Public Activities

HIDEOUS ABSINTHE is published in the US by the University of Winconsin Press at $24.95. 
ISBN 0 299 20000 0

Hideous Absinthe is published in the UK by I. B. Tauris at £18.95.   It is now avaialble as a paperback from I.B.Tauris in the UK and Pan Macmillan in the US.

I was interviewed on the history of absinthe for a BBC Radio 4 programme Absinthe Makes the Art Grow Fonder.  Here is a link to it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036w39g

In one century absinthe was transformed from the muse
of artists, hymned by poets, the drink of the middle class,
to become the queen of poisons which was responsible for
all the ills of industrialisation and for France’s near defeat
in the first weeks of World War One.

Jad Adams looks at the myths of absinthe and examines its
influence on the artistic movements of the nineteenth
century. He covers Degas and Picasso who all painted
absinthe drinkers in pictures that are now considered
masterpieces but were execrated at the time. He examines
the mystery of van Gogh’s absinthe addiction and asks
whether absinthe truly contributed to the poetic vision of
Verlaine, Rimbaud and many unjustly neglected more
minor writers.

With Geraldine Cox at the Kirkdale Bookshop at an event to launch the paperback Hideous Absinthe

The book looks at absinthe’s contribution to the hedonistic
culture of the French Second Empire and to Toulouse-
Lautrec’s Paris of the 1890s. It gives a sceptical
examination of the agitation against absinthe in the bizarre
world of the French temperance movement where wine
was not considered to be alcohol and drunks were referred
to as absintheurs even if they never drank it.

The book details the outraged English reaction to absinthe
in the context of resistance to French art. Absinthe was
seen as a foreign poison undermining the national resolve
just as the decadence of Oscar Wilde and his circle was
undermining national culture at a time when war with
France was thought to be inevitable.

It comes up to date via the thrill-seeking American
absinthe drinkers in the twentieth century, from
Hemingway to the backpackers of Prague. It ends with
the rediscovery of absinthe in England’s club culture of
the twenty-first century.
Hideous Absinthe boldly combines the art, literature,
science and social history of the nineteenth century to
produce a history of the drink which came to symbolise the
high points of art and the depths of degeneration.

HIDEOUS ABSINTHE was published in paperback in the UK by I.B.Tauris in April 2008 and in the US by Pan Macmillan in May.  Here is a link to Jad talking about the book: http://meettheauthor.co.uk/bookbites/1598.html

Reviewers’ comments

 'An extraordianry polymath[Adams] is a master of a classically lucid style enlivened by dashes of the colloquial and by entertaining detail...Hideous Absinthe is a model of how to convey the exhilaration of an exciting subject without getting all melodramatic...a most beguiling book’. – The Spectator

 'Critic's choice' - Daily Mail

In this entertaining history Jad Adams traces the emerald drink’s astonishing popularity…a diligent social historian’  - The Observer

‘Considering myself a bit of an expert, I was expecting when I opened Jad Adams’ book, to read a lot of stuff I already knew…how much more I had to learn.  Adams, who has previously written a terrific biography of the little-known decadent poet Ernest Dowson, is clearly the man for the job.  He has a real feel for the period and there is a wealth of detail and insight here.’ – Tom Hodgkinson, The Guardian

'Well researched, often poignant, and always fascinating biography of a subject whose history, rather like the liqueur itself when added to seven parts water, has often been clouded and opaque.' - The Lancet

'Hideous Absinthe is a careful and considered account of a drink whose reputation has always exceeded its consumption...even specialists will learn something from this balanced and informative account.' - New England Journal of Medicine

 ‘Jad Adams makes an interesting tale out of this demonised drink.’ – Sunday Telegraph

Coverage in the Times, Sunday Times and Independent

'Marvellously entertaining' - New York Press

'This book is as titillating as it is sobering.' - New York Times

Publicity has included broadcasting on United States National Public Radio All Things Considered programme. To hear, follow the link www.npr.org/programs/atc/   Also appearance on Australian Radio National’s arts programme, The Deep End
 UK promotion of the book has included a lecture by Jad Adams on Absinthe in Impressionist Art at the Institute Français and an appearance by Jad on BBC Radio 4’s series Prisoners of Albion about Verlaine and Rimbaud in London.

Jad Adams in Naples, 2006


Pankhurst – A Biography (2003 Haus Publishing)


KIPLING was officially launched on Friday 17 March 2006 with a talk by Jad Adams titled 'Must We Burn Kipling?' hosted by the Birkbeck College Hisotry Society at the University of London, Birkbeck College.

Published by Haus Publishing.  Jad Adams appeared on Radio 4's 'Today' programme  on the 70th anniversary of Kipling's death on January 18 2006

'Adams' chronicle is an important study of one of England's literary heroes.  He tried to overturn preconceptions that the reader may hold about Kipling and the common perception of him as imperialist, misogynist and racist.'                                                          - FINANCIAL TIMES

'an enjoyably confrontational biography.  Adams identifies Kipling's self-deception as mirrored in the self-deception of the empire whose values he promoted in life and literature.'                           - THE TIMES

'In this intelligent, short biography...Jad Adams provides a fair and sympathetic account of the man behind the work.'                   - MAIL ON SUNDAY

Rudyard Kipling was the greatest writer in a Britain that ruled the largest empire the world has known, yet he was always a controversial figure, as deeply hated as he was loved.  This accessible biography aims at an understanding of the man behind the image and gives an explanation of his enduring popularity.

