Johnny Acton

Johnny Acton – Ghostwriter

Experienced ghostwriter, author and copy-editor. Personable and very versatile. I specialise in biography, sport, food and popular history.


I've written or co-authored 17 non fiction books, with cumulative sales well into the hundred thousands. The subjects have varied widely - you might almost say wildly - from mushrooms to the role of balloons in the early days of the Space Race. Nevertheless, I have definite specialities: popular history/biography, sport and food.

I have done ghostwriting, for everyone from Prince Charles and Paul McCartney to a champion TT racer and a celebrity Thai Chef. I'm not a bad mimic, which comes in handy in this arena. I am also a trained Copy-editor.

Before becoming a full time author, I was a freelance journalist. One regular gig was writing obituaries for The Times, the 'newspaper of record' (I also wrote interviews and travel features for the same paper). Prominent subjects included George Best, Quentin Crisp, Clarissa Dickson Wright and the Duke of Westminster. This was an excellent training in accuracy and capturing the essence of people's characters and life stories as concisely as possible. I had regular columns in Penthouse UK (!) and the pioneering 90s foodie 'lads' mag' EatSoup. I have also had articles appear in publications including The Economist, The Daily Telegraph and the Literary Review. Having written for such diverse audiences, I am well accustomed to adapting my tone to suit the targeted readership.

Away from the world of writing, my excursions have included spells as a restaurant entrepreneur and a hobby pig farmer. It is, however, people and the written word that really float my boat.
Biographies & Memoirs Cooking, Food, Wine, & Spirits History Sports & Outdoors Travel
English (UK) English (US)
  • How to Watch the Olympics (2012, revised 2016) was selected by the Guardian, Independent and Observer as one of the sports books of the year.
  • Copy-Editing and Proofreading course at the Publishing Training Centre in London
  • BA Philosophy and Theology, Oxford University

Work experience


May, 2007 — Present


I am currently ghost writing for a web-based company offering a biography service (loyalty to Reedsy prevents me from divulging its name). Two autobiographies written to date for private clients.

I have recently been commissioned to write a history of metal furniture by the Chelsea-based designer Tom Faulkner.

I have frequently been employed by the food/lifestyle publishers Kyle Cathie Ltd to ghost write books or sections of books written by non-authors, including:

The Shed: The Cookbook (2014) – Gregory, Oliver and Richard Gladwin
Meat Free Monday Cookbook (2011) – Sir Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney
The Big Book of Thai Curries (2007) – Vatcherin Bhumichitr
Fish Tales (2009) – Tom Kime and Bart Van Olphen

I also wrote an introduction to my own book The Duchy Originals Cookbook on behalf of HRH The Prince of Wales.


Recent projects have included:
• Copy-editing Built for Speed, the autobiography of the TT racer John McGuinness (best-selling sports biography on Amazon at the time of writing)
• Copy-editing China’s Media, a survey of that country’s media scene by the head of the University of Westminster’s China Media Centre.
• Proofreading The Moth - All These Wonders, published by Serpent’s Tale, April 2017

In 2013, I spent several months editing Chinese students’ applications to Western Universities for the web service MyDocumate.


Oct, 1999 — Present

My books cover a wide range of subjects but can be grouped as follows:


The Man Who Touched the Sky (Hodder, 2002)
- The story of test pilot and super high altitude balloonist Joe Kittinger, a key but forgotten figure in the early days of the Space Race.


How to Watch the Olympics (Profile 2012, revised edition 2016)
- A comprehensive guide to the Olympic sports and the history of the Games.

The Football Book (Dorling Kindersley, 2010)
- An illustrated volume covering all aspects of the sport.

I was also chief researcher for three editions of the encyclopaedic World Football Yearbook (DK, 2002, 03 and 04).


The Time Travel Handbook (Profile, 2015)
- A cross between a conventional travel guide and a history book. It whisks you back in time to the beheading of Charles I and the Rumble in the Jungle while telling you where to eat and spend the night.

The West You Really Don’t Know (China Central Television, 2013)
- Companion volume to a pioneering Chinese documentary series about the problems facing the West.

The Origin of Everyday Things (Think Books, 2006)
- The stories behind the invention of everything from bubblewrap to roller skates.


The Sausage Book (Kyle Cathie, 2010)
- How to make all kinds of sausages and cook delicious things with them.

The Branded Cookbook (Kyle Cathie, 2008)
- The history and culinary uses of the world's most iconic food brands.

The Duchy Originals Cookbook (Kyle Cathie, 2006)
- I co-wrote this to promote Prince Charles’s Organic Food business. I also ghost-wrote the foreword for him.

