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Garry John Martin was born in Burton upon Trent in 1948 and educated at the local Grammar School and Art College. He attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he read English. He subsequently pursued a career as a Systems Analyst in the City of London.  


Eager to be reunited with literature once more, he wrote for Yachting and Boating Weekly for a year or so, documenting a sailing trip that took him halfway around the world. He has made a number of radio broadcasts, once describing his experiences in Kurdish Iraq immediately after the first Gulf War. The journal of that journey became the basis of the novel, A Sane Asylum. This work was accepted by a publisher.  


Needing to complete an unfinished novel, he worked as a schoolmaster for a number of years, first at Brentwood School in Essex then at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, before opening ‘Blythes’ restaurant in Coleshill. Later he opened a bookshop in Knowle.  


The Malvern Publishing Company published his first novel To Weave a Rainbow at that time. The imprint was designed to bring new novelists to the marketplace and even though the book did well, he wasn’t able to pursue a writing career then.  


He visited India intending to write a book about Avatars but produced instead The Boy who Made God Smile. This novella was accepted by Harper Collins in California. 


Beginning as a Writer in Residence at Cranleigh School, he returned to teaching and spent the remainder of his working years at Nottingham High School, specialising in A-level and Oxbridge entrance and nurturing any writing talent he encountered. A number of his former pupils have done well. In his novel The Rotters’ Club Jonathan Coe describes their shared time of bulletin boards and magazines at KES. Robert Macfarlane is a close friend; they edit each other’s work. He also taught the journalists Andrew Billen, Mark Steyn, Mark Keen, Guy Perry and Oliver Smith. 


To date, he has written a dozen novels and three plays.


Writing East Midlands awarded the first volume of his historical trilogy, ‘Orcadian Armada’, a Critical Read at The Literary Consultancy. Robert Macfarlane has endorsed this work.


"Garry Martin's Orcadian trilogy is a superb, sustained feat of historical imagination. Fascinating in its subject matter, wonderful in its curiosity, entertaining in its stories and unorthodox in its patience, the trilogy reminded me of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels -- especially in its richness of atmosphere and its attention to detail."


[Robert Macfarlane, author of Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks.  Former Chair of the Man Booker Prize]


Travels in India created The Boy who made God smile. This work has been developed from a novella into a full-length work under the guidance of Anne Zouroudi and Writing East Midlands as part of their mentoring scheme. His latest work Patchwork – A story of Paris in the Dark has just been awarded a Critical Read at TLC.


One of the stories from the Beneath Napoleon’s Hat collection won the mentoring prize at WEM. Robert Macfarlane has also endorsed this work.

“I read these stories with admiration: each is full of vim and vigour and repartee, and the whole is a curious, provocative mix of cultural history, re-inhabitation, short story and biographical sketch. Concise, witty, alert to the ridiculous, but also to the grand.”


[Robert Macfarlane, author of Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks.  Former Chair of the Man Booker Prize]


He has two grown daughters, Ellen and Alice. His partner is the artist, Sue Lewis-Blake, whose work can be seen in the images used on his website:


He writes in the Derbyshire Dales. 

Author's Diary


I'm just returned from Germany and have seen a magnificent medieval hall in Lüneberg where I hope to launch the novel next March. My partner Sue has been awarded a handsome stipend to spend twelve weeks in the beautiful Hanseatic town next year. She has been gifted a studio and an ancient house, renovated in 1646, to paint pictures of her choice. An exhibition will follow. She and her painter friend, Ursula (also a recent major prize winner) held a joint exhibition in Lüneberg four years ago. There is a scene in The Truants that describes the event. Beyond Lüneberg the novel travels to Greifswald, the home of Casper David Friedrich and finally to the island of Rugen - the star of the show and everyone's destination. There is a surprising interest in Germany in literary novels written in English. Most bookshops have an impressive section of contemporary English fiction. Our German friends have therefore encouraged the idea of a launch there.

Exciting times. I hope to publish The Truants in England next summer.


Meanwhile, I will be offering readings from The Orcadian Trilogy at the magnificent Bromley House Library in Nottingham on Saturday, January 21st next year from 11am to 12.15pm. Have a look at the library online - it is amazing and a well kept secret.


In terms of brand new work I am about half way through a novel called The Truants. This is a novel based on travels in the Baltic region of the old East Germany, much more evocatively named Pomerania. The centrepiece of the piece is the island of Rügen. The source material for the book is as various as the characters: H G Wells, Amber Reeves, Elizabeth von Arnim, Casper David Friedrich, Goethe, Coleridge and others. It is a challenging book and I’m enjoying trying to understand it.


I have revisited an early work Cling. In many ways, this book represented a break-through novel for me. It attracted serious interest from a major literary agency, went the rounds of the publishers, was highly praised by some very distinguished readers but not quite right, it seemed, but no one ever said why. With the help of my publisher and other canny readers, I welcomed the opportunity to revisit and completely rearrange the book. Apart from its structure, I have been able to tweak the prose and use the experience of two decades of writing, during which another half a million words have passed onto the page. The result of this endeavour is Of Love and Gravity.


The book is set on the tiny Hebridean islands of Colonsay and Oronsay. To my great delight we will be starting the book off there. Christa and Kevin Byrne run a tiny bookshop on Colonsay. It is also the home of the House of Lochar publishing company that has some eighty titles to its name. I will be reading from Of Love and Gravity at the Scalasaig bookshop on Saturday, May 12th at 2pm. The island is remote but full. I took the last room in the hotel and that was booked last year so I can only invite you in spirit – which is likely to be a bottle of Jura distilled on the neighbouring island – a place featured in the novel and where George Orwell wrote 1984. He was well liked on Colonsay and is remembered in regular tots of his island’s whisky.


