"If you know somebody is going to be awfully annoyed by something you write, that's obviously very satisfying, and if they howl with rage or cry, that's honey." -- A. N. Wilson
Andrew Norman Wilson (born 27 October 1950), is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer. In 2006, he was the victim of a notable literary hoax played by Bevis Hillier.
"I should prefer to have a politician who regularly went to a massage parlour than one who promised a laptop computer for every teacher.""The fact that logic cannot satisfy us awakens an almost insatiable hunger for the irrational."
A. N. Wilson was educated at Rugby School and New College, Oxford. Destined originally for ordination in the Church of England, Wilson entered St Stephen's House, the High Church theological hall at Oxford, but left at the end of his first year. In the late 1980s he publicly stated that he was an atheist, and published a pamphlet Against Religion in the Chatto & Windus CounterBlasts series; however, religious and ecclesiological themes continue to inform his work. In April 2009 he published an article in the Daily Mail affirming his rediscovery of faith, attacking at the same time both academic and media atheists.
His particular slant on biography, and to some extent his take on the Victorian era topics he has covered in God's Funeral and The Victorians, can be traced to this religious ambivalence. His books on Leo Tolstoy (Whitbread Award for best biography of 1988), C. S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and Jesus Christ are all simultaneously sympathetic to and critical of religious belief.
Wilson has a reputation, gained early in his career, of being a 'Young Fogey'. He holds controversial views and presents them to entertaining effect, for example in repeated appearances on BBC Radio 4 Any Questions.
Wilson has been occasionally criticised for his prose style. Nevertheless, his 2007 novel Winnie and Wolf was longlisted for the Man Booker prize. His non-fiction has been widely praised. Kathryn Hughes described his 2002 book The Victorians as "a magnificent achievement: plucky, engaged and full of awe at the way we continue to live out its inheritance today".. He lives in London.
In August 2006 Wilson's biography of Sir John Betjeman was published. It was then discovered that he had been the victim of a hoax and had included a letter (to Anglo-Irish writer, Honor Tracy) which purported to be by Betjeman detailing a previously unknown love affair, but which he acknowledged to be a fiction, when it was pointed out that it contained an acrostic spelling out an insulting message to him.The letter was sent to Wilson by "Eve de Harben", who then wrote to a journalist to reveal the hoax. The acrostic spelt out "AN Wilson is a shit" and "Eve de Harben" is an anagram of "Ever been had". Bevis Hillier, Wilson's arch rival and Betjeman's authorised biographer, was an immediate suspect but initially denied all knowledge. A week after the hoax was publicised, however, Hillier admitted responsibility, stating that "When a newspaper started billing Wilson's book as 'the big one', it was just too much."
Wilson later claimed that he has struck back with a hidden message of his own in a reprinting of the book. That has yet to be discovered.