Jimmy Burns was born in Madrid in 1953. His father the late Tom Burns met his mother Mabel Maranon while working in the British embassy in Madrid during the Second World War. Jimmy contributes Spanish language media outlets and publishes his books in Spanish translation as Jimmy Burns Maranon. His childhood was spent straddling cultures -Britain, Castille, and Catalonia. He went to school at a British school in Madrid, then a preparatory school in London before studying for his O and A-levels at the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. He took a BA honours degree in Latin American & Iberian Studies at University College, London and an MA in the politics and government of Latin America at the Institute of Latin American Studies in London and The London School of Economics and Political Science. On leaving university, he spent two years teaching English to foreign students, and travelling, gaining experience as a free-lance journalist writing about Latin America and Spain. His early published work included articles for the Catholic Herald and The Tablet. During the 1970’s he was commissioned by the BBC to write the script for an Everyman documentary on the Brazilian Archbishop, Helder Camara. He also worked as a researcher for Yorkshire TV, contributing to a critically acclaimed film presented by Robert Kee on the death of Franco and Spain’s transition to democracy.
In 1977 Jimmy joined the Financial Times and was posted to Portugal as Lisbon correspondent, reporting also on Spain. He also became a regular contributor to the London Observer, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Economist, as well as the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Radio Nederlands. From 1980-2 he worked for the Financial Times’ international desk based in London before being posted to Buenos Aires, as the newspaper’s southern cone correspondent.
He arrived in Buenos Aires in the middle of a military palace coup and three months before the invasion of the Falkland Islands by the Argentine armed forces sparked off a three-month war with Britain. He was the only full-time British foreign correspondent to remain in Argentina prior to, during, and well beyond the conflict, covering the country’s transition to democracy, as well as political developments in Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay. He continued to regularly contribute articles on Latin America to other media outlets in the UK, Europe, and the US.
In mid-1986 he returned to London to work at the Financial Times and prove himself as an author. Advised by his agent Caroline Dawnay, he agreed to be signed up by Liz Calder and Nigel Newton as one of the first authors of the most innovative independent publishing houses to emerge from the 1980’s, Bloomsbury, with his book, on Argentina and the Falklands War, The Land that lost its Heroes. It won the 1988 Somerset Maugham Award for non-fiction. He followed this up with Beyond the Silver River: South American encounters, based on a collection of personal diaries he kept while living and travelling in South America. In the mid 1990’s he was encouraged by David Reynolds and Penny Phillips, then editors at Bloomsbury to write the first full-length biography of Diego Maradona, and subsequently a history of FC Barcelona and the Catalan people. Together with writers like Nick Hornby, Simon Kuper, and Peter Davies, he was praised by the critics for breaking new boundaries in football writing. In between, he was commissioned by John Murray, another independent publisher at the time, to compile and write Spain: A Literary Companion. In Spain, he was co-author of Dossier Diana a book on the death of Princess Diana published by El Pais/Aguilar. In 2002, he published a revised and updated version of The Land that Lost its Heroes, on the 20th anniversary of the Falklands War, while his earlier books led by The Hand of God: The life of Diego Maradona, the first football book by a foreigner to be published in China, found themselves translated around the world . In 2003, he set out to write a book for Rowland White at Michael Joseph/Penguin on Beckham and Real Madrid.
Between his book writing, Jimmy continued to work as a senior reporter with the FT, winning the Industrial journalist of the year award, while working on the newspaper’s employment staff. He later joined the FT’s investigative unit, winning another prize in the UK press awards for the newspaper’s coverage of the life and death of the publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell. He has been a contributor to special FT supplements on India and Egypt, reported on Northern Ireland, including a series of reports on the US links with the Irish Republican movement, and has worked for the newspaper’s Public Policy department and political staff. As well as writing for Spanish media outlets like El Mundo, he continues to appear regularly on British, European, Latin American, and US radio and TV on the subjects of his books and a range of additional subjects he specialises in, including security and terrorism, crime and social policy, and the Royal family. When not in Spain or travelling elsewhere, including regular visits to the English countryside, he lives in London. He is married, and has two daughters. His favourite hobbies – apart from watching a good football match or playing football on the beach – include tennis, walking, and practicing yoga.