The Hearst Big Book Awards: the bi­ogra­phies’ short­list as cho­sen by Esquire edi­tors

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Alec Baldwin (Harper)

In Jan­uary, Esquire’s pub­lisher Hearst UK launched its Big Book Awards: a new ini­tia­tive to cel­e­brate the phe­nom­e­nal qual­ity and di­ver­sity of the book pub­lish­ing in­dus­try and en­sure our au­di­ence finds the best reads out there (pre­sent com­pany ex­cepted, of course). Each of the par­tic­i­pat­ing magazine ti­tles has a cat­e­gory to over­see, with Esquire’s al­lot­ted genre be­ing bi­ogra­phies, which we were not sorry about in the slight­est. We were even less sorry when the en­tries had been whit­tled down to a short­list of three fan­tas­tic books that per­fectly em­body the va­ri­ety and plea­sure of the bi­og­ra­phy form, as well as the ways in which it can be stretched and ex­plored. The fi­nal judg­ing will be made by a reader panel — and if you are on it, thank you for your ser­vice — in con­junc­tion with mem­bers of the Esquire ed­i­to­rial team: ed­i­tor-in-chief Alex Bilmes, fea­tures di­rec­tor Mi­randa Collinge and con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor Tom Parker Bowles. The over­all win­ner will be an­nounced later in the year, but here’s a run-down of the short­list, all of which are very much worth your while. That the ti­tle of Baldwin’s bi­og­ra­phy should come from a bawdy ac­tors’ joke — told to him by Michael Gam­bon, no less — gives some in­sight into the kind of ir­rev­er­ent, en­gag­ing book the Amer­i­can star has writ­ten. Given that Baldwin and his four broth­ers would be­come a smoul­der­ing act­ing dy­nasty in the Eight­ies and Nineties, it’s ed­i­fy­ing to learn that they (and two non­act­ing sis­ters) started out in a mod­est Catholic house­hold in Mas­s­ape­qua, New York, and that his suc­cess has been the re­sult of con­sid­er­able graft. From a slot on soap Knots Land­ing to the first per­son to play Jack Ryan on film in The Hunt for Red Oc­to­ber, Baldwin’s rise was rapid — as was his de­scent, fu­elled by his rep for drink and drug-fu­elled chaos and the wan­ing favour of the stu­dio sys­tem. Oh, and did we men­tion his tem­pes­tu­ous mar­riage to Kim Basinger? Baldwin is frank and funny about his lively ca­reer in act­ing, and per­haps go­ing for­ward, in pol­i­tics; and as much as he gushes about thesps he’s known, he’s not afraid to chas­tise (he de­scribes one lawyer he dealt with as “one of the most con­temptible peo­ple I have ever en­coun­tered”), nor to dis­cuss the in­se­cu­rity and hu­mil­i­a­tion that are in­her­ent in his trade.

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