Willie Donaldson, rake and satirist
February 20, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

'If you value nothing, then nothing you value can be taken from you.' William Donaldson, the author of the infamous Henry Root Letters led a life more colourful than any of his literary inventions.

Coming from a wealthy background, Donaldson was at first known as being the first person to bring Bob Dylan to the UK. After many years spent losing money, he eventually found fame with the Henry Root letters, a hilarious and revealing insight into Britain at the end of the seventies (a review.) Donaldson again managed to lose the money gained by success, becoming addicted to crack cocaine in his sixties. He died in 2005, his last book being a kind of "punk version of Debrett’s", and a biography charting his extraordinary life is now available. Lastly, three obituaries from the The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph make for very good reading.
posted by ob (12 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The biography is used on the US Amazon. I just ordered my copy for $3!

Henry Root is one of my idols.

Weird that there's two spoofing threads on the blue today.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:41 AM on February 20, 2009

2005 - On June 22, 2005, he was survived by his third wife Cherry Hatrick.

Wow. Its like he married a Bond girl or something.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:47 AM on February 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I was fascinated by Henry Root as a child, and I always wondered who he actually was and why he did what he did. Haven't really thought about it since, so this is a nice post. And I am buying that bio!
posted by fire&wings at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2009

Funny, I was thinking of the Henry Root letters just a few days ago. I remember reading the books (wasn't there a sequel too?) in the early '80s. Great find too.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2009

My god. All I want when I die is a British obituary.
posted by sixswitch at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2009

The last thing that I wanted to add but I couldn't find a link that addressed this matter specifically, is that there's a suggestion that the Carly Simon song "You're So Vain" might concern him (he left he for someone else as she was preparing for their wedding.) The Telegraph and the Times obit reference that.
posted by ob at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2009

Always wondered if he nicked the Henry Root thing from Lazlo Toth
posted by IndigoJones at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2009

On June 22, 2005, he was survived by his third wife Cherry Hatrick.

Heh. I see what he did there.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2009

Always wondered if he nicked the Henry Root thing from Lazlo Toth.

posted by Faze at 4:10 PM on February 20, 2009

Wow. Its like he married a Bond girl or something.

His wives (and his lovers) all looked like Bond girls, though there was nothing he liked better than being humilated by a dirty crack whore while the Bond girls sat at home.

The biography is all kinds of awesome. I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2009

I don't know enough about Henry Root to know how he was inspire to write then, but there's quite a history of this, predating Toth, you can go back quite a ways.

I wrote this over on the other spoofing thread reference above:

Alexander Pope, John Locke, Don Novello (aka Lazlo Toth, aka Fr. Guido Sarducci), Jonathan Swift, Ted L. Nancy, Kembrew McLeod, Paul Rosa, Hans Christian Andersen, The Yes Men, Benjamin Franklin, and EJ Pitman to name a few. This site is not a new idea, but little on the internet ever is.

Don Novello probably made it most famous with "The Lazlo Letters," but like I wrote above it's been going on quite a while, and won't stop any time soon. Search "spoof letters" in google (or heck, I think some have even been covered here), and you'll find a lot of magazine writers have done this. Heck, there's a series of letters to serial killers from a fake little kid named Billy.

posted by cjorgensen at 7:33 PM on February 20, 2009

I actually haven't read the biography or any of his other books (I will!) I can, however, quote verbatim excerpts from the letters. My dad introduced them to me when I was a kid (!) and I've read them through a few times since then, always with much amusement.
posted by ob at 3:00 PM on February 21, 2009

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