I was born shortly before 7 a.m. on June 3, 1945 at the Oakwood Nursing Home in Northampton, England. My parents were living in lodgings at 18 Perry Street, half a mile away.
I lived with my parents and my sister Judith at the Perry Street lodgings until May 1948, when we moved to 62 Friars Avenue, in Delapre Estate on the south side of Northampton. I lived there until September 1963, when I left home to go to university in London.
I subsequently lived:
1963-1966: At various lodgings in London.
1966-1969: At various lodgings in Liverpool.
1969-1971: In London, first in lodgings, then in a house I co-owned in Manor Park.
1971-1973: In the Far East (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos).
1973: In London for a few months.
1973-1978 In rented rooms and apartments in New York City and Westchester County, New York.
1978-1979: At my parents' house in Northampton, but with a few weeks back in Hong Kong in the winter and spring of 1979.
1979-1980: At lodgings in Ealing, west London for the academic year, thereafter back home in Northampton.
1981: At lodgings in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, with a spell in Dublin during summer 1981, and a long visit to the U.S.A. in the fall.
1982-1983: First at lodgings in London; then in Siping, northeast China, for the academic year 1982-3.
1983-1984: At home in Northampton for a few weeks in the fall of 1983, then at lodgings in London.
1984-1985: In a rented apartment in Bloomsbury, London.
1985-1990: In a rented apartment in New York City. (Married 1986.)
1990-1991: First at the family home in Northampton, then at a flat we bought in the Isle of Dogs, London.
1991 onward: In New York City for a few months, thereafter in Huntington, Long Island.
I attended schools in Northampton: Far Cotton Primary School, 1950-1956, then Northampton School for Boys, 1956-1963. I attended University College London, 1963-66, graduating with a B.Sc. degree in mathematics.
The following year I was at Liverpool University School of education studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. I failed the final exam, one of only three out of 120 students to do so. Ignoring the hint, I spent two years as a schoolteacher in Liverpool, work for which I had neither interest nor aptitude. (In spite of failing the exam, the government somehow saw fit to certify me as a qualified teacher, I don't know why.)
In 1969 I switched careers, becoming a computer programmer for the National Data Processing Service in London. NDPS (later PODPS) was the computing arm of the Post Office, which was a government monopoly embracing not only the mails, but also the nation's telephone service. The first programs I wrote were for telephone billing. My job grade was APC-II, which is to say Assistant Postal Controller, grade 2. The gubmint had not yet got round to working out job grades for computer people.
In 1971 I commenced wandering, spending two years in the Far East before drifting to the U.S.A. in 1973. I stayed here for five years, most of it as a programmer and systems analyst for Savin Business Machines of Valhalla, New York.
In 1978 I returned to England. I went back to Hong Kong for a few months in 1979. During the summer of that year I worked as a construction laborer, helping to put up a factory for Avon Cosmetics on the south bank of the river Nene.
I spent the academic year 1979-1980 studying Chinese at Ealing College of Higher Education in London, graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in Modern Chinese. This entitles me to put the legend P.G. Dip. Chin. after my name, but I keep forgetting to.
I taught accounting and computer science at a community college in Northampton during the fall term of 1980. For 1981 and most of 1982 I worked as a contract programmer/analyst in London and Dublin.
I spent the academic year 1982-1983 in northeast China, teaching English language and literature to college students. Then I returned to England.
In 1985 I went to New York to work for First Boston Corporation as a programmer. I stayed with the firm (which became Credit Suisse First Boston in 1988) until 1990, when I returned to England with my wife. We lived in England for a year or so, I doing contract systems analysis work, before going back to New York in 1991 at the request of CSFB. We lived in a flat in Queens for a few months, then bought our house in Huntington, New York.
In 1999 I ceased being an employee of CSFB, though I maintained my systems on a part-time contract basis until September 2001. Since that date I have been a full-time writer.
Through adult life I have been 6 ft. 1 in. and my weight has gradually increased from 170 lb. to 190 lb. I am healthy but not often fit. My IQ is 135. On the currently favored Big Five measures of personality, I score as follows. "Low" indicates scores within the bottom 30 percent for adult American males, "average" the middle 40 percent, "high" the top 30 percent.
Extraversion: Low. I am an introvert, "reserved, and quiet. You enjoy solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends."
Agreeableness: Low, "indicating less concern with others' needs than with your own. People see you as tough, critical, and uncompromising."
Conscientiousness: Low, "indicating you like to live for the moment and do what feels good now. Your work tends to be careless and disorganized."
Neuroticism: High, "indicating that you are easily upset, even by what most people consider the normal demands of living. People consider you to be sensitive and emotional."
Openness to Experience: Average, "indicating you enjoy tradition but are willing to try new things. Your thinking is neither simple nor complex. To others you appear to be a well-educated person but not an intellectual."
Hmm. A disagreeable, disorganized, neurotic introvert who is moderately open to new experiences? Sounds right. "One of the Awkward Squad," according to my mother.
From Harvard's Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is supposed to measure various kinds of unconscious bias, I emerged as follows:
African Americans: "Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American." This groups me with 27 percent of other respondents.
Asian Americans: "Your data suggest a moderate association of Asian American with American and European American with foreign compared to European American with American and Asian American with foreign." That puts me with a much more select six percent of respondents.
I am less astonished or dismayed by these results than some other test-takers (e.g. Malcolm Gladwell) have famously been, though I admit to being a bit baffled by that second one. I didn't realise I liked Asians that much. However, the IAT has been much criticized: see John Tierney and subsequent links here. (Added June 2009: The latest pro-IAT study is here.) (Added January 2017: Here's a later discussion.) (Added October 2017: Here's a debunking of the IAT by Heather Mac Donald.)
I married my wife, formerly Rosie Qi (齊紅玫) in August 1986. We have two children: Eleanor Muriel ("Nellie"), born January 5, 1993, and Daniel Oliver, born July 3, 1995. From June 1992 until January 2008 we were blessed with the love and companionship of a terrier mutt, Boris. In July 2008 Toby, a Jack Russell terrier, joined the team. Toby left us in August 2018.