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Haydn Middleton (1955-) Biography - Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

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Born 1955, in Reading, Berkshire, England; Education: New College, Oxford University, degree (second class honors), 1976. Politics: "Left." Religion: Christian.

Career

Leo Burnett Ltd., London, England, advertising executive, 1976-77; worked as a private tutor, 1977-79, 1980-85; Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, history editor, 1979-80; freelance author, 1980—; lecturer in British mythology at Oxford University.

Honors Awards

British Fantasy Society nomination for Best Novel, 1999, for Grimm's Last Fairytale.

Writings

JUVENILE NONFICTION

(Adaptor) Pelé, with Robert L. Fish, Pelé: My Life and the Beautiful Game, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1979.

Britain and the World since 1750, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1982.

Everyday Life in the Sixteenth Century, Macdonald & Co. (London, England), 1982, Silver Burdett, 1983.

Britons and Romans, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1983.

Tudor Times, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1984.

The Dark Ages, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1984.

(With H. Leyser) Invasion and Integration, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1986.

Rulers and Rebels, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1987.

Island of the Mighty: Stories of Old Britain, illustrated by Anthea Toorchen, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1987.

The Age of Chivalry, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1988.

(Editor) Modern World History Atlas, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1989.

Diana, Princess of Wales ("Life and Times" series), Heinemann Interactive (Des Plaines, IL), 1998.

What's It Really Like to Be a Footballer?, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.

The Tudor World, Heinemann (London, England), 2001.

The Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings in Britain, Heinemann (London, England), 2001.

The Pyramids ("Visiting the Past" series), Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

A World-Class Marathon Runner, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2004.

"CREATIVE LIVES" SERIES

Mark Twain, Heinemann (London, England), 2001, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

George Orwell, Heinemann (London, England), 2002.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Heinemann (London, England), 2001, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2002.

"WHAT'S THEIR STORY?" SERIES

William Shakespeare: The Master Playwright, illustrated by Gerry Ball, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Captain Cook: The Great Ocean Explorer, illustrated by Alan Marks, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Cleopatra: The Queen of Dreams, illustrated by Barry Wilkinson, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Thomas Edison: The Wizard Inventor, illustrated by Anthony Morris, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Henry Ford: The People's Car-Maker, illustrated by Anthony Morris, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

"PEOPLE IN THE PAST" SERIES

Ancient Greek Jobs, Heinemann (London, England), 2002, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Ancient Greek Homes, Heinemann (London, England), 2002, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Ancient Greek War and Weapons, Heinemann (London, England), 2002, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

Ancient Greek Women, Heinemann (London, England), 2002, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2003.

"HEINEMANN PROFILES" SERIES

Diana, Princess of Wales: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 1999.

Roald Dahl: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann (London, England), 1998, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 1999.

Mother Teresa: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann (London, England), 2000, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2001.

R. L. Stein: An Unauthorized Biography, Heinemann Library (London, England), 2001.

"OLYMPICS" SERIES

Ancient Olympic Games, Heinemann (London, England), 1999, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 2000.

Crisis at the Olympics, Heinemann (London, England), 1999, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 2000.

Modern Olympic Games, Heinemann (London, England), 1999, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 2000.

Great Olympic Moments, Heinemann (London, England), 1999, Heinemann Library (Des Plaines, IL), 2000.

JUVENILE FICTION

We're on Our Way to Italy!, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

Come and Have a Go if You Think You're Cool Enough!, illustrated by Philip Reeve, Hippo (London, England), 1999.

Come and Have a Go if You Think You're Mad Enough!, illustrated by Philip Reeve, Hippo (London, England), 1999.

Come and Have a Go if You Think You're Rich Enough!, illustrated by Philip Reeve, Hippo (London, England), 1999.

We're on Our Way to France!, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

We're on Our Way to Germany!, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

We're on Our Way to Russia!, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

FANTASY FICTION

The People in the Picture, Bantam (London, England), 1987, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1988.

The Lie of the Land, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1989.

Son of Two Worlds, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1989.

The Collapsing Castle, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1991.

The King's Evil (first book in the "Mordred Cycle"), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

The Queen's Captive (second book in the "Mordred Cycle"), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.

The Knight's Vengeance, (third book in the "Mordred Cycle"), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.

Grimm's Last Fairy Tale, Abacus (London, England), 1999, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including I Shudder at Your Touch, 1992.

Sidelights

British author Haydn Middleton has employed his knowledge of his country's history. sports, and mythology to write nonfiction books for children and fantasy novels for older readers. "I suppose that the thread that runs through my books is a fixation with the myths and legends and folklore of the island of Britain," Middleton once commented of his fiction. "What I think I am putting together, book by book, is a 'magic history' of the country, an alternative 'lived' account of the land's story as opposed to the received wisdom encapsulated in textbooks."

Middleton's nonfiction has come in for special attention from reviewers due to the enthusiasm and wide-ranging knowledge he brings to his subjects. His contribution to the "Heinemann Profiles" series includes Mother Teresa: An Unauthorized Biography, about the Nobel Prizewinning nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity, and R. L. Stein and Roald Dahl, which focus on the lives of noted children's authors. Discussing his contributions to the "What's Their Story?" series of junior-grade biographies, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewer Julie Bookman noted that his volumes—biographies of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Captain Cook, and William Shakespeare among them—bring their subjects "to life through clear writing and lively storytelling."

