HUGO VICKERS Biographer & Historian
The Ultimate Deadline

Hugo Vickers has been writing obituaries for 30 years, his first one being published in The Times in October 1977. Since then he has written major obituaries for The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Independent. He is proud to have written the first ever full-page obituary by one hand - for The Independent - Sir Rex Harrison - and the first two-page obituary by one hand for the same paper - The Queen Mother. Other subjects have included major royal figures including Diana, Princess of Wales, Princess Margaret, and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester; stars such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich; and many aristocrats, courtiers, and other distinguished and sometimes eccentric figures.

Though this may sound a macabre and dry process, it is in fact a fascinating and at times entertaining business. Hugo Vickers explains how obituaries are written, gives a key to the various subtle euphemisms that are employed - 'Not perhaps the most even-tempered of men' - and the use of litotes - 'his ancestry may have given him confidence even arrogance, but it bestowed no cerebral advantage'. He gives examples of the pitfalls that can be encountered - not least when he was publicly denounced from the pulpit at the funeral of one of his subjects - and he gives examples of some of the interesting figures that he has written about.