Robert Harris Biography & Facts
Robert Dennis Harris (born 7 March 1957) is a British novelist and former journalist. Although he began his career in journalism and non-fiction, his fame rests upon his works of historical fiction. Beginning with the best-seller Fatherland, Harris focused on events surrounding the Second World War, followed by works set in ancient Rome. His most recent works centre on contemporary history. Harris was educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was president of the Cambridge Union and editor of the student newspaper Varsity.
Early life and education
Robert Harris spent his childhood in a small rented house on a Nottingham council estate. His ambition to become a writer arose at an early age, from visits to the local printing plant where his father worked. Harris went to Belvoir High School in Bottesford, Leicestershire, and then King Edward VII School, Melton Mowbray, where a hall was later named after him. There he wrote plays and edited the school magazine. Harris read English literature at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was elected president of the Cambridge Union and editor of Varsity, the oldest student newspaper at Cambridge University.
After leaving Cambridge, Harris joined the BBC and worked on news and current affairs programmes such as Panorama and Newsnight. In 1987, at the age of 30, he became political editor of the newspaper The Observer. He later wrote regular columns for The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph.
Harris's first book, A Higher Form of Killing (1982) with fellow BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman, was a study of chemical and biological warfare. Other non-fiction works followed: Gotcha! The Government, the Media and the Falklands Crisis (1983) covering the Falklands War; The Making of Neil Kinnock (1984); Selling Hitler (1986), an investigation of the Hitler Diaries scandal; and Good and Faithful Servant (1990), a study of Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher's press secretary.
Fatherland (1992)Harris's bestselling first novel, the alternative-history Fatherland, has as its setting a world where Nazi Germany won the Second World War. Publication enabled Harris to become a full-time novelist. It was adapted as a television film by HBO in 1994.
Harris stated that the proceeds from the book enabled him to buy a house in the countryside, where he still lives.
Enigma (1995)His second novel Enigma portrayed the breaking of the German Enigma cipher during the Second World War at Cambridge University and Bletchley Park. It was adapted as a film by writer Tom Stoppard, starring Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet, in 2001.
Archangel (1998)Archangel was another international best seller. It follows a British historian in contemporary Russia as he hunts for a secret notebook, believed to be Stalin's diary. It was adapted as a television film by the BBC, starring Daniel Craig, in 2005.
Pompeii (2003)In 2003 Harris turned his attention to ancient Rome with his acclaimed Pompeii. The novel is about a Roman aqueduct engineer, working near the city of Pompeii just before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. As the aqueducts begin to malfunction, he investigates and realises the volcano is shifting the ground beneath and is near eruption. Meanwhile, he falls in love with the young daughter of a powerful local businessman who was illicitly dealing with his predecessor to divert municipal water for his own uses, and will do anything to keep that deal going.
Imperium (2006)He followed this in 2006 with Imperium, the first novel in a trilogy centred on the life of the great Roman orator, and lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero.
The Ghost (2007)Harris was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Tony Blair (a personal acquaintance) and a donor to New Labour, but the war in Iraq blunted his enthusiasm. "We had our ups and downs, but we didn't really fall out until the invasion of Iraq, which made no sense to me," Harris has said.In 2007, after Blair resigned, Harris dropped his other work to write The Ghost. The title refers both to a professional ghostwriter, whose lengthy memorandum forms the novel, and to his immediate predecessor who, as the action opens, has just drowned in gruesome and mysterious circumstances. The dead man has been ghosting the autobiography of a recently unseated British prime minister called Adam Lang, a thinly veiled version of Blair. The fictional counterpart of Cherie Blair is depicted as a sinister manipulator of her husband. Harris told The Guardian before publication: "The day this appears a writ might come through the door. But I would doubt it, knowing him."Harris said in a U.S. National Public Radio interview that politicians like Lang and Blair, particularly when they have been in office for a long time, become divorced from everyday reality, read little and end up with a pretty limited overall outlook. When it comes to writing their memoirs, they therefore tend to have all the more need of a ghostwriter.
Harris hinted at a third, far less obvious, allusion hidden in the novel's title, and, more significantly, at a possible motive for having written the book in the first place. Blair, he said, had himself been ghostwriter, in effect, to President Bush when giving public reasons for invading Iraq: he had argued the case better than had the President himself.The New York Observer, headlining its otherwise hostile review The Blair Snitch Project, commented that the book's "shock-horror revelation" was "so shocking it simply can't be true, though if it were it would certainly explain pretty much everything about the recent history of Great Britain."It was adapted as the film The Ghost Writer by Roman Polanski in 2010.
Lustrum (2009)The second novel in the Cicero trilogy, Lustrum, was published in October 2009. It was released in February 2010 in the US under the alternative title of Conspirata.
The Fear Index (2011)His novel The Fear Index, focusing on the 2010 Flash Crash, was published by Hutchinson in September 2011. It follows an American expat hedge fund operator living in Geneva who activates a new system of computer algorithms that he names VIXAL-4, which is designed to operate faster than human beings, but which begins to become uncontrollable by its human operators. It was adapted as a 4-part limited series starring Josh Hartnett in 2022.
An Officer and a Spy (2013)An Officer and a Spy is the story of French officer Georges Picquart, a historical character, who is promoted in 1895 to run France's Statistical Section, its secret intelligence division. He gradually realises that Alfred Dreyfus has been unjustly imprisoned for acts of espionage committed by another man who is still free and still spying for the Germans. He risks his career and his life to expose the truth. Harris was inspired to write the novel by his friend Roman Polanski, who adapted it as a film in 2019.
Dictator (2015)Dictator is the long-promised conclusion to Harris's Cicero trilogy. It was publis.... Discover the Robert Harris popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Robert Harris books.