Born in London in 1959, Iain Gale began writing historical fiction in 2005 after a successful career as an art critic and journalist. He has experience as a judge in prestigious art and literary prizes and served for a number of years on the visual art committee of the Scottish Arts Council. He was also instrumental in the foundation of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Iain is currently Honorary Secretary of the Scottish Committee of the Society of Authors and a member of the Friends of the Waterloo Committee and the Hougoumont Trust. In 1997 Iain was commended as Art Critic of the Year in the Bank of Scotland Press Awards. His 1990 guide to the novels of Evelyn Waugh was nominated by the late Bill Deedes in the Daily Telegraph as his book of the year. Iain’s historical fiction has been described as ‘A treat for every history buff, and a vivid picture of men at war’.
Born into a family of what he describes as ‘typical Surrey Highlanders’, son of the political cartoonist George Gale, Iain was educated at St. Paul’s School before reading Modern History at Edinburgh University. There he intended to specialise in Military History in which his interest had been fired, at an early age, by the tales of his soldier grandfather. However, after what he describes as a ‘Damascene moment’ he changed his course during his second year to History of Art, in which he graduated with an MA Honours degree in 1982. In 1982 Iain became an art expert at Christie’s the auctioneers, initially in London and then in Scotland, taking on a special responsibility for Scottish pictures, in particular the Scottish Colourists.
Having written his first book, a humorous look at the world of auctioneering, Iain decided to pursue a career as a writer and from 1984 to 1986 worked as the Company Copywriter for Laura Ashley, devising the hugely successful interior design advertising campaigns on the back of which the company was floated on the stock exchange. In the late 1980s, Iain began to write art criticism on a free-lance basis for academic art journals including Apollo, Art Review and the V&A magazine. In 1988 he returned to Christie’s in London as departmental head of the Modern British Picture department in South Kensington and remained there for two years before becoming a full time arts journalist.
In 1990 he was taken on as Art Writer by the nascent Independent newspaper and began writing art criticism and features for the paper, where he remained for another four years specialising in interviews with distinguished artists and the ‘In the Studio’ column. He was also a regular contributor to the Independent on Sunday. In 1996 he was appointed Art Critic of Scotland on Sunday, the Scotsman’s Sunday newspaper, based in Edinburgh, where he remained for thirteen years. In 1999, spotting a niche in the market, Iain founded the Scottish glossy magazine, Caledonia. Described as a cross between the Spectator and Vanity Fair, Caledonia defined the new Scotland of the early 21st century. Iain stepped down as founding editor of the magazine in 2004 to return to Art Criticism and devote more time to writing books.
From 2002 to 2012 he was Editor of Scotland in Trust, the magazine of the National Trust for Scotland and in 2012 founded The Arts Journal, of which he is Editor. Over the past twenty years he has contributed on a regular basis to numerous other publications including Country Life, Modern Painters, The Keeper, Interiors and House and Garden and for five years was the visual art correspondent for The Week.
Iain has appeared on BBCTV, notably on BBC2 in 1994 in a documentary on the work and death in combat of the artist Rex Whistler. He has also made numerous appearances on national radio, including the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, LBC radio and Radio Scotland.
Iain’s earliest book, The Flying Hammer (1985), was inspired by his time as an expert in the picture department of Christie’s the auctioneers. It was followed by Laura Ashley Style (1987), an in-depth look at the development of the company’s signature style, against the back ground of the development of interior design in Britain from the 1700s to the 1970s. In Waugh's World (1990) Iain fulfilled a long ambition to look closely at the characters, places and obsessions portrayed in the novels of Evelyn Waugh.
Sisley (1991) was the first of two monographs on French artists, the second being Corot (1994). These were followed by others on the British painters Matthew Smith (1995) and Arthur Melville , the latter being the most in-depth study of the artist to date. Other monographs have included studies of the contemporary artists Ray Richardson and Duncan Higgins.
Iain’s monumental work on Post Impressionism, published in 1999, was highly praised by the art critic Brian Sewell, while his monograph on Sir William Mactaggart (1998) was the first study of the important modern Scottish master for 20 years. The book on MacTaggart accompanied one of two exhibitions curated by Iain for the National Galleries of Scotland, the second being ‘Great Houses of Scotland’, for which a catalogue was published in 2002.
In 2006 Iain returned to his first love of military history and published the first of his historical novels with HarperCollins, following a personal recommendation from author Bernard Cornwell. Four Days in June looks at the Waterloo campaign from the viewpoints of all sides: British, French and Prussian, taking the characters of a number of real characters and fictionalising their actions and other sources. It was lauded by the press and fellow writers.
A series of three novels followed; Man Of Honour, Rules of War and Brothers in Arms, set against the background of the first half of the War of the Spanish Succession and featuring charismatic hero Lieutenant Jack Steel. In 2010 HarperCollins published Alamein in which Iain used the same treatment he had given Waterloo to produce an account of the gruelling 12 day battle which gave the allies their first victory of World War II.
In March 2011 HarperCollins published The Black Jackals, the first of a new series of historical novels set in the Second World War and following the adventures of a new hero, Lieutenant Peter Lamb of the North Kents (the Black Jackals of the title). The second book in the Lamb series, Jackals' Revenge, set against the background of the Battle of Crete in 1941, was published in March 2012. Ian has published four books in the Keane series, set in the Peninsular war and featuring the maverick exploring officer James Keane. These are Keane's Company (2013), Keane's Challenge (2014), Keane's Charge (2015) and Conspiracy (2016), all published by Heron Books.
Iain is currently a writer in residence and curator at Summerhall in Edinburgh. He has lectured on both art and military history, although seldom on both at the same time. He has appeared at a number of literary festivals including the Cambridge History Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Ashbourne Arts Festival and Wigtown Book Festival. He also regularly organises trips to the battlefield of Waterloo. Recently he took 32 front-line US Army officers from their base in Germany on a three day military intelligence exercise across the Waterloo battlefields; for which service to the US military he was awarded a Commander’s Medal of Excellence.
Iain is married to an Edinburgh GP and between them they have six children aged between 19 and 8 and an ancient black Labrador. They divide their time between Edinburgh and Fife. Iain is a keen, if erratic shot, an appalling bass player with a penchant for sixties R&B and a recently converted, if enthusiastic golfer and member of Elie Golf Club. He also accompanies the family on skiing trips to Austria. He is a supportive member of Edinburgh’s oldest private club, the aptly named New Club and collects art and militaria, in the latter case, particularly anything he can find on a muddy battlefield.