Middleton's interest in sports is reflected in both his fiction and nonfiction works. Soccer features in several fiction titles by Middleton that have been published in England, among them We're on Our Way to Italy! and his "Come and Have a Go" series about a youth soccer team whose star players Luke, Frederick, and food-crazy Madman Mort are determined to take Third-Division Castle Albion to the finals. His "Olympics" series, which includes Modern Olympic Games and Great Olympic Moments, were praised by Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan as "concise" and effective in their ability to provide "a sense of the tradition and breadth of the modern games," while also addressing historic controversies. Praising Middleton's writing as "clear and succinct," Kay Weisman noted in her Booklist review of Modern Olympic Games that the book would "be popular with browsers" and inspire further research.

Middleton's adult novels tend to be stories set in the contemporary world but metaphorically rooted in the legends and myths of an older world, either Briton or, in the case of Grimm's Last Fairtyale, nineteenth-century Germany. Middleton's The People in the Picture, for example, "mirror[s] the Welsh myth of Taliesin," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer pointed out. In The People in the Picture, as well as The Lie of the Land and The Collapsing Castle, these myths impose themselves upon the author's protagonists in the form of mysterious men and women who enter their lives and spark love interests. Middleton's theme, as Joanne Wilkinson speculated in her Booklist review of The People in the Picture, is that "it takes a bit of magic to solve life's intractable problems." Writing about The Lie of the Land, Library Journal contributor Hugh M. Crane similarly commented that the author's theme "seems to involve the power of myths of rebirth to liberate love." Grimm's Last Fairytale, which focuses on folk-tale collector Jacob Grimm, interweaves the development of German national identity, Jewish history, and romanticism into a novel that presents what Guardian contributor Isobel Montgomery dubbed a "subtly layered" interpretation of Grimm's life. Praising the book as "rich in allusion and mystery," Review of Contemporary Fiction contributor Sally E. Parry praised Grimm's Last Fairytale as "an engaging novel with many stories to tell."

Drawing on the myths of King Arthur, Middleton has also penned three novels in his "Mordred Cycle:" The King's Evil, The Queen's Captive, and The Knight's Vengeance. In The King's Evil Mordred, son of Arthur by Arthur's sister, is ten years old. Raised by adopted parents and mute since infancy, he now begins to speak. Eventually forced to leave his family home, he goes in search of the father he never knew, with tragic consequences. The Queen's Captive veers still more from the classic myth of Avalon, as Mordred, fresh from killing the king, his father, is healed of his wounds by his mother, Queen Morgana. Continuing her incestuous pattern, the queen mates with her son and gives birth to the second King Arthur; at his father's birth

This historical, many-layered novel re-creates the life of the Grimm brothers as an aged Jacob, haunted by the folk tales he and his brother collected, travels through his homeland with his niece and a mysterious manservant. (Cover illustration by Mark Preston.)

into the same time continuum, Mordred ceases to exist, leaving the third volume in the cycle to focus on Arthur's resurgence.

"I believe that there's another England," Middleton once explained to SATA. "Though I'll never be able to go there, I write to bring it closer. Others have sensed it: as Albion, as Logres, as Airstrip One—their own imaginative reflex of the true historic England, perceived in the extremities of emotion: timeless, wondrous, mystifying, familiar. Trojans are its founding fathers, Christ walks its pleasant hills, Arthur brings its Age of Gold, George slays its dragon, Riddley Walker hymns its ruin. A visionary land, unveiled by poets, painters, hill-carvers, musicians, it thrives, elusive, an England of the night without which our daytime England would be incomplete. And in the passionate perception of artists and craftsmen, the dream gains substance.

"This is no literary conceit. It's almost religious with me. There has to be something else. It's there—the truth breaking through in fragments to elate and reassure: in a line of verse, a snatch of song, a painted face, the constant rush of sea, half-grasped memories which I know aren't truly my own. I'm glimpsing England's spirit while moving on its flesh. But how to engage? How, without incurring derision, to clothe these mysteries and share them? How to draw the sword, again and again, from the stone?

"I look at my books: all set in the known England. I've called them magic histories: quests to conjure a symbiosis between this land of flesh and its spirit. Gods walk with girls…Tradesmen enter myth… Castles collapse to the calling of a curse… They're all attempts to lure the spirit inside the flesh; to shape night around day. And now, I think, it's changing. I need to address my other England purely on its own terms. More personal, mundane considerations must be subsumed in its resonance and grandeur. Only then might the spirit's voice echo truly in my words. And then I might claw my way through to some kind of an understanding. That would be a start."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 5, 1998, Julie Bookman, review of "What's Their Story?" series, p. E4.

Booklist, May 15, 1988, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The People in the Picture, p. 1572; December 15, 1999, Kay Weisman, review of Modern olympic Games, p. 781; December 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Modern Olympics, p. 747.

Guardian (London, England), December 2, 2000, Isobel Montgomery, review of Grimm's Last Fairytale, p. 11.

Junior Bookshelf, October, 1987, pp. 238-239.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1987, pp. 1387-1388; March 1, 1988, p. 313; March 1, 1989, pp. 325-326; February 1, 1991, pp. 133-134.

Library Journal, June 1, 1989, Hugh M. Crane, review of The Lie of the Land, p. 148; April 15, 1991, p. 129.

Publishers Weekly, March 25, 1988, review of The People in the Picture, p. 51; March 10, 1989, p. 77; June 2, 1989, pp. 77-78; February 1, 1991, p. 68.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2001, Sally E. Parry, review of Grimm's Last Fairytale, p. 217.

School Librarian, May, 1989, p. 80.

School Library Journal, March, 1988, p. 208; August, 1998, Esther C. Ball, review of Thomas Edison, p. 154; September, 1998, p. 1992; March, 1999, p. 198; January, 2000, p. 149; March, 2002, Julie E. Darnall, review of Frank Lloyd Wright, p. 255.

ONLINE

Infinityplus Web site, http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (August 13, 1998), John D. Owen, review of The Knight's Vengeance.*

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