Alan Johnson – Nell Dunn
Milly Johnson – Chris Sedgewick
If you think political autobiographies are not for you, think again. Alan Johnson’s four volumes, all named after Beatles’ songs, are engagingly different. They vividly document his path from childhood adversity in a 1950s London slum, becoming a virtual orphan at 13, working as a postman and rising to become head of the union, then on to politics and ministerial posts. Three won major literary prizes; the latest, featuring the The Fab Four, appeared in paperback in June. He is currently working on a thriller.
With over two million books sold, Barnsley-born Milly Johnson is known as ‘The Queen of Feel-Good Fiction’. Her career as a novelist began 12 years ago with The Yorkshire Pudding Club, written while she and two friends were pregnant, and she realised she wanted to write about ‘the extraordinary that exists within ordinary, everyday life’. Her 16th novel, The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew has recently been published in paperback.
Alan Johnson was General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering Parliament as Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle in 1997. He served as Home Secretary from June 2009 to May 2010. Before that, he filled a wide variety of cabinet positions in both the Blair and Brown governments, including Health Secretary and Education Secretary. Until 20 January 2011 he was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. Alan retired as an MP before the 2017 general election.
His childhood memoir This Boy was published in 2013. It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Orwell Prize, Britain’s top political writing award. His second volume of memoirs Please Mr Postman appeared the following year and won the National Book Club award for Best Biography. The final book in his memoir trilogy, The Long and Winding Road, was published in 2016 and won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir
In September 2018 his latest book, In My Life – A Music Memoir, was launched at Studio 2, Abbey Road where the Beatles made almost all their records.
He and his wife, Carolyn, live in East Yorkshire.
Milly Johnson always wanted to be a writer, but her professional life initially took her on a different course. She started writing verses for greeting card publishers in her spare time and progressed through two rejected novels until she found her subject – the women she had worked with in a succession of jobs in mills, banks and offices, and the friendships that endure regardless of age, colour, class or creed. And the importance of Yorkshire.
She says that though the covers of her books often feature a beautiful care-free woman, inside there are deep, dark storylines. Her romantic comedies are as layered and complicated as crime novels, with plots and sub-plots that tie up neatly, as that’s what her readers expect.
Her literary inspirations are the Barnsley writer Barry Hines (A Kestrel for a Knave, filmed as Kes, and Threads) and Catherine Cookson, who was first published in her late 40s. Milly got her first publishing deal when she was forty and is now published internationally not only in English but in French, Spanish, Italian and Norwegian, with millions of copies of her books sold across the world.
Her most recent book, The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew, was published in paperback on 11thJuly 2019.
Milly lives with her partner, teenage sons, rescue cats, rabbit and dog just around the corner from her parents in the centre of Barnsley.