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Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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Jon Courtenay Grimwood (born 1953 in Valletta, Malta) is a British science fiction and fantasy author. He writes also as Jonathan Grimwood (literary fiction) and Jack Grimwood (crime fiction and thrillers).

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Jon Courtenay Grimwood.jpg
Valletta, Malta
GenreScience fiction, fantasy, literary fiction & thrillers



Grimwood was born in 1953 in Valletta, Malta, grew up in Malta, Britain, Southeast Asia and Norway in the 1960s and 1970s. He studied at Kingston University, then worked in publishing and as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and The Independent. He now lives in Paris and Winchester and is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker, with a son, Jamie, from a previous marriage.

Much of his early work within SF&F can be described as post-cyberpunk. He won a British Science Fiction Association award for Felaheen in 2003,[1] was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Pashazade the year before,[2] and won the 2006 BSFA award for Best Novel with End of the World Blues.[3] He was short-listed for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2002 for Pashazade.[2] His fourth book is loosely based on Stanley Weyman's Victorian novel Under the Red Robe. End of the World Blues was also short-listed for the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award.[4] The following were nominated in the SF novel category in the Locus AwardsFelaheen, The Third Arabesk (2004); Stamping Butterflies (2005); 9Tail Fox (2006); End of the World Blues (2007).

The French translation of his 2013 literary novel The Last Banquet, written as Jonathan Grimwood, was shortlisted in January 2015 for Le Prix Montesquieu,[5] as Le Dernier Banquet, 2014, Éditions Terra Nova, translation by Carole Delporte.

Grimwood's SF&F work tends to be of a quasi-alternate history genre. In the first four novels, set in the 22nd century, the point of divergence is the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, where Grimwood posits a reality where Napoleon III's France defeats Otto von Bismarck's Prussia, causing the German Empire never to form and the Second French Empire never to collapse. In the Arabesk trilogy, the point of divergence is in 1915, with Woodrow Wilson brokering an earlier peace so that World War I barely expanded outside of the Balkans; the books are set in a liberal Islamic Ottoman North Africa in the 21st century, mainly centring on El Iskandriya (Alexandria). By contrast, there is little in Stamping Butterflies, 9tail Fox or End of the World Blues to suggest that the books are not set in our reality.

The Fallen Blade is the first of three novels set in an alternative early-15th century featuring Tycho, fallen angel and assassin, at the Venetian court, in a Venice where Marco Polo's family have been hereditary dukes for five generations and the Mongol emperor Tamberlaine has conquered China, making him the most powerful ruler in the world. The second novel in the Assassini series, The Outcast Blade was published in 2012, with the third The Exiled Blade published 2013. The novels take as a template sequences and tropes from Shakespeare's plays Othello, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. The novels have been sold into a number of languages.

His first literary novel, The Last Banquet, as Jonathan Grimwood, was published in 2013 by Canongate Booksin the UK, Europa Editions in the US, and Éditions Terra Nova in France, among others. Referencing Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade — and picaresque in the style of Candide — it tells the semi magic realist tale of an aristocrat prepared to eat anything, and covers the run up to the French Revolution from the early to late 18th century. The French France 5 critic Gérard Collard called Le Dernier Banquet "le livre de l’année" (the book of the year).[6] It was an NPR Best Book of the Year for 2013[7] ‘Foodies and Francophiles alike will relish this debut novel about Jean-Marie d'Aumout, whom we first meet crunching beetles as a starving orphaned son of nobility in 1723...’[7] In January 2015 it was shortlisted for Le Prix Montesquieu.

As Jack Grimwood, he is writing thrillers for Penguin Books. The first, Moskva, Spring 2016, is set in 1980s Soviet Moscow. The second, Nightfall Berlin is due Spring 2017.

Grimwood was guest of honour at Novacon in 2003, at Kontext (in Uppsala, Sweden) in 2008, at Eastercon LX (the 60th British National Science Fiction Convention) in 2009, and at Bristolcon in 2014.

He was a judge for the 2010 Arthur C Clarke Award presented to China Miéville for The City & the City; and for the 2011 award presented to Lauren Beukes for Zoo City. He also judged The James White Award given at Eastercon 2012.

