, have been a series of reconstructed autobiographies or biographies of Roman political figures, including Augustus, Tiberius, Mark Antony, Caesar, Caligula and Nero's Heirs. Gore Vidal called him a "master of the long-ago historical novel." His most recent book is The Thistle and the Rose, a series of essays on the often thorny relationship between Scotland and England, in which he takes a strong Unionist viewpoint.
His 1989 novel about Vichy France, A Question of Loyalties won the Saltire Society for being the best Scottish Book of the Year - an award he has been shortlisted for more than once. The Sins of the Fathers (1991) caused a controversy when Nicholas Mosley resigned from the judging panel for the Booker Prize, protesting that none of his books (of which Massie's was the favourite) made it on to the shortlist (Martin Amis' Time's Arrow edged out Massie's novel for the final spot on the six book list).
Those two novels, and Shadows of Empire constitute a loose trilogy in which a constant concern is the potential danger of idealism and ideology, as well as the struggle to lead a decent personal life in indecent political times.
In 2009, Massie brought out what he calls "a private novel" (i.e. an examination of private morality rather than the large political or "public" dilemmas examined in his other contemporary novels). This innovative work, Surviving, is set in Rome and concerns a group of English-speaking alcoholics and the intensity of their friendships. It is also a highly personal work, reflecting the author's own experience of Italy in the seventies, although the book is set in the nineties.
His 2010 novel, Death in Bordeaux, sees Massie return to Vichy France in the first of a trilogy.
Massie's all time Scotland XV
Allan Massie is a keen rugby fan and writer, and came up with an all time XV in 1984.
Firstly, he excludes any players from before 1951, as he says it is unfair to judge the abilities of players without having been able to see them for himself, and secondly, his list, being published in the mid 80s excludes most of the people involved in the 1990 Grand Slam.
- Backline: Andy Irvine, Arthur Smith, Jim Renwick, Ken Scotland, Roger Baird;
- Half backs John Rutherford, Roy Laidlaw;
- Forwards: Hugh McLeod, Colin Deans, Sandy Carmichael, Gordon Brown, Alastair McHarg, Douglas Elliot, Jim Telfer (captain), David Leslie
He also supplies a list of reserves:
Players that Massie includes in his early selection, but not in the final team include:
- Ian Laughland, Chris Rea, Ian McGeechan, Robertson, David Johnston; Aitken, Milne, Bruce, Laidlaw, Mike Campbell-Lamerton, Peter Brown, Tomes, Cuthbertson, Jim Greenwood, Ron Glasgow, Derrick Grant, Rodger Arneil, Calder.
Massie has received the following awards:
- Scottish Arts Council Book Award for The Death of Men (1982)
- Frederick Niven Literary Award for The Last Peacock (1980)
Novels, in order of publication
- Change and Decay in All Around I See
- The Last Peacock
- The Death of Men
- One Night in Winter
- A Question of Loyalties
- The Hanging Tree
- The Sins of the Father
- The Ragged Lion
- These Enchanted Woods (sequel to The Last Peacock)
- King David
- Shadows of Empire
- Nero's Heirs
- The Evening of the World
- Arthur the King
- Charlemagne and Roland
- Death in Bordeaux
- Byron's Travels
- How Should Health Services be Financed?: A Patient’s View
- Glasgow: Portraits of a City
- The Novel Today: A Critical Guide to the British Novel, 1970-1989
- The Thistle and the Rose: Six Centuries of Love and Hate Between the Scots and the English
- A Portrait of Scottish Rugby (Polygon, Edinburgh; ISBN 0-904919-84-6)
- The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family That Shaped Britain
- Ill met by gaslight (Futura, 1984)
- 101 Great Scots
- "The Telegraph". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-01-11.
- "Writers: Allan Massie". British Council. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- The London Gazette: . 15 June 2013.
- Massie (1984), p195