Every week we feature a Q&A session with one of our Crime Cymru authors. This week, Philip Gwynne Jones talks of his love of Venice and the passions that influence his writing.
Give us a brief introduction to you.
Hi, I’m Philip Gwynne Jones, and I’m the author of the Nathan Sutherland series which is set in Venice, the city where I’ve lived for the past eight years. Venetian Gothic, the most recent in the series, has just been published. When I started writing, I decided to use my middle name as there are a few other Philip Joneses in the media – and then, of course, I discovered Philip Gwyn Jones (note the spelling) the editor of The Bookseller magazine. We’ve been known to get messages meant for the other.
What’s your connection to Wales?
I was born in Swansea and grew up in South Wales. My dad worked for the old Midland Bank so we used to move around a lot – Swansea, Cardiff, Tredegar, Port Talbot, Swansea again and Tenby. Then I went to what used to be called the Polytechnic of Wales in Treforest where I studied Computer Science (for reasons which still aren’t completely clear to me). My Mum and Dad live in Pembroke so I go back regularly.
Do you have any tattoos?
No, but it was a close run thing. Back in 1997, Swansea City were playing Northampton Town in the Third Division play off final at Wembley. I went along and promised myself that – if we won – I would get a Swansea tattoo (no, I don’t know why either, it was for promotion from what was effectively the old Division 4, not the Champions League). We lost 1-0 and so I didn’t have to go through with it.
I met my wife a year later and she said she’d never have married me if I’d had a tattoo. So I suppose you could say Northampton Town saved my life.
How much of yourself is in your stories?
I write in the first person, and so a lot of people think Nathan is me. I don’t think he is (he’s much braver than me, for one thing) but the things he likes – cooking, old horror films, prog rock – are the things I like. I thought if I was going to be spending a lot of time in his head, he needed to be somebody I’d get along with, so he was never going to be a Justin Bieber fan.
If you were not an author, what would your chosen career be?
“Scratch a Welshman and he’ll sing for you.” I’ve sung bass with a few choirs over the years – I’ve got a decent amateur voice but, sadly, no more than that. I think I’d have loved to have been an opera singer!
What is/was your most embarrassing item of clothing – do you still own it?
Probably my black cowboy boots/suede waistcoat/black shirt with spangly silver buttons ensemble. I must have looked like a rubbish Johnny Cash. From the period in my life that I refer to as “The Single Years”. I threw them away with a shudder just before we moved to Venice.
What do you do for a day job if you have one and do you like it?
I do some translation work whenever any comes in, but that’s only ever as interesting as the subject matter. I also teach part-time as a madrelingua English teacher in a local high school and, for much of the time, it’s an absolute delight.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was, and I loved it! I ran into my old English teacher in Swansea, over ten years later, and was just so pleased to be able to say thank you to her.
What was your favourite childhood book and why? And do you still read it?
I loved the “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators” series. I borrowed every last one from Baglan library, hardbacks with wonderful covers. In every book, with the help of the great director, the three lads – Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews – would investigate a supernatural occurrence which would always turn out to be a front for some sort of criminal operation. They were a lot cooler than the Famous Five! They lived near LA, and their base was an old camper van in the middle of a junkyard. They even had access to a car. I have re-read a few, and the words ‘Red Gate Rover’ still give me a bit of a thrill. They were written by a guy called Robert Arthur but his name didn’t appear on the cover, so for years I was convinced they were actually written by Hitchcock himself!
Anything else you’d like to add? Advice to give?
For years I was trapped in a job I hated, the stress of which, I genuinely thought, would kill me. Then in 2012 my wife and I took voluntary redundancy, sold everything, and moved to Venice where I started to write. I was fifty years old when my first novel was published. Twelve months later it was in the Times Top 10. These things, I know, are not supposed to happen. But, perhaps, second chances happen more often than you might think…
Favourite Five :
Artist : Caravaggio
Band : Hawkwind
Country : Italy! No, Wales. No, Italy. Oh this is difficult…I’ll say Wales. Because of the weather, of course.
Actor : Peter Cushing
TV Programme : Doctor Who
Read more about Philip Gwynne Jones.
To discover Philip’s books, follow the link here to his Amazon page