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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
Distant lives meet on book list
Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World is about William Shakespeare
Biographies ranging from Shakespeare, Da Vinci and Churchill to a homeless criminal and a medieval mercenary are up for a non-fiction book award.

The 20-strong longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize has been revealed.

It includes Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, about Shakespeare, and Charles Nicholl's look at Da Vinci.

They contrast with Stuart: A Life Backwards, about "thief, hostage taker, psycho and sociopath street raconteur" Stuart Shorter, by Alexander Masters.

Masters met Shorter while working at a homeless centre in 1998 and spent three years researching his life for the book.

The exciting thing about non-fiction is how all-embracing a category it is, and how fluid
Sue MacGregor
Chair of judges
Churchill features in David Reynolds' In Command of History, which examines how the war leader rewrote history.

The story of 14th Century professional soldier Sir John Hawkwood is told in Hawkwood by Frances Stonor Saunders.

Biographies of artist Henri Matisse, author BS Johnson and actress Mary Robinson are also on the list.

'Hard task'

The shortlist for the 30,000 award will be revealed on 12 May, with the winner named on 14 June.

Chair of judges Sue MacGregor said: "The exciting thing about non-fiction is how all-embracing a category it is, and how fluid.

"The spread is wide - the final choice will be the really hard task."

Last year, debut author Anna Funder won for Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall, about the hardships endured by people from the former East Germany.

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