Warwick Cairns Biography

Warwick Cairns

Warwick Cairns was born in 1962. He spent much of his childhood living on Europe’s biggest council-house estate, in Dagenham, Essex, before leaving for Keele University and then, later, for Yale in Connecticut, where he studied literature under the great American critic Harold Bloom.

After trying his hand at various jobs, ranging from shifting boxes in a warehouse to clerking in a high street bank to drilling wells on a Sioux Indian reservation, he settled on a career in advertising.

In his first book, About the Size of It (Pan Macmillan, 2007) he set out the way the world’s traditional weights and measures have evolved over millennia. Which, in a nutshell, is through people who can’t really be bothered to do it properly applying their hands, their feet and what he describes as ‘the principle of repeated bodges’. The result is a range of handy, conveniently-sized measures that make human sense. He retains the role of Press Officer for the British Weights & Measures Association – in which function he signed up JK Rowling, Bernard Cornwell, Jilly Cooper, George MacDonald Fraser, Conn Iggulden and Alexander McCall Smith.

In his second book, How To Live Dangerously (PanMacmillan, 2008) he looked at why we’re all so timid nowadays, and came up with the much-quoted statistic that Steven Pinker describes thus: “The writer Warwick Cairns calculated that if you wanted your child to be kidnapped and held overnight be a stranger, you'd have to leave the child outside and unattended for 750,000 years.” The book was a plea to take more risks in life. Shortly after it was published he fell off of a skateboard and broke his pelvis.

His third book, In Praise of Savagery (HarperCollins/The Friday Project, 2010) is the story of his visit to a mud hut in Africa to stay with the legendary explorer Wilfred Thesiger, and a re-telling of Thesiger’s first expedition in the 1930s.

Warwick Cairns lives in Windsor with his wife, two daughters and two dogs.

How I Found the Agency

I'd had a change of direction. I read far more fiction than nonfiction in my spare time, but what I'd actually written so far was three nonfiction books. Two were what you'd class as 'popular science' and the other was quirky travel book. I wanted to try my hand at a novel, and so I sat down and wrote an old-style adventure novel in the RL Stevenson/John Buchan tradition. When I finished the first draft I needed someone to represent me who 'got' what I'd done. I asked people in the business, and my first publisher at HarperCollins suggested the Andrew Lownie agency. I got in touch, and It turned out that we were a perfect fit for each other.

Author's Books