Born in Bromley, England, Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University but ill-advisedly rejected suggestions of a career in the Foreign Office and opted for the acting profession. After appearing on British TV and in films until the early 1990s she abandoned acting and embraced her second love - history and with it the insecurities of a writer’s life.
She started out contributing to biographical and historical reference works for publishers such as Cassell, Reader’s Digest, and Oxford University Press. Between 1999 and 2003 she wrote three books back-to-back for a leading US reference publisher: Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion, the award-winning An Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers and Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion.
Her first trade title was No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War ( Aurum press, 2007 ). She followed this with Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs (Hutchinson 2008), which became a best seller in the USA, published by St.Martin’s Press as The Last days of theRomanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. She then followed with Conspirator: Lenin in Exile, (Hutchinson 2009; Basic Books USA, 2010).
Helen’s next title was a new departure - a Victorian true-crime story: Beautiful for Ever: Madame Rachel of Bond Street - Cosmetician, Con-Artist and Blackmailer published by novelist Susan Hill’s imprint, Long Barn Books, 2010. A paperback edition will be published by Vintage in 2012. Meanwhile, her next major title is Magnificent Obsession; Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy a socio-historical study of the impact of the Prince Consort’s premature death in 1861 on England, the monarchy, art and culture, to be published by Hutchinson on 3 November 2011 for the 150th anniversary of his death.The US edition, published by St.Martin’s Press will follow in Spring 2012.
Helen’s only foray into fiction, so far, has been a collaboration with William Horwood on a historical thriller, Dark Hearts of Chicago published byHutchinson in April 2007.
Helen is a fluent Russian speaker and a specialist in Russian history and 19th century women’s history, her great passion being to winkle out lost stories from the footnotes and to breathe new life and new perspectives into old subjects. In 2005 she was historical consultant and talking head on a Channel 4 documentary The Real Angel of the Crimea about the Jamaican nurse, Mary Seacole. In 2010 she was talking head on a National Geographic documentary about the Murder of the Romanovs.
Since the mid-70s Helen has also become well-known as a Russian translator in the theatre, working with British playwrights on new versions of Russian plays. She has translated all seven of Chekhov’s plays, including Ivanov for Tom Stoppard’s new version that was a huge critical success at the Donmar Season at Wyndham’s in 2008. In 2002 she was Russian consultant to the National Theatre’s Tom Stoppard trilogy, The Coast of Utopia.
A passionate Victorianist and Russianist, Helen is a member of Equity, the Victorian Society, the Society of Genealogists , the Society of Authors, The Biographers’ Club, and Writers in Oxford.