An Enchanted Author
One of the first people to be kind to me in the weird nest-of-vipers atmosphere of British Fantasy Society meetings was Graham Joyce, the most unlikely author I’ve ever met. Unlikely because he was the son of a Yorkshire miner, because he seemed like a two-fisted, red-blooded kind of guy who stuck out in the scrum of whey-faced wimps and slightly autistic Goths attracted to the rural convention we were both attending.Unlikely because he often wrote from a feminine perspective and his books were more concerned with moods than plots.
He made me laugh, we bought each other pints and became good festival friends, meaning I would see him three or four times a year at various awards ceremonies, speeches and signings. When asked about why he hadn’t attended one particularly fraught and territorial gathering of writers, he said, ‘Well, it’s all a load of bollocks, really, isn’t it?’ And of course, he was right.
Graham soon became an award-winning author of novels including ‘The Tooth Fairy’, ‘The Limits of Enchantment’, ‘The Year of the Ladybird’ and ‘Some Kind Of Fairy Tale’. He was unfailingly charming and kind to those awarding him prizes, but seemed bemused about receiving awards at all; I don’t think he saw his books as tales of fantasy but tales of humanity.
Our friendship stretched over twenty years and he dedicated his novel ‘The Tooth Fairy’ to me. As an author he was hard to categorise. There was a touch of Jonathan Carroll and also Christopher Priest in his work, but Graham’s prose was perhaps more grounded in everyday reality. My favourite book of his, ‘The Facts of Life’. Set in war-devastated Coventry, the novel concerns seven daughters, and the idea of female magic being passed from mother to child. Yet it is also about the way in which we experience the world and what it means to be human.
Graham was full of contradictions, a tough-talking Yorkshireman who wrote with great delicacy and elegance about girls and boys, women and hardship, memory, joy and loss, and the roots of Englishness.
Graham was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma cancer last year. He was 59 when he died this week.
I used to get annoyed that more people didn’t know his work because he simply got on and did what he did best – creating spiderweb enchantments of lasting beauty – and his books will be his public legacy. I think in years to come they will be ever more widely read.