In the latest episode of the Meet A Welsh Author series we travel to Venice to catch up with Philip Gwynne Jones. Born in Swansea, now lives in La Serenissima where he works as a teacher, writer and translator. He’s the author of five novels set in the city and a travel book in which he recounts how he and his wife sold everything and moved to Venice in search of a “better, simpler life.”
Earliest Reading Memory
In the kitchen, as my mum prepared lunch, reading a book we’d been given in school that morning. I think it was the Anansi stories or similar. Mum asked me to read the first page out loud, and I just carried on through the whole thing until lunch was ready. I wasn’t trying to show off or anything…I just wanted to know what happened next. So I guess that’s when I started reading.
The Author Who Changed My Life
Probably HP Lovecraft. I went through a huge HPL phase in my early twenties and – in spite of his faults – I still think there’s a rare power to the best of his tales. He was the first author I came across where I thought I want to read *everything* by this guy.
The Author I Keep Returning To
MR James, the supreme master of the English ghost story. It wouldn’t be Christmas without him.
Most Recommended Book
Oh, that’s difficult! Maybe War and Peace? I think Anna Karenina is probably the more perfect novel, but the characters and epic sweep of War and Peace give the edge for me. As a philosophical novel, as a history of 19th century Russia, as a romance or simply as a cracking good adventure – it works in every way.
You Won’t Find Me Reading …
Teen vampire novels, Twilight and the like. I know I’m not the target audience, but I’m strictly a fangs and cloaks man myself..
My Favourite Writing Place
I wrote most of The Venetian Masquerade at the Marciana library, but these days it’s either the sofa or my study. I can listen to music (usually film soundtracks, I find they help), go and make a coffee whenever I want and – if need be – I can crane my head out of the window and see the Giudecca canal.
The Last Book I Bought
John Culshaw, Ring Resounding. The music of Richard Wagner has been a constant presence in my life since my early twenties. Culshaw was the producer of Georg Solti’s landmark recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen, and this is his account of its making. I’ve wanted to read it for years so was delighted to find it was back in print – it’s an absolutely riveting account of some of the greatest musicians in history coming together to make something extraordinary.
I Would Love to Have Dinner/Drink With …
I’m not going to choose anyone living because, who knows, we may yet end up having that drink. But, if I had a time machine, I bet Simon “Alms for Oblivion” Raven would have been a good drinking buddy. He was utterly reprehensible in so many ways, we’d probably end up being thrown out of numerous establishments, and I imagine I’d end up paying for everything but – I tell you what – it wouldn’t be dull!
I Wish I’d Written …
Christopher Brookmyre’s A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil. One of the great novels about growing up in all its joys, horrors and sheer painful embarrassments. Brookmyre and I are about the same age and obviously share similar tastes in music, yet we grew up about 400 miles apart. Nevertheless, I recognised every single character in this book. I was so sad when I finished it.
The Author Behind The Name: Philip Gwynne Jones
Philip Gwynne Jones spent twenty years in the IT industry before realising he was, as he describes it, “congenitally unsuited to it.” Facing redundancy from his job with a large Scottish bank, he and his wife decided something had to change.
A conversation with a man in a pub persuaded them to sell their flat and move to Venice — they had no job, no friends and no long-term place to stay. They’re now built a new life, one where Philip enjoys cooking, classical music, old horror films and “listens to more Italian progressive rock than is strictly healthy.”
He published his first novel, The Venetian Game in 2017 which was the first instalment of a series featuring Nathan Sutherland, the English Honorary Consul to Venice.
This year sees the publication of the paperback edition of book number six — The Angels of Venice — due out in the UK in February. Book seven — The Venetian Candidate — will be published in July 2023.
He has written for both the Sunday Times and the Big Issue, and is a frequent guest on BBC Radio Wales.
Philip is a member of the Society of Authors, the Crime Writers’ Association and the Welsh crime writing collective Crime Cymru.
The Angels of Venice: Synopsis
It’s the night of 12 November 2019. The worst flooding in 50 years hits the city of Venice. 85% of La Serenissima is underwater. Gale force winds roar across the lagoon and along the narrow streets. And the body of Dr Jennifer Whiteread- a young British art historian, specialising in the depiction of angels in Venetian painting – is found floating in a flooded antique bookshop on the Street of the Assassins.
As the local police struggle to restore order to a city on its knees, Nathan Sutherland – under pressure from the British Ambassador and distraught relatives – sets out into the dark and rain-swept streets in an attempt to discover the truth behind Whiteread’s death.
The trail leads to the “Markham Foundation”, a recent and welcome addition to the list of charities working to preserve the ancient city. Charming, clever and very, very rich, Giles Markham is a well-known and popular figure in the highest Venetian social circles, and has the ear of both the Mayor and the Patriarch.
But a man with powerful friends may also have powerful enemies. And Nathan is about to learn that, in Venice at least, angels come in many forms – merciful, fallen and vengeful…