I was born in Berkshire in the middle of the 1976 heatwave. Genetically, I was designed for a cooler planet than the one we’re creating, being of mostly Belgian ancestry, though my mother is French and my father is half Irish. I am, in other words, a north European mongrel. By voice and mannerism I pass for a middle-class Englishman, albeit one with tangled idiomatic expressions and a Gallic intolerance of queuing.
I was educated the expensive way (my GP dad was still paying off school fees into this century) at Wellington College, which I loathed at first and later loved. I have bien pensant reservations about private education, but cannot deny my good fortune in having benefitted from a fine one.
In 1994 I went to Oxford University, where I read English Literature and pretended to be a middle aged man. At Oxford I devoted myself to the theatre, and believed I was set for a career in costume drama when I was accepted on the MA in Classical Acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In the eighteen months that followed, I had one acting job in a BBC docudrama, where I played Dirty Bertie, the future Edward VII, opposite a beautiful young actress with a twitching eye and clammy hands. My performance was only fractionally more convincing than my glued-on sideburns. I was starting to doubt my vocation.
I had always written – stories and plays, mostly – and unemployment gave me time to write my first novel, The Ship of Fools. This was published by Sceptre in 2002. It was followed in 2004 by Arts and Wonders, for which I won an Arts Council Writers Award. Following a brief spell in the American Midwest (where I participated in the International Writing Programme in Iowa City), I wrote my third novel, Ghost Portrait. In 2006 I took part in a conservation-themed television series, Planet Action, which was filmed in Panama, Belize, Malaysia and Cambodia.
In 2007 I moved to Edinburgh, where my girlfriend Emma was finishing a PhD. I finished a fourth novel, Serious Things, which was published to great acclaim and derisory sales in 2008. In 2010 Emma and I were married. The following year I took up a lectureship in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, and after two years at the Quaker Community in the Peak District, we moved with our daughter Clara to Sheffield.
As well as novels, I have published two collections of short stories and a book of aphorisms, translated Gustave Flaubert’s Dictionary of Received Ideas and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, written plays for radio and appeared several times on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb. I have recenty completed my fifth novel, The Devil’s Highway, and have several new projects in the pipeline.
Welcome to my website. I hope you enjoy it.