Author: philipgjones

2018 (and all that)

It was a great pleasure to be at the (belated) launch party of Gianfranco Munerotto’s NaviIMG_2258 della marina veneziana at the Mare di Carta bookshop last Friday. Now, I must declare an interest here as I provided the English language translations for this, but this really is a beautifully produced piece of work. Gianfranco has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Venetian maritime history and what he doesn’t know, frankly, is probably not worth knowing. He’s also an extremely talented artist, and possesses a fine bass-baritone voice to boot. In fact, if he wasn’t such a nice bloke I’d be very jealous.

Elsewhere, the ebook edition of The Venetian Game is currently available at a bargain price, with a correspondingly satisfying spike in Amazon sales. I get asked to talk about it at school a IMG_2261fair bit which manage to be both fun and a bit embarrassing at the same time. There’ll also be an audiobook version later this year : no more information on that at present, but I’ll post it as and when I get it.

And then, of course, there’s Vengeance in Venice which comes out on the 5th April. Which is just slightly more than two months away now or (not that I’m counting) something like 70 sleeps.

Fingers crossed but, hopefully, it’s going to be a busy year…


A Christmas Carol

It’s difficult to be angry with a man wearing a Santa hat.

The plane has been sitting on the tarmac at Marco Polo airport for nearly thirty minutes now, waiting to depart. The pilot has told us that there’s been an incident at Bristol airport. A plane has skidded off the runway during landing. Nobody, thankfully, has been hurt but there is likely to be a delay of several hours. There’ll be more information as soon as he gets it, but it’s likely they’ll be taking us off the plane soon.

It’s not ideal, but neither is it the end of the world. We have, perhaps, a three hour drive to Pembrokeshire at the other end so we’ll be arriving later than expected, but nothing too serious. I adopt the sleeping position (always easier for me than the brace position) and settle down for forty winks prior to the next announcement.

I only manage about twenty of them. The pilot emerges from the cabin wearing a bright Easyjet-orange Santa hat. He exchanges a few words with a couple in the front row and I hear the words “not good news”.

Not good at all. The airport has been closed until further notice. Easyjet have therefore cancelled all flights into Bristol and the customer service in Arrivals will do their best to make alternative arrangements for us. In the meantime, he suggests, we’re free to use our telephones or tablets in order to try and sort things out for ourselves.

Phones are whipped out like Colt 45s at the O.K Corral, and everyone taps away furiously. I check Bristol. There are no flights scheduled for tomorrow. Gatwick, then? Yes! I tap in our details as quickly as I can and submit them. I slump back in my chair. Starting our holiday on the M25 isn’t ideal, but at least we’re going to get back. Then the screen flashes up a message. The cheapest flight is not longer available. The next one costs half as much again. I don’t care. I’m prepared to throw money at the problem to make it go away, as long as we can get back to the UK for Christmas. I hit submit again. In the time taken to press the button, somebody else has nabbed it. There are now no seats remaining.

I’m trying to stay calm, but it’s not easy. Edinburgh? Is Aberdeen too far away? If we fly to Belfast could we get a boat? If the worst comes to the worst could we just get a train back? Hell, if there’s nothing else at all would Easyjet be obliged to pay for a cabin on the Orient Express?

Liverpool. Lovely, wonderful, almost-in-Wales Liverpool, with plenty of seats available the following morning. I receive the booking confirmation and sigh with relief. It’s not perfect, but it’s a flight to the UK.

We get taken off the plane, and bussed back to the terminal. The pilot apologises to everyone, and wishes us good luck and a Merry Christmas. He hands out sweets to the kids. People are stressed and unhappy and yet – it’s that damn Easyjet-orange Santa hat – it’s impossible to be angry with him.

As we wait for our bags to be taken off, one of the passengers is wandering around and telling anyone who’ll listen that the pilot – the pilot, mark you – has personally told him that Bristol remained closed for just thirty minutes, and that Easyjet were the only company to cancel flights. This, naturally, has the effect of angering and upsetting people. One woman puts her hands to her face and seems to be on the verge of tears. ‘Only company to cancel,’ he repeats. ‘The pilot told me on the way out.’

This will turn out to be nonsense. Bristol airport remained closed until midnight. But, for some reason, Unknown Passenger has chosen to play the part of Scrooge in our little Christmas Carol.

We collect our bags and make our way to Arrivals. The queue snakes away into the distance, to where the customer service desk – a little orange cube at the end of the hall – is manned by two people.

