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Jonathan Coe

At Humber Mouth Festival on 19 June 2006
Born 19 August 1961 (1961-08-19) (age 48)
Bromsgrove, England
Occupation Novelist
Nationality British
Writing period 1987-present
Genres Satire

Jonathan Coe (born 19 August 1961 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire) is a British novelist and writer. His work usually has an underlying preoccupation with political issues, although this serious engagement is often expressed comically in the form of satire. For example, What a Carve Up! reworks the plot of an old 1960s spoof horror film of the same name, in the light of the 'carve up' of the UK's resources which some felt was carried out by Margaret Thatcher's right wing Conservative governments of the 1980s. Coe studied at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge, before teaching at the University of Warwick where he completed a PhD in English Literature. In July 2006 he was given an honorary degree by The University of Birmingham.

Both What a Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club have been adapted as drama serials for BBC Radio 4; The Rotters' Club (which was set in a very lightly fictionalised version of his old school in the 1970s King Edward's School, Birmingham) was also adapted for television and broadcast on BBC Two. The Dwarves of Death was filmed as Five Seconds to Spare.

Australian journalist John Pilger mentions sending a copy of What a Carve Up! to the imprisoned Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.[1]

Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen) is adapting What a Carve Up! for Channel 4. This new TV project is currently in development with Big Talk (Black Books, Free Agents) but has yet to be formally commissioned by C4.

Coe recently read an excerpt of his latest novel to crowds at the Latitude Festival. The central character will be "a product of the social media boom," and "the sort of person with hundreds of Facebook friends but no one to talk to when his marriage breaks up". [2]


Musical collaborations

Music is a constant thread in Coe's oeuvre, and he tried to find a record label as a performer before he became a published novelist. He had to wait until 2001 to make his first appearance on a record with 9th & 13th (Tricatel, 2001), a collection of readings of his own writings set to music by jazz pianist/double bass player Danny Manners and indiepop 'cult' artist Louis Philippe.

In particular, Coe is a lifelong fan of Canterbury progressive rock. His novel The Rotters' Club is named after an album by Hatfield and the North. He has contributed to the liner notes for that band's archival release Hatwise Choice.[3] He recently said: "I'd love to find a pianist to collaborate with - maybe Alex Maguire, who is now playing with the reformed line-up of Hatfield and the North". Coe has also collaborated with flautist Theo Travis.

Personal life

Coe is an atheist.[4]

In 2009 Coe took part in Oxfam's first annual book festival - 'Bookfest'. Along with William Sutcliffe, Coe volunteered for the Oxfam Bloomsbury Bookshop in London on Thursday 9th July[5]. Coe and Sutcliffe were taken to the stockroom and asked to choose a theme, and dress the shop's window. Jonathan chose satire as the theme for his display. His’s choices included books on, or by, Michael Moore, Bill Hicks and Steve Bell, and Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Comedy of Peter Cook. He also unearthed an early script of Terry Gilliam’s film, Brazil.

Coe donated a story to Oxfam's 'Ox-Tales' project, four collections of UK stories written by 38 authors. Coe's story was published in the 'Earth' collection.[6]



  • Humphrey Bogart: Take It and Like It Bloomsbury, 1991, a biography of Humphrey Bogart
  • James Stewart: Leading Man Bloomsbury, 1994, a James Stewart biography
  • Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson Picador, 2004 (winner of the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction)


  1. ^ "My last conversation with Aung San Suu Kyi" by John Pilger, 3 Oct 2007, [1]
  2. ^ "Jonathan Coe on how to build a better e-book" by Katie Scott, 28 July 2009, [2]
  3. ^ Hatfield and the North website
  4. ^ Sally Vincent interviewing Coe, 'A Bit of a Rotter', The Guardian, 24 February 2001, Pg. 36.
  5. ^ Oxfam books blog: Jonathan Coe and William Sutcliffe create window displays for the Oxfam Bloomsbury Bookshop
  6. ^ Oxfam: Ox-Tales

External links



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