Photograph: Ella Webber
Alexander Starritt was born half-Scots, half-German in 1985, and grew up in the Scottish north-east. Educated in Edinburgh and at Oxford, he translates fiction, poetry and academia from German, including Stefan Zweig's A Chess Story. He has reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement, the Spectator and the Mail on Sunday, and his short fiction has been shortlisted for the Paris Literary Prize.
His debut novel, THE BEAST, was published by Head of Zeus in 2017.
Praise for THE BEAST (2017):
'As the title suggests, the book makes no bones about its literary heritage and unashamedly tips its hat to the work of Michael Frayn as well as Waugh. Its comedy is darker than either, but arguably (Scoop, after all, was published in 1938) that bleakness reflects our darker age. Certainly, its subject more urgently demands our attention. The story begins when a subeditor on the Beast fears that two burqa-clad figures he sees standing outside the paper’s Kensington headquarters may be plotting a terror attack. In fact, the burqa wearers are two young women from Abu Dhabi trying to find the branch of Whole Foods that shares the same building as the newspaper (“this last confident stronghold of the press”), so that they could buy “a shaved pomegranate salad that Leila wanted to try”. But the Beast never discovers this harmless truth and soon England stands on the brink of civil war... What Starritt gets vividly right, in a way I think no other fiction has managed, is the editing process that is so central to the success of any popular paper – and which through techniques of presentation has far more influence on the paper’s emotional, social and political register than all its writing staff put together... As Starritt’s satire suggests, the real achievement of the popular press is to have played a part in making Britain, particularly England, the strange, febrile country we now know. And never has it played a fuller part than in these, its dying days.' Ian Jack, Guardian
'[A] raucous satire on tabloid journalism... The Beast must be one of the most deft portrayals of subbing ever to make print, and it is at its most exhilarating when it lives in the moment, when, "like the flying parts of a mechanical loom", the messy business of life is transformed into regulation tabloid tropes: everyone in the paper has to become a Tragic Schoolgirl, Dirty Doctor, or Criminal Immigrant. That this way of doing journalism so perfectly enacts the French philosopher Henri Bergson's definition of comedy as "something mechanical encrusted upon the living" helps to explain why The Beast is so funny.' TLS
'Starritt’s portrait of the inner workings of a tabloid rings horribly true, only slightly exaggerated for comic effect. In his first novel, he proves that he is not only a very funny writer, but possesses the ruthless unsentimentality of the finest satirists.' Sunday Times, Paperback Book of the Week
'[A] confident modern-day sequel to Evelyn Waugh's Scoop... Starritt, a journalist, has written a pacy satire, and as an insider's account of the mechanics of putting together a daily paper it has great "how stuff works" appeal.' Sunday Telegraph ****
'[R]eading this frenetic, comedic novel this old hack finds instant recognition in the tension, cynicism and quick-wittedness of a subs' desk... Starritt's novel thus reeks of authenticity right down to the subs with their 8.5pt, indented pars and sweaty fear and loathing. It has been described as a satire but I hesitate to use that term because The Beast never strays far from reality... Accurate, witty stuff... A brisk but cleverly constructed narrative... [Starritt] is a writer and one worth keeping an eye on.' The National
'A deft descendant of Evelyn Waugh, Jonathan Coe and Ben Hecht's The Front Page ... News hounds will recognise the world of the modern Beast, in all its blood, sweat and sporadic absurdity. Civilians will relish a caper with a serious undertow' Anne McElvoy, The Economist and BBC Radio 4 presenter
Head of Zeus
Jeremy Underwood is a long-suffering subeditor on The Daily Beast, Britain's mightiest tabloid. Returning from holiday, he notices two burqa-clad figures lurking outside the paper's Kensington offices. Two male terrorism suspects have escaped from a mosque disguised as women; recently suspicion and fear have made everyone alert. Jeremy's casual observation sets off a chain of events that spins out of control, as the great Beast feels that it is the next target of terrorism.
Alexander Starritt's darkly funny novel is a vivid anatomy of that most uncontrollable of large creatures, the British tabloid newspaper. The ferocious professionalism and manic rivalries of a newsroom have rarely been so well described. And at the heart of the newsroom is the brooding, dictatorial figure of its editor, Charles Brython, the booming voice of Middle England. His world is under threat, and he will do whatever it takes to defend it. This is a story in which comedy teeters on the edge of horror.