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The International Writers Magazine: Jon Grimwood Interview

End of World Blues: Paperback: 352 pages Publisher: Gollancz; (9 Aug 2007) ISBN-13: 9780575079533

9 Tail Fox : Paperback: 336 pages Publisher: Gollancz (10 Aug 2006) ISBN-13: 978-0575078093

The Jon Courtney Grimwood Interview
Aby Davis

"One eye 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 wasn’t...."

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 it’s 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 can’t 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 novelist’s 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. "I’ve 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 visual image;

"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 I’ve 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 women’s 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 I’m sure it doesn’t exist in the English dictionary, but I don’t see how that matters.
After all, there’s no such thing as an invisible fox either, is there.....
Discover his fiction and be prepared to be surprised

© Aby Davis December 2007
abydavis at

Linda Regan
Author of Passion Killers

The 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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