Writing styleEdit

Grimwood's style for the Science Fiction novels has two main features.[citation needed] Firstly, his central characters often have a somewhat unusual form of (often artificial) inner monologue; the lead character of the Arabesk trilogy has an internal AI generally referred to as "the fox" or Tiriganiaq (Inuktitut for Arctic fox), which acts as a pseudo-conscience to some extent, in addition to giving him often flawed and self-evident advice; another character talks to his ever-present military commander; and most notably, in redRobe, the lead character (an assassin) talks to his sentient gun. In Stamping Butterflies, as well as some of the characters having a mental link (across several centuries in both directions), one character has conversations with an alien AI known as "the Library".

Secondly, he frequently alternates the main narrative with either a continuous story or a series of discontinuous flashbacks, often to the childhood of a central character. He uses this to explain events in the past in such a way that their connection to the plot only becomes evident later in the book, at around the point its effects are felt in the main storyline.

He has described his writing process as analogous to building a house:[8]

You lay down foundations, put up walls, fix roof supports in place, tile the roof and begin to cut in wiring and plumbing before you get to plaster board and long before you get to paint. When I wrote Pashazade, the first of the Ashraf Bey crime novels, I reached the end of the first draft with the world, the characters and the events in place, without ever knowing who killed the woman found in the first scene. The hero didn't know, the local police didn't know and nor did I. It was only half way though the second draft it became obvious. If I don't know why something happened first time round I'm not worried.

For The Fallen Blade a clear month went on plot, characters, and world. (Although all are on-going jobs.) After that, I allowed four months to get the events down in a 140,000-word first draft; four months to do a hard copy edit that nailed the characters; then three months on a third and final draft that included writing a couple of extra chapters. For me, the first draft is what happens, the second is why and how the person it's happening to reacts, the third is how they feel... In drive by style, that's boy on bench crying, boy on bench crying because girlfriend left him, boy on bench crying because he knows exactly why his girlfriend left him, and he deserved it which makes him cry even more... That's massively simplistic, because the scene could be nailed down to what, why and feelings on the first draft and not change.


Name Published ISBN Notes
neoAddix 1997 ISBN 0-340-67472-5
Lucifer's Dragon 1998 ISBN 0-7434-7827-4
reMix 1999 ISBN 0-671-02222-9
redRobe 2000 ISBN 0-671-02260-1 British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2000[9]
Pashazade 2001 ISBN 0-7434-6833-3 First in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2001;[10]
John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee, 2002;[2]
Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 2002[2]
Effendi 2002 ISBN 0-671-77369-0 Second in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2002[2]
Felaheen 2003 ISBN 0-671-77370-4 Third in the Arabesk trilogy
British Science Fiction Award winner, 2003;[1]
British Fantasy Award nominee, 2004[11]
Stamping Butterflies 2004 ISBN 0-575-07613-5 British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2004[11]
9tail Fox 2005 ISBN 0-575-07615-1 British Science Fiction Award nominee, 2005[12]
Best Novel, Vector 2006
End of the World Blues 2006 ISBN 0-575-07616-X British Science Fiction Award winner, 2006;[3]
Arthur C. Clarke nominee, 2007[4]
The Fallen Blade 2011 ISBN 0-316-07439-X First in the Assassini trilogy
The Outcast Blade 2012 ISBN 1841498475 Second in the Assassini trilogy
The Exiled Blade 2013 ISBN 9781841498508 Third in the Assassini trilogy
The Last Banquet 2013 ISBN 1-4448-2021-4 As Jonathan Grimwood
shortlisted for Le Prix Montesquieu. 2015
Moskva 2016 ISBN 0-7181-8155-7 As Jack Grimwood
Nightfall Berlin 2018 ISBN 978-0-7181-8157-4 As Jack Grimwood


  1. ^ a b "2003 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e "2002 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  3. ^ a b "2006 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b "2007 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Le prix littéraire". La Brède Montesquieu.
  6. ^ La chronique de Gérard Collard — Le dernier banquet. Les Déblogueurs.TV, YouTube. 17 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b "The Last Banquet". NPR Books.
  8. ^ "How I Write – Orbit".
  9. ^ "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  10. ^ "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  11. ^ a b "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  12. ^ "2005 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 1 July 2009.

External linksEdit