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Based on a True Story


From poker to poetry, poisoners to princes, opera to the Oscars, Shakespeare to Olivier, Mozart to Murdoch, Anthony Holden seems to have rolled many writers’ lives into one. Author of 35 books on a ‘crazy’ range of subjects, this cocky Lancashire lad-turned-bohemian citizen of the world has led an apparently charmed life from Merseyside to Buckingham Palace, the White House and beyond. As he turns 70, the award-winning journalist and biographer – grandson of an England footballer, son of a seaside shopkeeper, friend of the famous from Princess Diana to Peter O'Toole, Mick Jagger to Salman Rushdie – spills the beans on showbiz names to literary sophisticates, rock stars to royals as he looks back whimsically and wittily on a richly varied, anecdote- and action-packed career – concluding, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, that ‘Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well’.

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Anthony Holden is an award-winning journalist who has published more than 30 books, including biographies of Laurence Olivier, Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare. He has published translations of opera, ancient Greek plays and poetry. His son Ben is a writer and film producer. He was director of European Film and Television at Exclusive Media, where he helped relaunch Britain's most famous film production label, Hammer. Anthony and Ben both live in London.

Gareth Armstrong combines the careers of actor, director and voice artist. He has worked in the West End, with the RSC, and toured worldwide with solo plays of his own devising. Gareth has recorded many audiobooks, and has narrated television features and documentaries.

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio UK (October 28, 2021)
  • Runtime: 11 hours and 41 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781398514140

'A writer’s life told by a born writer – beautifully observed, brilliantly written, wonderfully evocative. It’s a story of our time – featuring some of the most remarkable characters of our time – funny, moving and telling; a roller-coaster of a good read, at times hilarious, at times heart-breaking. My book of the year.'

– Gyles Brandreth

‘Unputdownable … Everything Holden touches, whether Arsenal or Tchaikovsky, he lights up with a fresh eye and zest. I can’t think of a more enjoyable memoir, which is also a portrait of a man of remarkable talents, expressing his own brilliance with politicians in Washington, with the literati in London watering-holes, and pursuing a never-ending affair with Shakespeare.’

– Melvyn Bragg

‘An absolute page turner … A latter-day Laurence Sterne hurtling through a picaresque life of creative adventure. What is truly inspiring is the way Anthony has nourished so many amazing friendships with extraordinary people. This should be read by every young person of ambition to remind them that what lasts is the love of friends and family.’  

– Tina Brown

More books from this author: Anthony Holden

More books from this reader: Gareth Armstrong