He was born in
and grew up there. He attended Nottingham, England . Cambridge University
Following university he worked for the
CBC and, at 30, moved to the newspaper world where he worked for The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph.
He started writing non-fiction books in 1982 and fiction in 1992.
Of the Harris books I have read I enjoyed best his non-fiction work, Selling Hitler, about the fake Hitler diaries for which Stern paid about $4,000,000 over a generation ago. The book is really a non-fiction mystery. A plane carrying Hitler’s private papers disappears at the end of WW II. Decades later a reporter is given access to the diaries and Stern eagerly buys them. Harris unveils the forgery and the identity of the forger.
A profile at The Guardian states:
In the early Nineties, Harris resigned from The Observer and announced he was going to write a novel, based around the notion that Hitler and the Nazis had won the Second World War. 'It was an idea he had talked about when we were all at Cambridge,' says Mitchell. By then, Harris had already published three well-regarded works of non-fiction - an account of the fake Hitler diaries scandal at the Sunday Times, Gotcha!, about the press and the Falklands, and a biography of Bernard Ingham - but this was a very different venture. Howard admits he thought the novel a silly idea. Paxman, though, was convinced it would work. 'He's just an extremely clever, talented and funny man. I never had any doubt it would be a success.'
I remember reading Fatherland though it was before I started writing reviews. I read it swiftly drawn by a narrative of a Nazi run
Europe that seemed all too plausible. The mystery part of the book was alright but the Europe created by Harris after a Nazi victory was brilliant.
Of his subsequent works of fiction I read
Archangel which appeared to draw on Selling Hitler in that the plot involved a search for Stalin’s journal. The plot got somewhat bizarre to me as it reached a conclusion.
Of his Roman novels I have read
and Imperium. I liked them both but thought Pompeii was a better book. There are not many thrillers that feature a water engineer, Attilius. In the book he sets out to repair the great Aqua Augustus aqueduct which has failed in the vicinity of Pompeii Mount Vesuvius.
In a subsequent Guardian article he provided advice on writing including:
To these three dictums, Polonius-like, I can add a few more. Don't try to write too much in a single session. One thousand words a day is quite enough. Stop after about four or five hours. Remember that most writing is done in the subconscious ("the boys in the basement," as Stephen King calls his unseen helpers) and that inspiration is only a posh word for ideas. Pace yourself, get some recreation, avoid tiring yourself out. Cut your manuscript ruthlessly but never throw anything away: it's amazing how often a discarded scene or description, which wouldn't fit in one place, will work perfectly later. Resist the temptation to show off your research (one of Tom Stoppard's maxims is, Just because it's true doesn't mean it's interesting). Be economical: Noel Coward's definition of good writing was the art of conveying something in as few words as possible
I have not read his most recent books, The Ghost and The Fear Index, which have generated significant controversy.