When you are considering buying a book, are you one of those people that always takes it off the shelf and reads the first paragraph to get an inkling as to whether you'll like it or not? I certainly am - and as a writer, I most certainly like to write an opening that will give browsers that same kind of inkling. So, as a celebration of the first paragraph and to celebrate writing 20 books and 20 first paragraphs, here are my opening ones from ten of my biographies...
It’s twenty past three in the morning, and Kylie Minogue is crying. She is tired. And all she wants to do is go to bed and sleep. She tried earlier, about an hour or so before but her mind was racing. Now she’s up, out of bed and in the kitchen of the pad she once shared with a girlfriend, not far from Parlophone, the record label she is currently signed to. The same one the Beatles made so famous. She flicks through the newspaper on the table until she calms down and can go back to bed.
Backstage at the Dorothy Chandlier Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, March 1996, Winona Ryder is still shaking from her walk along the red carpet near where the crowds have been gathering since dawn for a place close to their idols on the most important date of Hollywood’s glamorous calendar. For the last hour or so, the stars have been arriving for the 69th Annual Academy Awards ceremony. Goldie Hawn had told her how to handle that sort of crowd, ‘Turn your head and smile, but don’t stop.’
There are times in everybody’s life when, suddenly and inexplicably,everything seems to go wrong. As Demi Moore neared her thirty-sixth birthday, she was closer to that state than she had ever felt before. She kept on going, simply because she didn’t know what else to do. But other people might have preferred to have a breakdown.
Saturday, 22 January 2005 was Christian Slater’s last night as Randle P McMurphy. It was the night that followed a supposed (and later denied) knife attack on Christian outside the stage door and was a typically cold winter’s day in London. Although by evening the temperature had dropped below zero, the chill didn’t stop anyone from turning out to see Christian’s final performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Gielgud Theatre in the heart of London’s West End.
Fearne Marie Cotton was fifteen years old. She had just won an audition to be a presenter for the Disney Channel in a national search for talent. Not that she had any intention of becoming a presenter; she had always had her mind set on being an actress. And that, to all intents and purposes, is the role she thought she was auditioning for. It had been her dream for the last ten years, ever since she started taking drama and ballet lessons, in and out of school.
Ray Winstone is gutted. It was 1 July 2006, the day England blew their chance to win the World Cup, and, like every other supporter, he couldn’t get over how on earth they had been knocked out of the most important football competition of all. Was it really possible that England, the favourite team to win in many people’s eyes, had just lost out to Portugal in the quarter-finals with a 3–1 defeat in a simple penalty shootout? It seemed it was.
David Tennant is heartbroken. It was Sunday, 15 July 2007, and he was heartbroken. He had just watched his mother, Helen MacDonald, pass away from cancer of the colon after five years of battling the terminal illness. For an entire week, work on the Doctor Who Christmas episode had been suspended while he returned to his native Scotland to be with his family and to attend his mother’s funeral in Paisley, Renfrewshire.
Davina McCall was 15 years old when she turned up at school wearing black leather trousers and a T-shirt ripped across the waist. She had dyed her hair aubergine and was wearing Gothic make-up. It was ‘mufti day’ at Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith, West London, and, while most girls came dressed like Bananarama wannabes in ra-ra skirts and legwarmers, Davina went punk.
Benedict Cumberbatch is about to be executed. Kneeling on the ground with a duvet over his head and his hands tied with shoelaces, the actor is now in the classic execution position as he awaits the gunshot that will end his life. It would take Benedict another five years before he could recount the story of that dreadful night when three gunmen took him hostage.
Outside the home of his publicist one cool Sunday evening, in February 1997, Johnny Depp is on his best behaviour. He looks like a kid dressed up to meet his girlfriend’s parents. A dark blue sports coat, grey polo shirt, tan pin-striped trousers, and black lace-up shoes. His famously long, tousled hair has been shorn into a Fifties-style buzz cut and he is all charm.