We try and take stock of things. We have, at least, a flight which is more than many people have. We could just go home. But we have friends staying in our flat and cat-sitting over the holidays. It doesn’t seem fair to disturb them. There are people who, we know, would put us up. Similarly, it doesn’t seem right to put them to trouble just before Christmas. No. We’re going to queue up, and let Easyjet arrange a hotel for us.

And then something quite wonderful happens. We start talking to the people behind us. Then Caroline spots a couple of teachers from Padua who she met only the week before. We all joke about the length of the queue and how we could all do with a drink, and, before you know it, people are working in shifts to go to the bar and bring back spritzes in plastic cups. We keep a place in the queue whilst people head off to eat pizza slices off paper plates, and then they do the same for us. An Easyjet representative works her way along the line, handing out food vouchers. It turns out that the nearest bar will not accept them as payment for drinks. But then a public-spirited citizen announces that they’ve found a bar at the opposite end of the terminal which will. Huzzah!

Slowly, but surely, the distance to the recycling bins to dispose of the empties increases, as the distance to the customer service desk decreases.

It should be horrible, stressful and upsetting but – against all the odds – our section of the queue is having a right little party. We all get booked into the same hotel, a workaday Marriott just ten minutes from the airport, and say we’ll meet up again later.

We don’t, of course. Neither of us feels up to two parties in a day any more. We have a modest dinner, and an early night. The next day we’re up early for an uneventful flight to Liverpool and a drive to Wales where Christmas will properly begin. And yet, in a strange way, those three hours in an airport queue were amongst the most, well, Christmassy of the entire holiday.


Merry Christmas

I’ll try and write a more detailed round-up of the year before it ends, but I’ve got a flight to catch to the UK in a couple of hours and so this will have to be brief.

It’s simply to say thanks : to all who came to visit this year, to those of you who looked after Mimi while we were away, and to all of those who sent messages of support or told me how much they’d enjoyed The Venetian Game (*)

Thank you. It really does mean a lot.

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” 
Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas everyone!

(* and in the event that you didn’t enjoy The Venetian Game, well, thank you even more for not telling me…)

Cooking with Nathan : Rabbit

Caroline came back from the market at Santa Marta with a rabbit. But not just any old rabbit : a boned rabbit.

I took a look at it. It looked, basically, rabbit-like. Only floppy. Clearly, proper work had gone into it. And so, I felt obliged to put a similar amount of work into cooking it.


One boned-out rabbit

Three good sausages

200g of thinly sliced pancetta

100g-150g mushrooms

50g grated parmesan

Chopped herbs : I used rosemary and sage. Oregano wouldn’t hurt. You decide.

Two large glasses of white wine / prosecco

Salt & Pepper


  1. First, bone your rabbit.

2. No. Do not do this. Get someone else to do it. Your life will not be the less for not boning out a rabbit. Get a boned rabbit from a butcher.

3. Congratulate yourself on being sensible. Put some music on. This recipe takes a bit of time, but not a whole opera. I chose George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass”, along with miscellaneous Beatles with occasional Stones/Who/Yardbirds on the side.

4. Make the stuffing. Scrape the meat out of the sausages into bowl, and add the parmesan. Finely chop the mushrooms and herbs, and add them to the mix with a good grinding of salt and pepper.

5. My rabbit came with its liver and some rather tough white meat. Chop this up finely and add to the mix. Give it a good scoosh together with your hands and form it into a big ball. Or, if you prefer, a long sausage shape.

6. Take your boned-out rabbit and lay it out flat. Take your stuffing and, well, stuff your rabbit like this :-


img_2287.jpg7. Roll up your rabbit and secure it by wrapping the pancetta around it. Yes, you could use cooking twine for this. But it’s more fun using bacon, surely?

The Great Beast should now look something like this :-


8. Stick it in a roasting tin, and pour a glass of white wine or prosecco on top. Drink the other glass.

9. Cook for 90 minutes on gas mark 4. The temptation will be to stick it on a higher hear to crisp up the pancetta – if you do this, the bacon will shrink too quickly and the end result will look a little sad. A longer, slower cook is better.

10. After 90 minutes, it should look like this…IMG_2290

11. Carve into slices, and serve with some greens. But let’s be honest, green things are not the main event here. Hopefully, it will look something like this :-

IMG_2292.JPG I made this for two. There will be cold cuts and sandwiches for a couple of days to come. It would make a cracking dish for a dinner party. If you are worried that, perhaps, you are not getting enough protein in your diet, I can think of no better dish!

