My name is Garry John Martin and I am a writer. No matter what else I have done to make a living, writing has underpinned all that I am. For most of the last two and a half decades of my professional life, I was a teacher of English literature. Sixteen of those years were spent at Nottingham High School. I first came to Nottingham twenty-five years ago. I had just returned from a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan, encouraged and tutored in my travels by a colleague from Cranleigh School.
My years at the High School were enriched by the presence of so many talented and rewarding students. In the early days, the Assisted Places scheme ensured a social mix and gave opportunities to so many young men from the area. I myself had won a place at Grammar School in Burton on Trent and one of our hardest rugby fixtures was against the High School. The last match I played in was an honourable draw.
A number of former pupils have become friends, particularly the brilliant writer on nature, Robert Macfarlane. Jonny Sweet, the comic actor, David Ralph, the director and writer for the theatre [I have just seen his latest play at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield], the painter Alex Massouras, the athlete Andy Robinson, and dozens more exciting and enterprising young men made my years as a teacher in Nottingham so memorable.
For the past decade I have been able to write full time. I am a member of Writing East Midlands and with their inestimable help, I have had many books published during this time. One of the stories from the third volume of ‘Beneath Napoleon’s Hat – Tales from the Parisian Cafés’ won a mentoring prize and Anne Zouroudi worked with me for over a year on the ‘The Boy Who Made God Smile’.
I am also a member of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio and have enjoyed their support in all my writing ventures.
Jane Streeter, that intrepid bookseller, launched the last of my Parisian pieces ‘Sylvia Beach and the Melancholy Jesus’ at the Bookcase in Lowdham. We launched ‘Patchwork’ the following year at the Lowdham Festival. There are number of scenes in that novel set in Nottingham, some at the school and one in the Hard to Find Café. ‘The Boy Who Made God Smile’ was launched at Waterstones in Nottingham last year. Dan Donson, the events manager at the shop is hugely supportive of local writers. So too Radio Nottingham, who have been enormously helpful offering opportunities to talk about my work, particularly Alan Clifford. Nottingham is a good place to be a writer.
My latest novel ‘A Sane Asylum’ is based on that journey I made to Iraqi Kurdistan just after the First Gulf War in 1992, reporting back to the BBC World Service. It is a compelling story and an adventure that is both a personal and political journey. Its concerns are current and its revelations urgent. The world that it portrays is viewed at street level in the bustling cities or in the mountains, amongst the people and their private places, as well that of the country’s new leaders and their fledgling Parliament.
This story is mostly true. I was not captured like Joe, but the places, the politicians and the major players are all real. I could still smell the aftermath of war, with a burnt out tank around most corners, every bridge and telephone mast flattened, a whole country reduced to ruin.
We launch the book at Waterstones, Nottingham, on Thursday, June 15th at 6.30 pm. I will be interviewed by Eve Makis, the award winning author, whose novel ‘The Spice Box Letters’ explores the tragic aftermath of the Armenian genocide. Our fictional paths cross in Eastern Turkey.
The event is free as is the wine. It should be a fascinating conversation.