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Chink: A biography

A Sunday Times Book of the Year.

British general and passionate Irish nationalist; revered by Auchinleck, sacked by Churchill; Hemingway’s lifelong hero and Montgomery’s villain – Chink Dorman-Smith remains a fascinating and controversial enigma.

This is the acclaimed biography of the brilliant soldier who outwitted Rommel at the First Battle of Alamein and helped turn the tide for the British army – only to fall into disgrace and obscurity. It is the larger-than-life story of the man who would continue to inspire Hemingway’s imagination, from A Moveable Feast to Across the River and into the Trees.

Lavinia Greacen vividly brings to life a man who defied convention, both in his private life and his public career, to become the most original military thinker of his time.


‘An unexpected and utter joy to read.’ - Financial Times

‘Enthralling.’ The Mail on Sunday

‘Friend of Hemingway, dandy, lover and tactician, Chink is marvellously retrieved here.’ - Sunday Times Books of the Year

‘Chink, at the heart of the international bohemian world, was a figure as incongruous as David Niven strolling into a novel by Dostoyevsky. Hemingway had a lasting admiration for his friend and repeatedly wove elements of him into his fictions over more than 30 years. But Chink’s real-life story, as told by Lavinia Greacen, is a stranger and more poignant tale than anything the novelist made of it.’ - The Times

‘This moving story of an uncompromising outsider must be one of the most interesting publishing coups of the year.’ - Sunday Independent

‘Greacen’s biography deserves wide attention. It is at once shiningly honest and unapologetically partisan; it illuminates the nature both of courage and of command. I cannot think of any account of soldiering, by a man or a woman, which more convincingly conveys its bloody allure.’ - Frederic Raphael, The Listener

‘Was Chink a military wizard who fell foul of the conservatism of ‘Eton in Uniform’? Or was he an egocentric whose skills as a tactician were outweighed by his idiosyncrasies? Whatever the answer, this is an absorbing story which tells us as much about the modern British military as it does about this ‘Chink’ in its armour.’ - Daily Mail

‘This complex man has been finely and carefully drawn by Lavinia Greacen. Her use of the family papers and her wide-ranging research have brought Chink to life.’ - Hampstead & Highgate Express

‘This book, superbly researched and crafted, is a classic tragedy, the inexorable story of a hero destroyed by his own flaws, the hubris that made him a hero. I would not know a TAC HQ or CIGS if I met one, and yet, thanks to the ease of Lavinia Greacen’s story-telling, I read this biography in almost one sitting.’ - Books Ireland

‘Lavinia Greacen’s readable and intelligent book states the case for Chink without overstating it. She is aware of his faults as well as his great gifts. The picture which emerges is a convincing one, revealing his charm and his inventive intelligence as well as his vanity.’ - Sunday Times

‘A dazzling triumph, widely and justifiably acclaimed. I know of several people who tried to get copies and were unable to do so because it had sold out. It is a superb work, both a magnificent piece of research sustained by a beautifully crafted narrative style.’ - Irish Times

‘A tragic climax, and the enthralling story of a soldier whose worst enemy was himself.’ - Mail on Sunday

‘A graceful and sympathetic biographer who plots the details of his tendentious career with skill and compassion.’ - Irish Independent

‘Fascinatingly told; one of the best biographies for years.’ - Irish Times

Buy Lavinia Greacen