 Kipling was one of the finest writers for children, yet his own childhood was scarred by abuse and two of his children died tragically

He was a compulsively secretive individual: family quarrels and the mental illness of his sister and wife cursed his middle years; and in old age simplistic political views, crudely expressed, diminished his standing.

He was castigated as a misogynist, though few writers of either sex have written so warmly about middle-aged women.   He was accused of racism, though no other artist wrote with such intimacy of native life.  

This new biography sheds light on the confused sexuality of a writer who adored men and was attracted to older or masculine women;  and places him in context not just as an imperialist but as a sensitive artist of his time.   

The paperback of Kipling was released in 2012 by Haus Publishing  


Madder Music, Stronger Wine: The Life of Ernest Dowson (2000,I.B.Tauris) 

Reviewers' Comments:

‘Adams is an admirably sympathetic but honest biographer’ - THE TIMES

‘Exemplary professionalism and dedication’ – THE GUARDIAN

‘well researched, well written and unusually well-written…the approach is exemplary: neither censorious nor adulatory.  He makes excellent use of sources and is discerning as to whom and what to believe.  He has a bedrock common sense that enables him to portray Dowson and his decadent friends with a pinch of salt.  Yet he also has a keen sympathy and understanding for the man and his milieu.’  - LOS ANGELES TIMES

‘Adams’ artful, assured biography is a moving evocation’NEW YORK TIMES

‘a shrewd, affectionate and readable biography…Adams’ handling of Dowson’s ruling obsession is deft, tender and never prurient.  He provides fascinating details of the sexual subcultures of Victorian Soho’ - THE INDEPENDENT

‘well-written and perceptive…detailed, painstaking and balanced’  YORKSHIRE POST

‘in his short life he sampled every form of good and evil; and in Jad Adams he has found his ideal biographer: Adams has read everything, is never censorious... he has written a book that is full of alcohol, art and unrestrained sexual intercourse…Adams successfully transcends the genre.’ - THE DAILY TELEGRAPH


I spoke at the re-dedication ceremony for Ernest Dowson's grave at Ladywell Cemetary, which has been restored by public subscription. I also spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about Dowson on the same day. 

Like all those pursuing fame in the 21st century, Dowson now has his own website www.ernestdowson.com, and his own Facebook page, with many friends. The subscription and re-dedication were organised by Philip Walker.

Dynasty: The Nehru-Gandhi Story (with Phillip Whitehead 1997 Penguin)

Tony Benn - A Biography (1992 Macmillan)

Reviewers’ remarks on Adams’ Tony Benn:

‘Told with considerable grace and style…candour and warmth of narrative’ – SUNDAY TIMES

‘Perceptive…extremely accurate…writes in a style that makes a reader wish to read on.’ - THE SCOTSMAN

‘An enjoyable read’ – NEW STATESMAN

‘Fascinating reading’ – DAILY EXPRESS

‘Benn’s character shines through this fat but very readable biography’


‘Considerable narrative skill’ – SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘Extremely well researched and documented’ - GUARDIAN

The HIV Myth (1989 Macmillan in UK and St Martin's Press in USThe HIV Myth (1989 Macmillan in UK and St Martin's Press in US

Critical comments on Jad Adams’ first major book, based on research done for his award-winning programme AIDS – The Unheard Voices
‘a powerfully human story…passionate and abrasive’ – Guardian 

‘AIDS touches a special nerve, which seems to bring out the very worst in scientific and religious communities.  Ambition, greed, hatred, cruelty and fear are the driving forces portrayed in a deeply moving account of the AIDS saga…the author writes passionately and his humanity pervades every page.’ – Observer 

‘a fascinating and chilling book’ – Sunday Times
‘There is a sad dearth of full-blooded acrimonious scientific controversies – so this book is particularly welcome.’ – Sunday Telegraph
‘Meticulously researched…Named scientists are the butt of Adams’ invective as he draws attention to their abandonment of the scientific approach, acquisition of vested interests in the virus they champion and use of steam-roller tactics to silence any opposition…Adams has written a highly provocative but important book on a huge medical problem.  It deserves to be read.’ – Nature
‘…[a] spirited attack  on received wisdom…does an excellent job summarising doubts about AIDS/HIV.’  - Lancet
‘a flat earth society manifesto’ – Independent

‘Rarely has such a deadly book been published’ – New Scientist

Double Indemnity - Murder for Insurance (1984 Headline)


Contributor to New Dictionary of National Biography on left-wing and radical characters including Tony Benn, Philip Whitehead, Tony Banks, Jo Richardson, Joan Maynard, Ioan Lestor and Maurice Ludmer.

A number of minor publications including three books of local history: The Hollies: A Home for Children (with Gerry Coll, london 2005) The History of Shirley Oaks Children's Home (with Gerry Coll 1999 Deptford Forum) and The History of Kings and Princes Garth and Forest Hill (Meles Meles Marks 1997)

The Hollies, a history of the vast children's home in Sidcup, was written from records in the London Metropolitan Archives and oral histories taken from former children in care there. 

It is available from livinghistory@virgin.net  or from Raymond Wheeler at 88 Oak Palace View, Shirley, Croydon, CRO  8QN 


Choice of Darkness - novel and feature film screenplay about blighted love and mass murder (under submission).

Cafe Europa - novel about the interaction between northern Europeans, refugees and locals on a Greek island.