I was so lucky to be able to count Graham as a friend and utterly proud to have been able to be his publisher. I’m devastated to have lost a friend, devastated that I’ve now edited his last novel. As a novelist he bore the characteristics that made him such a lovely man: a warm, endless affection for people; an understanding of their troubles; a fierce belief in social justice; a, somehow, no-nonsense fascination with and acceptance of the numinous and a rich appreciation of the magic and the wonder we can find in the ordinary.
His novels are most often set in the midlands, they always centre around the all important domestic dramas of family life, yet they reach out so much further. Graham’s novels were always driven by the universal importance of love, its arrival, its endurance, its passing. This joy and this sadness can be shared by all. The magic that he allowed to infuse his books was a familiar magic rooted in stories and feelings that we have all shared even if we have chosen, rationally, not to have it as part of our world view. He celebrated the simple magic of the unknown, the superstition, the folk tale. But he also found, and folded into his writing, a magic in the real, the small and the ordinary. His descriptions of nature and the world were precise and loving. His willingness to see the extraordinary in the life of someone struggling against everyday hardship or prejudice was warm and real. His natural sympathy with the unregarded and the outsider welcomed in every reader.
His books are some of the most enriching I have ever read. Can I pick out a favourite? Really, really hard. The quietly chilling and beautiful The Silent Land? The profoundly unsettling childhood fears of The Tooth Fairy? The personal memories evoked by The Year of The Ladybird? The deliciously scurrilous Memoirs of A Master Forger (the autobiography of the very unreliable William Heaney)? Any given day, any of these, any of his other books (The World Fantasy Award winning The Facts of Life, for goodness sake!), might be my favourite.
But I keep coming back to Some Kind of Fairy Tale. Its superb evocations of the countryside, its subtle winding of nature and fairy, its forensic yet oh-so touching dissection of the fears and loves of the family at its centre. It’s such a very Graham Joyce novel…
But it doesn’t really matter which novel was anyone’s favourite. I know it will be little consolation right now to his friends and family as they deal with his loss, but thank goodness he was a writer; his wonderful novels mean that we can continue to share his profound qualities, his generous outlook and pass them on to others. I know of no other body of work with a larger and more generous heart. Much like their author.
Click here for a look at Graham’s last blog piece, written in early August. A perfect piece of the man and his writing.