Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Christopher Morgan Jones

For eleven years Christopher Morgan Jones worked at the world’s largest business intelligence agency, Kroll International. He has advised Middle Eastern governments, Russian oligarchs, New York banks, London hedge funds, and African mining companies.

The newly released The Silent Oligarch is his first novel.

Last month I asked Jones what he was reading.  His reply:
I try to balance fiction and non-fiction, but have found recently that fact has been winning out over stories. When I’m writing I find that fiction is too rich, one way or another – any voice worth reading is strong enough to start affecting my own.

I’ve just finished a fascinating book about the customs and superstitions that characterized different parts of London over the centuries. It’s called London’s Lore, and is written by Steve Roud, an amateur folklorist who writes extremely well. The book is organized geographically, splitting the city into regions and areas, and is full of tales of hauntings, hangings, wife-selling, vampires, May Day celebrations, green men – a rich assortment. For anyone interested in social history and the layering of event and belief that you find in old cities it’s a compelling and sometimes moving read.

On a similar theme is Lost London: 1870-1945 by Philip Davies. This is a large format picture book, really – not the easiest thing to get through in bed – but the text is excellent and well worth reading. Davies has selected hundreds of images of buildings, streets, squares, whole areas that used to form a part of London but have since been lost to bombing or redevelopment. As a Londoner I’m finding it at once riveting, appalling (some of the poverty only a hundred years ago is difficult to credit) and shocking, because nothing I’ve read before has shown quite so clearly how much of the old city has been destroyed in the last century.

I have been reading some stories, though. Weir of Hermiston, Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished last book, is a rich, strange story about a passionate, tricky young man who falls out with his strict judge father and is sent to manage the family estate in the countryside outside Edinburgh. Like all unfinished books it’s frustrating, but it’s so incredibly beautifully written that you don’t mind.

And lastly, I finally read two of George V, Higgins’s first novels, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Cogan’s Trade, both of which are two-thirds dialogue and as thrilling as any more conventional piece of crime fiction. They’re also brilliantly written. If they’d been published in Paris in literary jackets they’d have won literary awards.
Visit Christopher Morgan Jones's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Silent Oligarch.

--Marshal Zeringue