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About the book
  • Published: 28 March 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099287667
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

Alfred Hitchcock

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Peter Ackroyd turns his gimlet eye to one of the twentieth century's most revered directors.

Alfred Hitchcock was a strange child. Fat, lonely, burning with fear and ambition, his childhood was an isolated one, scented with fish from his father's shop. Afraid to leave his bedroom, he would plan great voyages, using railway timetables to plot an exact imaginary route across Europe. So how did this fearful figure become the one of the most respected film directors of the twentieth century?

As an adult, Hitch rigorously controlled the press's portrait of himself, drawing certain carefully selected childhood anecdotes into full focus and blurring all others out. In this quick-witted portrait, Ackroyd reveals something more: a lugubriously jolly man fond of practical jokes, who smashes a once-used tea cup every morning to remind himself of the frailty of life. Iconic film stars make cameo appearances, just as Hitch did in his own films. Grace Kelly, Carey Grant and James Stewart despair of his detached directing style, and, perhaps most famously of all, Tippi Hedren endures cuts and bruises from a real-life fearsome flock of birds.

Alfred Hitchcock wrests the director's chair back from the master of control and discovers what lurks just out of sight, in the corner of the shot.

  • Pub date: 28 March 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099287667
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

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Praise for Alfred Hitchcock

“Superb, insightful short life... Deft and moving”

Bee Wilson, The Guardian


Louise Jury, The Independent

“An elegant and hugely enjoyable read”

Alexander Larman, Sunday Express

“[A] nutritious, compact and superb critical biography”

Roger Lewis, Daily Mail

“Shelves of serious biographies have been written on Alfred Hitchcock, but perhaps none as pleasurable as Peter Ackroyd’s”

Kate Muir, The Times

“This is an elegantly spare and hugely readable book – which sends you straight back to the films”

Olivia Cole

“An accessible and efficient primer to [Hitchcock’s] life and work”

Peter Murphy, Irish Times

“A sound and highly readable introduction”

Kevin Jackson, Literary Review

“Ackroyd…lucidly evokes the textures of Hitchcock’s eccentric life and blends these with a confident examination of the major films in Hitchcock’s remarkable output”

Brendan Daly, Sunday Business Post

“An engaging introduction and intriguing invitation to revisit the films”

Francine Stock, Prospect

“Provides a fascinating insight into how this strange man was able to create so many enduring silver screen classics”

Choice Magazine

“A useful primer and beautifully written”


“An extremely readable and concise biography of Britain’s most famous film director”

Good Book Guide

“Short and engrossing”

Antonia Quirke, Financial Times

“Shelves of serious biographies have been written on Alfred Hitchcock, but perhaps non as pleasurable as Peter Ackroyd’s with its flowing prose and insightful appreciation.”

Kate Muir, The Times

“A well-written and eminently readable book.”

Erin Britton, Nudge

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