Preserved (Kyle Cathie, 2004)
- A guide to pickling, fermenting, smoking and so on.

Mushroom (Kyle Cathie, 2001)
- A book all about the culinary and other uses of fungi.

Soup (Kyle Cathie, 1999)
- Written to promote the chain of gourmet soup restaurants I co-founded in 1998.


The Little Book of Big Expenses (A & C Black, 2009)
- An irreverent look at the MPs' expenses scandal.

Minted (Think Publishing, 2007)
- A perky little illustrated book about money

Kings of Comedy (Think Publishing, 2005)
- Facts and anecdotes about comedians.

The Ideas Companion (Think Publishing, 2005)
- An offbeat look at inventions and Intellectual Property.


Economy (DK Eyewitness Books, 2010)
- An illustrated book written to help out parents beleaguered by nine year olds asking “Mum, what’s a credit crunch?”

Soup Works Plc

Jan, 1998 — Sep, 2001 (over 3 years)

This was a chain of frankly rather groovy gourmet soup bars in the West End of London.


May, 1995 — Jul, 2010 (about 15 years)

Regular gigs included:

The Times - Obituary and feature writer. Accuracy, speed of turn-around and concision particularly important in the former. Subjects included George Best, Brian Clough, Quentin Crisp and The Duke of Westminster.

EatSoup - Staff writer and columnist for this influential mid-90s foodie magazine.

IP Review - Web and hard copy columnist for this intellectual property title.

Fortnum & Mason Magazine – Feature writer.

Penthouse UK – Columnist and Interviewer.

I have also written articles for numerous publications including The Economist, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman and The Literary Review.

Littlemore Hospital, Oxford

Oct, 1992 — Feb, 1994 (over 1 year)

Working in an NHS therapeutic community for young adults with psychotic illnesses.

Camden Central Cars

Dec, 1991 — Jul, 1992 (7 months)

Conscious exercise in gaining experience of the 'real world' through being shut in a metal box for several hours a day with random members of the public.


Sep, 1989 — Oct, 1991 (about 2 years)

Researching documentary ideas for various producers at the BBC. Developing programme ideas for the acclaimed Channel 4 discussion programme After Dark.


Fishmonger Bart van Olphen and chef Tom Kime travelled to MSC-certified fisheries and fisheries in assessment all over the world in search of sustainable fish. From the wild salmon in the Yukon River in Alaska, to clams harvested from the Mekong Delta in Vietn... read more
The Big Book of Thai Curries

Vatcharin Bhumichitr

In 2009, Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney launched the Meat Free Monday campaign as a simple and straightforward idea to show everyone the value of eating less meat - and to make it easier for us all to do so. The Meat Free Monday Cookbook is for everyone who s... read more
Soup by Nick Sandler (1999-10-06)

Nick Sandler;Johnny Acton

The Football Book (Dk)

David Goldblatt

Author: DkHardbackRevised and updated in time for the 2014 World Cup, this includes facts, eye-catching artworks and fascinating information about the biggest names in club football, match highlights and inside stories. Also features a Brazil 2014 World Cup wa... read more
The Ideas Companion Everyone is interested in new ideas. So much so, that there is an entire industry behind every invention, trademark, design, domain name and brand that we come across every day of our lives. It's been estimated that each one of us comes acr... read more

Johnny Acton

Covers various techniques of food preservation. This book shows how to build a smokehouse and then smoke your own salmon, how to make sausages, infuse oils, preserve with sugar and bottle fruit in alcohol. It also explores international methods of preserving -... read more
Not many of us can claim to have dipped our handkerchiefs in Charles I's blood after his execution, or to have watched Vesuvius erupt, but that's about to change... Wyllie, Acton & Goldblatt's Time Travel Handbook offers eighteen exceptional trips to the past,... read more

Johnny has 4 reviews





Linda J.

Linda J.

May, 2022

Tells it as it is. Professional, but caring about what is presented to him. Enjoyed his personality and good advice.
Enrique Q.

Enrique Q.

Mar, 2022

A great experience working with Johnny. I'm a loyal client now. Every time I work with him, he adds an enormous amount of value. His thoughts and recommendations have make my work gain the level of maturity I needed in order to publish.
Johnny A.
Thanks Enrique! I really enjoyed working with you too on this fascinating project.
Garvey P.

Garvey P.

Mar, 2021

Has been a great experience and a pleasure to work with whilst guiding and supporting me through the process.
Seb G.

Seb G.

Jan, 2018

Working with Johnny was very good. His enthusiasm and energy have been fantastic throughout the project. Will be good to work with him again.

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