Dorothy Dunnett, OBE, lived from 25 August 1923 to 9 November 2001. She was a historical novelist, a portrait painter and an important figure on the Scottish arts and literary scene. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Dorothy Halliday was born in Dunfermline and educated at James Gillespie's High School for Girls in Edinburgh. After leaving school she became a press officer with the Scottish Office which was how she met Alastair Dunnett (later Sir Alastair Dunnett), who at the time was editor of the Daily Record. The two were married on 17 September 1946.
Dorothy established herself as a successful portrait painter before becoming an author in response to finding herself without anything to read. Her first book The Game of Kings was published in 1961 by Putnam after being rejected by five other publishers. It became the first of the "Lymond Chronicles", a series of six novels set in mid 1500s that followed the adventures of a Scottish nobleman across Europe, and which were published between 1961 and 1975. Dorothy moved the scene back a century for her second series, of eight books. These were known as the "House of Niccolò", and published between 1986 and 2000. She also published many other books, including the one she considered her masterpiece, King Hereafter, a long novel published in 1982 and set in Orkney and Alba in the years before the Norman invasion.
Meanwhile, Dorothy Dunnett continued to pursue a successful career as an artist. She was also a trustee of the National Library of Scotland; on the board of the Edinburgh Book Festival; a Trustee of the Scottish National War Memorial; and a non-executive director of Scottish TV. She was awarded an OBE in 1992.
Dorothy Dunnett's books have attracted a significant fan base. Numerous gatherings have been held, both before and since the author's death, in various parts of the UK and across the world. And some fans are now starting to go on tours taking in locations in her books, which range as far afield as Timbuktu and Venice.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".