John George Pearson was born in Epsom on October 5th, 1930. He was educated at King's College School in Wimbledon and went on to read history at Peterhouse, Cambridge, graduating with a double first.
After university, he worked at The Economist Intelligence Unit, the BBC and the Sunday Times. At the Sunday Times, he worked alongside Ian Fleming writing the Atticus column. He would go on to write the first biography of Fleming, The Life of Ian Fleming (1966, Cape London). You can find an interview with David Leigh from Mi6 (the James Bond website) here.
His breakthrough came with his 1962 thriller Gone to Timbuctoo (1962, Collins), which won the Authors' Club First Novel Award. Storm Jameson praised his first novel as "an unusually good first novel, an exciting story, and a splendid setting in French West Africa. The writing is sharp and witty." Malcolm Muggeridge said, "This is an exceptionally brilliant first novel - exciting, wryly funny and perceptive."
He was then commissioned by Donald Campbell to chronicle his successful attempt on the Land Speed Record in 1964 in Bluebird, resulting in the book Bluebird and the Dead Lake (1964, Collins).
Soon after his thirty-seventh birthday, he was approached by Ronald and Reginald Kray to write their biography prior to their arrests. The best-selling The Profession of Violence (1972, Weidenfeld and Nicolson) became the most popular book in H.M.’s prisons after the Bible. Two further books about Ronnie and Reggie followed: The Cult of Violence (2001, Orion Books) and Notorious (Arrow, 2011). If you want to do some further reading about John and The Krays, you can read John's blog entry for killerreads.com here.
In 2013, ITV Studios bought the rights to his book about the Clermont Club, The Gamblers (2005, Century). They made the TV series Lucan starring Rory Kinnear and Christopher Eccleston as Lord Lucan and John Aspinall. Legend was released in 2015, starring Tom Hardy as both Ronnie and Reggie and based upon the Profession of Violence.
He has also written biographies on Winston Churchill and his immediate family, the Royal House of Windsor, Edward VII, the Spencer Family, the Getty Family, the Sitwells and Barbara Cartland.
John has three children from his first marriage: Mark, Julia and Tom. He also has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. John was happily married to Lynette Dundas from 1980 until Lynette's death in 2019.