Nathan and I

I was very pleased to give a talk and reading from “The Venetian Game” at the Circolo Italo-Britannico in Venice recently. And even more pleased to receive this rather lovely paperweight as a gift.IMG_2247

I hope one day to have a desk that does it justice. Actually, I hope one day to just have any sort of desk at all. I write on the sofa. But I aspire, one day, to a desk.

Anyway, I took a few questions from the audience, including this one : How much of Nathan Sutherland is Philip Gwynne Jones?

It’s a good question. One answer would be Stephen King’s from On Writing (and if you’re a writer or in any way interested in the craft of writing, do go out and buy this – it’s essential)  : namely, that every character  is, in some way, a reflection of you. But I think it’s worth adding a few things.

Firstly, my domestic situation is rather (by which I mean much) happier than Nathan’s. My wife lives in the same country and, indeed, same apartment as me. There are not, nor have there ever been, any art restorers in my life except for Stefano to whom I briefly taught English five years ago. Very nice chap, but not my type.

I do some translation work but, so far at least, have managed to avoid lawnmower P1010530manuals. We do have a cat but whereas  Gramsci is a spitting, clawing furry ball of misanthropic fury, Mimi…is not.

But there are, of course, some things in common. I once heard Donna Leon say that Brunetti had to be someone she liked, if she was going to be spending so much time with him. It’s a good point. I’m not sure if there’ll ever be 25+ Nathan Sutherland novels (although I’m perfectly happy to give it a go) but I do think that, yes, he kind of needs to be someone you want to cheer on. One review described him as being “slightly rumpled”. I think that’s a very good description.

His musical tastes are, of course, mine. One review suggested that I was very cleverly poking fun at the predilection of Italian men of a certain age for old British progressive rock bands. I was, of course, being totally sincere. Hawkwind, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd are the soundtrack to my life. If anyone goes out and listens to them as a result of reading “The Venetian Game”, I would absolutely delighted.

The big difference between us is that Nathan is – in his own quiet, rumpled way – quite brave. And I’m not. Not at all. I think I’d just have taken the package from Mr Montgomery and gone straight to the police.

The character I’d like to be, I think, is Federica. The one that I enjoyed writing the most is, of course, Arcangelo. But that’s another story for another time…






Corriere del Veneto Review

There have been a number of very positive reviews of the Italian edition, some of which I’ve added to the “Reviews” section.

Here’s the interview from today’s Corriere. And many thanks to Roger Branson for the photo.


And here’s a translation :-

“The location is the shadowy, fascinating Venice we all know for its characteristic, unique views, the ferry boats and swarms of tourist, the high waters and humidity, its treasure chest of artworks, the opera and the amazing food. The main character is a funny, typical anti-hero who gets accidentally thrown into the action. At his side, a horrible cat named Gramsci, a couple of shady giudecchini, a friend with a Pink Floyd obsession and a fascinating restorer. Philip Gwynne Jones’s Il Ponte dei Delitti (Newton Compton Editori, 2017) is a noir you’ll read in one breathless sitting – the Welsh author has been living in Venice for five years, and brings together English humour and a good knowledge of the lagoon city and our country. The protagonist of this contemporary crime-thriller is Nathan Sutherland, translator by profession and English Consul by vocation, with the mandate of solving his countrymen’s small issues when visiting the Serenissima. It’s a tedious and monotonous job; or so it was, up until the enigmatic Mr Montgomery shows up in Sutherland’s office, asking him to look after a small package for a large sum. Smelling trouble, the Consul decides to decline the strange offer (even though all that money could have been useful), but he gets tricked and ends up receiving the package anyways. He opens it and finds out it’s a prayer book illustrated by Renaissance Master Giovanni Bellini. Or is it? “And so Nathan”, the author tells us, “decides to investigate and gets sucked into a dangerous game (as per the English title of the book, The Venetian Game). But all ends well. The inspiration for the character came to me while teaching English to a foreign consul here in Venice”. The novel is full of twists and turns, it drags you into history, and it’s full of love for Venice – it’s the author’s “thank you” to the city. The next Nathan Sutherland book, Vengeance in Venice, is out in the UK in April and will take place during the Biennale.”


The phone call came midway through cooking dinner. A phone interview with the Corriere del Veneto. A proper, major Italian newspaper.

A pan of bechamel sauce was simmering gently on the hob. Michael Moorcock was declaiming, somewhat less gently, on the stereo as Hawkwind’s space-rock classic “Warrior on the Edge of Time” played in the background.

