I am the British author of the acclaimed biographical Tolkien and the Great War, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Scholarship 2004, and was Fellow in Humanistic Studies for 2015–16 at the Black Mountain Institute, University of Las Vegas, Nevad. Other writings include the definitive study of Tolkien's undergraduate life, Tolkien at Exeter College, nominated for the same award in 2015.
I speak regularly on Tolkien and related topics, in person and on air; and I have taught full-length and short courses on Tolkien for Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, for UNLV, and online for the Mythgard Institute at Signum University. If you want to contact me, or explore what I've written, please see the links above. You can also follow my blog, and keep up to date with what I'm doing via Facebook and Twitter.
With more than 2½ decades in journalism, I’ve interviewed major figures including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner and Turner Prize artist Elizabeth Price. For The Times, I’ve previewed the Magical Books exhibition at the Bodleian Library, featuring the work of Garner as well as Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman. For The Daily Beast, I’ve reviewed Tolkien’s long-awaited The Fall of Arthur, interviewed Susan Cooper, and, in a long-form essay, meditated on the coincidental deaths of President Kennedy, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley. For The Guardian I’ve reviewed Prajwal Parajuly’s groundbreaking short story collection The Gurkha’s Daughter and previewed Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf.
I’ve also written book reviews in recent years for The Daily Beast, The Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, The London Evening Standard, The Times Literary Supplement and others.
As a freelance writer, researcher and reader I’m particularly interested in how personal lives intersect with the big shocks and surges in history – one of the threads in Tolkien and the Great War. The challenge of unearthing the past is a major spur. I want to discover not just the facts, but how it felt to be in that place and time, and how the background of influences and events shaped character and creativity.
I read widely, with particular interests in literary fiction, science fiction and fantasy, history, biography, myth and legend, and words and names; and broader curiosity about earth sciences, archaeology, exploration, space, rock and pop, art, and much else.
I studied English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and trained as a journalist, working for five years in local London newspapers and for thirteen years on the London Evening Standard. Latterly I have combined freelance writing and editing with my other activities as public speaker and teacher.