A few weeks ago I read a book that had been nominated for the Samuel Johnson prize (Empires of the Dead). The Pike was the winner of that award. And it’s not hard to see why. I must admit I had never heard of d’Annunzio before. But what a life! He was a character who truly was something you just couldn’t make up. Hughes-Hallett’s book is an absolute masterpiece in biography. Not stuffy and staid and predictable but creative and playful and hard to pin down – as shapeshifting as its subject. Marvellous.