Giles Foden

Writer

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Giles Foden was born in 1967 and spent much of his early life in Africa. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he won the TR Henn and Harper Wood prizes in creative writing, rowed for his college, and represented the university against Oxford in pole-vaulting. He has worked as a barman, a builder, a journalist, an academic, and as a rapporteur for the European Commission. For ten years, he was an editor and writer on the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian, and his writing has since been published in Granta, Vogue, Esquire, The New York Times and Conde Nast Traveller, where he remains a contributing editor. His fiction includes THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, LADYSMITH, ZANZIBAR and TURBULENCE – works which, according to Alan Massie writing in the Scotsman, ‘establish him as the most original and interesting novelist of his generation’.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND won the Whitbread First Novel Award, a Somerset Maugham Award, a Betty Trask prize and the Winifred Holtby Memorial Award; it was made into an Oscar­winning feature film in 2006, starring Forest Whitaker, James McEvoy and Gillian Anderson. His non-fiction book, MIMI AND TOUTOU GO FORTH, which describes a bizarre naval battle on Lake Tanganyika in 1915 between British and German warships, was published to great acclaim in the autumn of 2004 and was a Radio 4 Book of the Week. Currently a professor in the creative writing department of the University of East Anglia, and an associate professor at the University of Maryland, Giles also works as a consultant for the Miles Morland Foundation, a charity that supports emergent African writers.

 

Forthcoming publication FREIGHT DOGS - WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON - SEPTEMBER 2021

1996: in a Ugandan dive bar, the ‘freight dogs’ gather. An anarchic group of mercenary pilots from Texas, Russia, Kenya and Belgium who transport weapons between warring African nations, without allegiance.

And tonight they have a new recruit – Manu, a 19-year-old cowherd fleeing Congo’s bloody war.

Taken in by this band of unlikely brothers, he’s soon seeing his vast country from above and falling in love with flying.

But no matter how fast he flies, trouble follows closely behind. And when the past erupts back into this new life, Manu is forced to leave behind African skies for the chilly embrace of northern Europe.

Will Manu be able to reinvent himself yet again? And is Belgian volcanologist Anke Desseaux the answer to his problems – or simply another one of them?

From the writer of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND comes an unforgettable story of survival – about how to live and love after trauma, set against a backdrop of world-shaking conflict.  

 

Praise for TURBULENCE - FABER & FABER - JUNE 2009

‘Each flick of the page . . . suggests the tick of a countdown. The book surges toward its end with enough surprises to grip Foden's readers and remind them that a life’s highest points are never quite as forecast.’ The New York Times Books Review 

‘Foden is a formidable storyteller. A meticulous fusion  . . . that dazzles, coming off like an exhilarating fusion of Richard Powers and John le Carré.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Foden's most compelling and affecting novel since his debut, combining fascinating research with a high narrative tension.’ Mark Lawson, The Guardian

"Remarkable . . . a fascinating multi-layered novel." Dermot Bolger, The Irish Times 

‘Rich, complex and immensely satisfying ... So convincing that it is hard not to feel that you are reading the real inside story.’ Evening Standard

‘An artfully well-orchestrated novel’ The Sunday Times

‘Splendidly tense’ Los Angeles Times 

‘The writing is so good that you don't doubt for a moment that what has been described did happen.’ The Observer

‘A page-turner that challenges the reader with ideas on every turn . . .  . another original and remarkable book.’ Scotland on Sunday 

 

Praise for THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND - FABER & FABER - JANUARY 2007

‘Audacious, shrewd and spirited.’ William Boyd, Literary Review

'A gripping tale of tropical corruption... This is a wonderful read, beautifully written, every description drenched with a sense of Africa.' Spectator

'As convincing and terrifying a portrait of a capricious tyrant as I have ever read. Foden captures with absolute fidelity the fascination of a figure like Amin.' Anthony Daniels, London Evening Standard

'Catches to perfection Idi Amin's contradictory, murderous, playful, brutal, sentimental character.' Former UK prime minister James Callaghan, Sunday Times

 

Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2009

UK: Faber; US: Knopf; German: Aufbau

In the early spring of 1944 a young weather forecaster, Henry Meadows, is summoned by his superior and told he is being posted to Scotland. The big push towards D-Day is underway, and the weather will be a vital factor in the plans of the Allied forces. But why Scotland, when Meadows' colleagues are all working on the south coast with the Americans? Meadows is told he must find and get to know a famous forecaster, Wallace Ryman, who has turned pacifist and will have nothing to do with the war effort. Ryman is known to be in possession of a theory which could have a crucial impact on the forecasting for D-Day, but which he will not impart. Meadows must ingratiate himself with Ryman, must spy on him.

Thus begins Giles Foden's ambitious new novel, in which the weather is a great unfolding drama, one which will sweep Meadows up and then hurl him down again. Will he be able to get the information his superior so urgently wants, and make the crucial contribution he dreams of making to the war? The tide of events is about to turn, and suddenly Henry Meadows is at the centre of them.

2007

UK: Faber; Dutch: Prometheus (reverted); French: l’Olivier (reverted); German Aufbau; Greek:Polis; Japanese: Shinchosha (reverte

What would it be like to become Idi Amin's personal physician? Giles Foden's best-selling thriller is the story of a young Scottish doctor drawn into the heart of the Ugandan dictator's surreal and brutal regime. Privy to Amin's thoughts and ambitions, he is both fascinated and appalled. As Uganda plunges into civil chaos he realises action is imperative - but which way should he jump?

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND was made into a feature film, starring the American actor Forest Whittaker (who won an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance) and directed by Kevin McDonald.

2003

UK: Faber; Dutch: De Bezige Bij; German: Aufbau

Nick Karolides is a marine biologist working on coral reef protection on Zanzibar, the island of slaves, sultans and spices that for centuries has signified both the exotic and the malevolent. Soon he meets Miranda Powers, an American who works in the US embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. Nick and Miranda quickly find themselves embroiled in violent events: Nick is kidnapped by Arab terrorists and Miranda lives through the savage bombing of her embassy. What connection does CIA veteran Jack Queller, and more intriguingly, Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terrorist, have with both these events? In ZANZIBAR, the prize-winning author Giles Foden has drawn on current events in order to create a jagged, apocalyptic tale of postmodern life in all its fiendish complexity and provisional morality. Written before the events of September 11th, this is a remarkably prescient novel that poses difficult questions about the new world order.

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2005

UK: Michael Joseph; US: Knopf; (Translation: Penguin)

At the start of the First World War, German warships controlled Lake Tanganyika in central Africa. In 1915 the British dispatched an unlikely convoy of two motor gunboats, which were sailed to Cape Town and thence taken by train and overland across the wilds of the Congo to the shores of the lake. The expedition was led by a remarkable eccentric named Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, who smoked a pipe and wore a skirt throughout. Spicer-Simson succeeded in sinking two small German boats. But there was a surprise in store for him, a large warship called the Graf von Gotzen that he did not know even existed.

In his first nonfiction book, the prize-winning novelist Giles Foden brings his eye for improbable stories and his vivid scene-setting to a most extraordinary tale.