The Fatal Englishman by Sebastian Faulks
A curious book from the pen of Sebastian Faulks, so well known for the engaging First World War story Birdsong, but a worthwhile read, nevertheless.
The Fatal Englishman is a series of three mini-biographies based on the short lives of three Englishmen who, in their own fields, showed outstanding talent and commitment. Christopher Wood (artist), Richard Hillary (WW2 fighter pilot) and Jeremy Woolfenden (journalist and spy) all achieved outstanding success in their own fields, but their lives were dogged by fatal flaws that would ultimately take them to an early grave.
Why these three have been juxtaposed in the same volume remains a mystery. There is no evident connection to link them in anyway, other than the fact that they all lived in the early part of the 20th century, were all possessed of outstanding talents, and all met an early and tragic end because of weaknesses in their own characters. Faulks clearly believes there is a close connection between exceptional talent and a propensity towards self-destruction. We have seen this in so many gifted people in the past. But with these three case studies, there seems to be a precipitous inclination in some to hurl themselves off the cliff of life, even before they have fully matured in their own fields.