International Writers Magazine: Jon
of World Blues: Paperback: 352 pages Publisher: Gollancz; (9 Aug
2007) ISBN-13: 9780575079533
Tail Fox : Paperback: 336 pages Publisher: Gollancz (10 Aug 2006)
Jon Courtney Grimwood Interview
open, the other eye shut. In the beginning there was the fox. Its
breath was sour and its howl like feedback from a lead guitar. Sometimes
its eye glared red, like sun seen through skin, and other times
it burned sullen and yellow, like cheap electric light. Often, the
mind suspended in darkness barely noticed the fox was there at all.
Which was fine, because it wasnt...."
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
has been about a bit. He was born in the Far East, his early television
diet was of Japanese programmes dubbed over Chinese. He remembers staying
in a house in a Spanish Village so in touch with nature people claimed
to have been born in goat pens. His books reflect the wide world around
us, and he believes its important to immerse oneself in the culture
before writing about it. "Tokyo" he says, for example "smells
like sewage and noodles".
As I sit across the table from him, dictaphone ready, pencil hovering,
I am struck most of all by this writers passion for the extraordinary.
And for some reason, I cant get the image of an invisible fox
out of my head.....
Currently dividing his time between the sleepy town of Winchester and
the bright lights of London, he proves a novelists lot is far
from straight forward. His CV is impressive; he has written columns
for the Guardian and the Independent newspapers. He enjoyed
a stint as a reviewer, and knows his way around the world of publishing.
He has a back catalogue of two series and three standalone books, which,
in turn have been published in ten different languages. However, Grimwood
confesses to being unsettled by his latest venture. "Ive
been with Orion for three books, and my agent now has the script out
with several publishers. A lot is riding on this deal".
End Of The World Blues, his latest release, has been called a Hallucinogenic
noir thriller by the Times, and interestingly has been published
under SF in the UK, and Crime Fiction in the USA. This ambiguity of
genre is something that has always plagued Grimwood. Having read
9tail fox expecting a crime thriller, I can see where the publishing
houses get confused. 9tail Fox tells the story of a San Franciscan
cop on the case of a brutal murder. Except the murder is his own, and
he is doing the investigating in a body that belonged to a comatose
stranger. This is where the mysterious fox comes in. Seargent Bobby
Zha is haunted by the spectral animal throughout the novel, in the tradition
of his Chinese ancestors.
Something of Jon Courtenay Grimwoods work reminds me of Murakami and
his talking cats. The first of his Ashraf Bey mysteries-The Arabesk
books- also stars the unseen fox. When asked about the inspiration
for his unusual characters, Grimwood stresses the importance of the
"I walked past a cafe in London with duck egg walls, and I had
a flash of someone sitting at the table in conversation with a large
cat, I went home and noted it down and the cat became a fox...then the
fox became invisible".
Well, I was right about the talking cat. Grimwood says his inspiration
has always come from the great artists of Magical Realism; Murakami,
Marquez. Bourges....but one thing has always irritated him; "Almost
everything Ive ever read of Magical Realism has been in translation
rather than naturally written in English. This has always pissed the
hell out of me!" He says with an easy going humour that is certainly
not lost in his writing.
His passion is evident in this desire to get the English Language a
star on the Magical Realist walk of fame. Regardless of whether his
novels are published as Post Cyber Punk, Fantasy,
Thriller or even the most offensive, Literary Sci
Fi, Grimwood keenly strives to give the world an alternative cop
story. A more surprising mystery, and genuinely interesting characters.
He admits to being very anal about who gets to read his books first.
His wife, Sam Baker, edits a glossy womens magazine and also writes
novels of her own, it is her who gets the first read and she who asks
the initial questions. Grimwood has had working relationships with a
few different publishers, he writes to meet the yearly demands of monster
book chains, and has recently gained cover control of his own books.
Nonetheless, his stories are precious to him. In a society where books
are big business, where hundreds are being published every week, Grimwood
carves himself a niche as a rare thing, the uncategorisable writer.
The word has squiggly red lines under it, and Im sure it doesnt
exist in the English dictionary, but I dont see how that matters.
After all, theres no such thing as an invisible fox either, is
Discover his fiction and be prepared to be surprised
© Aby Davis
Author of Passion Killers
Aby Davis interview
Aby Davis is one of the editors of Borderlines08
- A Creative Writing Anthology at the University of Portsmouth.
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