To my great delight I will be reading at the Derby Book Festival. Liz Fothergill and Andrew Flack have been so supportive of my work and invited me to offer a themed event rather than focus just on Of Love and Gravity. The title is: Being There – a sense of place in the writings of G J Martin. I will choose extracts from several books. The event takes place on Tuesday, June 5th at 2pm in the Quad. You can find the details in the Derby Book Festival programme.


Dan Donson remains a good friend and champion of my work so we hope to have a launch of Of Love and Gravity at Waterstones in Nottingham on Tuesday September 18th at 6pm. 

We will be launching my latest novel ‘A Sane Asylum’ at Waterstones Nottingham on June 15th 2017 starting at 6.30 pm. I will be in conversation with Eve Makis. ‘The Spice Box Letters’, her award-winning novel, explores the effects of the Armenian genocide. The fictional paths of both writers cross in Eastern Turkey. We will be discussing a journey I made to Iraqi Kurdistan just after the First Gulf War in 1992. I went at the invitation of a colleague and under the notional protection of the new leader of Kurdistan. They were delayed.  I went in alone.


I was working as a Writer in Residence in a private school in Surrey when a fellow teacher, an army reservist newly returned from war, dropped his service revolver in my lap and asked me to keep it safe for fear he might use it. On himself. I had no idea what horrors his tormented eyes had witnessed but once I had glimpsed some of what he had seen, once I began to understand the urgency of his need, I readily helped his cause with my only weapon - words.


He told of the Kurdish exodus into the mountains between Iraq and Turkey, the fleeing refugees hounded by Saddam Hussein’s helicopter gunships. The ‘Safe Haven’ had halted the killing but now, in their lack of wisdom, the UK and US protection was to be removed. A resigned commission, television, radio, newspaper even Readers Digest, created a kind of fame and promoted his cause


Originally I was writing a factual piece, reporting back to the BBC World Service. ‘Going In’ went to be published but was set aside as Iraq had fallen out of the news. A number of years later I was encouraged by a news-aware agent to turn the work into a fiction. The plight of the Kurds and this disturbed region is very much in the news now. I hope this novel will offer some understanding of the complex politics of the region as played out in the lives of ordinary people as well as their leaders. It is not simply a political adventure but looks at the ideas of asylum, of refuge, of madness itself.


The world that ‘A Sane Asylum’ portrays is viewed at street level in the bustling cities or in the mountains, amongst the people and their private places. Joe, the
narrator, goes to a wedding, visits a Women’s Group, and talks to his
cook and housemates as well the country’s new leaders in their fledgling
Parliament. He is a reluctant hero. Cynical, realistic, too experienced to hope, he nevertheless goes in search of a missing Kurdish minister at the behest of an anxious wife and her beautiful daughter, acknowledging that what he has agreed to do is impossible. But then, he was hoping to find a sane asylum for himself as he comes to terms with the loss of his mother, wife - his sanity. The quotation that begins the novel, Ezra Pound’s assertion ‘I will not go mad to please you’ is also Joe’s. Ezra ended up in an asylum, Joe in a cell.

The reader experiences the beauty of the vast open spaces, the yellow
mountains and borderless deserts that constitute this Bible land. The
day-to-day struggle to exist is set against the high politics of the
American and British governments. This story is mostly true; the places, the politicians and major players are all real. You could still smell the aftermath of war, with a burnt out tank around most corners, every bridge and telephone mast flattened,
a whole country reduced to ruin.

We launched 'The Boy Who Made God Smile' in the Sillitoe Room at Waterstones' Nottingham store on Friday, October 14 at 7 pm. Henderson Mullin of Writing East Midlands interviewed me. I hope to show some of the exchange on YouTube so those who could not make it can at least get a flavour of the event. Dan Donson, the Events Manager at Waterstones has been tireless in his efforts to promote the new book.

On Wednesday, October 19, I was in conversation with Alan Clifford on his Radio Nottingham afternoon show. We chatted for half an hour [from 2 pm] and I enjoyed the meeting enormously. Alan has invited me back in the New Year to report on progress.

Mike Smith has written a piece about 'Patchwork' and 'The Boy Who Made God Smile' in the November edition of Derbyshire Life.

On Wednesday, June 15 we launched Patchwork, the final volume in the Parisian Quartet. Patchwork is a full-length novel. One of its protagonists, Stanley, buys second-hand copies of the three novellas of Beneath Napoleon’s Hat to act as a guide to the city, to see what remains of the avant-garde and its need to meet in bookshops and cafés.



On Thursday, June 2 we launched Sylvia Beach and the Melancholy Jesus at Jane Streeter’s charming Bookcase, in Lowdham. The novella completes the collection of Parisian tales told Beneath Napoleon’s Hat.

March 12 Launched and  read sections of Beneath Napoleon's Hat Vol 2 'A Black Violet' at Scarthin Books, Cromford


February 18 read a short piece from ‘Eagles without a Cliff’ at the Barley Mow, Bonsall as part of Colette’s literary evening led by Mark Gwynne Jones.


February 4 Amanda Penman interviewed me for an article in Artsbeat magazine.


January 25 2016. I visited Nottingham High School and read extracts from ‘Eagles without a Cliff’ to the Sixth Form. There were girls. A strange but pleasant change.

If you look at pages 61 to 63 of February’s edition of Derbyshire Life you can read Mike Smith’s article.


December 6 I gave a short reading from ‘Eagles without a Cliff’ at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio Christmas social.


November 11 6 o’clock in the evening we launched ‘Eagles without a Cliff’ with natural champagne and Suze cocktails in Stanton-in-Peak village hall. It was great fun and so many friends were there. We went to The Flying Childers afterwards.


November 11 2015 Interview with Mike Smith for a feature in Derbyshire Life (see link below).

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