Me: the authorised biography, By Byron Rogers

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The Independent Culture

Why Me? Who else is the author of an autobiography going to write about? But as the extract printed recently in The Independent revealed, nearly three decades ago there was an imposter who schmoozed around thé dansants pretending to be Byron Rogers, colour-supplement journalist.

Having spent the night with ladies of a certain age, this Don Juan (as any womaniser trading under the name "Byron" can truly be described) would declare he simply must dash, on account of being a globe-trotting hack. Rogers doesn't mention it, but the same thing happened to Graham Greene: the novelist wrote a piece about being dogged by an imposter so convincing that Greene began to wonder which was the real one.

Anyway, this is the real Byron Rogers, chronicler of curiosities and author of acclaimed books on JL Carr and RS Thomas. He has long been the master of extracting the quirkiest of quotes and the occasional line which, on reflection, one would have rephrased slightly. I speak from experience, as will Prince Charles, for whom Rogers was briefly selected as a speechwriter; if HRH has Me read to him by the Goodnight-Storyteller-of-the-Bedchamber, he will wish that he had buttoned his Hanoverian lip.

Interior designer David Hicks asked Rogers to write his biography but, when he saw what his festoons of spoken words looked like written down ("I'm exited by tomorrow and I did love yesterday but you have to work at today") - bang went that invitation.

Instead, Rogers has produced one of the most delightful books crafted by an author for whom English is not the first language. Until the age of five, young Byron was a Welsh monoglot.

His father, who spoke English but not fluently, was very wary of Englishmen, whom he could detect from a distance because of their big feet. Rather than his voice, it was his great-grandfather's fart which was particularly voluble – from the distance of a whole field.

Fascinating and affectionate about relatives and neighbours, Rogers is more satirical about his school, in particular the gym teacher with the short shorts and a preoccupation with pupils' underpants. He has a lot of fun with his prolific years on a Sheffield paper and then the lean times on The Times, which spiked his copy like a hedgehog rolling in leaves.

Snippets of Rogers's interviewees include: the retired hangman who kept a real gallows in his cellar, just in case; the siblings who hadn't known before the interview that their mother was the mistress of notorious murderer Dr Crippen; the 70-year-old pilot who took him up in the Kaiser's last airworthy bomber. Rogers is the first person since the Middle Ages to buy a longbow on expenses and the dustjacket shows him tugging back its mighty string.

Incidentally, there is another – genuine - Byron Rogers, a gay porn star who presumably doesn't try to seduce victims by pretending to be a straight Welsh-born writer. Like Rogers, he must have another string to his bow.

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