William Horwood

William Horwood portrait image to appear alongside the William Horwood biography.

William Horwood is an English author born in Oxford on the 12th of May 1944. He was brought up on the south-east coast of England and attended Bristol University where he graduated with a degree in Geography. The works for which he is best known are the best-selling Duncton Mole trilogies and the sequels to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

Horwood worked as a teacher, journalist and news reporter during a varied career before the publication of Duncton Wood in 1980. The book became an international bestseller and he has not looked back since. The Duncton and Willows books are loved by both children and adults alike and draw favourable comparisons with Richard Adam's Watership Down.

I was a fan from the age of eight and I discovered them because my mum read them to me. She was brought up in Oxford and Kenneth Graham was very much an Oxford person so there was that connection and I always loved the stories, his ideas and so on.
William Horwood on The Wind in The Willows during an interview with Harper Collins.

The Duncton books consisted of two trilogies, The Duncton Chronicles and The Book of Silence, and where written between 1980 and 1993. The books follow the magical and spiritual journeys of a community of moles belonging to the Duncton Wood system.

But then again when I finished the first Duncton book I swore I’d never write another Duncton book again and now there are five more.
William Horwood interview with Harper Collins.

William Horwood's other notable works include The Stonor Eagles, Callanish and Skallagrigg.

WilliamHorwood.net is the most comprehensive website on William Horwood and his work - the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a great deal more information on the author.

The Duncton Chronicles - inspiration and acknowledgement

The Boy with No Shoes

The Boy With No Shoes is the deeply moving memoir of author William Horwood. It is the story of an extraordinary journey from a past too painful to imagine to a future every child deserves.

Based on best-selling novelist William Horwood’s own heartbreaking boyhood in south-east England after the Second World War, this is a triumphant story of a boy’s struggle with early trauma and his remarkable journey into adulthood. Using all the skills the went into the creation of his modern classics Duncton Wood, Skallagrigg and The Willows in Winter, Horwood has painted an unforgettable picture of childhood suffering, personal survival and the power of faith and courage to turn darkness into light.

The title of the book comes from a moment in the author’s childhood when his real father gave him a pair of shoes, the only present he had ever, until that point, received. His cruel half brother and cousin took and hid away the shoes - it was an event that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Before the book has even started, Horwood says that he would exchange the enormous success of his later novels to have known that identity of his real father and to have ‘held his hand, if only for a moment’.

The cruelty and neglect that Horwood suffered during childhood was marked, leading to depression and a phobia of rain. The story shows how important friends and family are in the shaping of a youngster’s life. Mr & Mr Bubbles, Arthur Sanders, Mr Wharton and Granny are names that will never be forgotten.

The window was a picture of mountains, peaks and valleys, shadowed cliffs and patches of green on which the sun was rising fast. They were so high I thought it would take a lifetime to reach the top of them. Stoning and the waves on the shingle beach seemed far away.
‘Those mountains are where Edmund Hilary practised before he went to climb Everest,’ said Uncle Max. ‘That big one is called Snowdon and all together they’re called Snowdonia.’

From: The Boy With No Shoes by William Horwood

The book’s ending is wonderful, if it wasn’t true then it would have to be classed as far-fetched, an uplifting experience that will stay with the reader forever.

The only shame is that there are not more references to the inspirations that lead to the writing of the beautiful Duncton Chronicles. Luckily, a joyous trip to Snowdonia, the learning of flowers names on the dunes near his coastal town provides an insight into this.

The sun shone on the white cliffs of the East Kent coast and all along my shingly shore. I stood and stared and thought a long, long time. I remembered a boy running from a man with shears, I remembered a locked gate, I remembered a hand holding mine in the time long ago; and a pair of shoes that I lost and couldn’t find.

From: The Boy With No Shoes by William Horwood

William Horwood books reviewed

Critical acclaim

"An absolute spell-binder, by Lord of the Rings out of Watership Down. I found it enchanting, compulsive reading ... I am still haunted by its beauty" Magnus Magnusson

"His mole empire is a delight, his romantic tale full of adventure, suspense, battle and searchings" Publishers Weekly

"Altogether, Duncton Wood is a breathtaking achievement" Washington Post