I’d like to say that the interview was down to my literary brilliance, but the credit actually lies with my lovely friend Barbara who set it all up for me. I’d been hoping for days that someone would call and when they did…

…well, let’s just say it went about as well as might be expected. I scurried around, phone tucked under my chin, babbling away in imperfect Italian as I stirred my sauce with one hand and tried to switch the music off with the other.

In the end a decision had to be made, and I chose to save dinner. I’ve yet to hear the final interview but I fear my best efforts to explain the inspiration for the novel will be interrupted by the sounds of Michael Moorcock shrieking “WE ARE THE LAST! WE ARE THE LOST! WE ARE THE BETRAYED!!!”

I’ll let you know…

Tour Guides and Hon Cons…

I was back at Laguna Libre last Saturday for a presentation of Il Ponte dei Delitti along with fellow Venice-based author Gregory Dowling, presenting his second novel in the Alvise Marangon series The Four Horsemen. The advertisement referred to two capolavori – “masterpieces” – which might have been over-egging it a bit given that that puts us in competition with The Aspern Papers, but neither of us were going to complain.

Gregory and I found very different solutions to the problem of “how do you write a detective story in Venice without making the protagonist a detective?” I made Nathan Sutherland the Honorary Consul. Gregory made Alvise Marangon a cicerone, or tour guide to the great(ish) and the good(ish) on the grand tour of the 18th century which is, frankly, a brilliant idea.

His exposition of the Venice of the period is skilfully and subtly done, as Alvise draws you into his world. He’s an engaging protagonist : an accidental hero, slightly down-at-heel, living by his wits and possessed of a dry humour without ever falling into the cliche of the “cheeky chappy”. I think he’d get on well with Nathan. A shame it could never happen. Unless, of course, I manage to sell that Doctor Who script I’ve been working on…

Until this happens, I highly recommend both The Four Horsemen and its prequel Ascension to you. And if you really want to know what we look like, well, here are some photographs…


Cooking with Nathan : gamberi al lardo

I was cooking for friends recently, and this was the starter. It’s a hard dish to get wrong really, as long as you can get the parts. It’s also really quick to cook, which gives you more time to sparkle…


Large prawns. The larger the better. I got 30 enormous ones from Rialto and they served six people.

Lardo : very finely sliced strips of pig fat. Yes, I know. Stay with me on this. If you can’t get it, very thinly sliced bacon – the fattier the cut the better – will do. The important thing is to get your butcher or supermarket to slice it as thinly as possible with a bacon slicer. No matter how good your knives are, you won’t be able to do it yourself.

Rocket / Leaves : yeah, we probably have to have a salad on the side. Some leaves, a bit of dressing. But let’s be honest, it’s not the main event and we’re not really that excited about it are we? Put some leaves in a bowl with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. That’ll do.


  1. Choose your music. Shelling and wrapping of prawns is quite a satisfying job, but a little bit time consuming and fiddly. You don’t want to be playing an album where you suddenly want to skip tracks. I had Mozart’s Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail on which is (a) far more gorgeous than I ever remembered and (b) was long enough for me to prepare a main course and bake a cake as well.
  2. Shell the prawns, and remove the intestinal tract (just give them a pinch in the middle and pull the red veiny thing out. The bigger the prawn, the easier this is). To be honest, you don’t really need to do this, but it looks nicer and makes you feel properly cheffy.
  3. Wrap your prawns. Take a strip of lardo and wrap your prawn up in it. Easy. If your lardo is super-thin you will be able to feel it melting away in your hands. Try not to think about this.
  4. When all your prawns are wrapped, you will have a plate that looks something like  this :-
Do not panic..

I know this may not look lovely. Don’t worry. Put them in the fridge to chill a bit

5. Meet your guests. Make spritzes. Do your best to sparkle.

6. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat. Do not add any oil. Your prawns are wrapped in pig fat, you are not going to need anything else

7. Fry your prawns for a couple of minutes each side. And this is the really clever bit…the fat will almost completely disappear, but will keep the prawns moist and impart a little saltiness, a little bit of flavour of bacon, and whatever else the lardo was cured with (in this case, black pepper and rosemary). If you had to use bacon, don’t worry…you’ll end up with a slightly crispier and more bacony shell but this is by no means the worst thing in the world.

8. Arrange on plate. Serve with some rocket, if you really have to. It probably needs a glass of white on the side, but – given the salty/savoury quality – a red would do as well.

Some prawns. On a plate. But what great  prawns!


(Not) Lost in the Supermarket

Caroline rings me from the “Panorama” supermarket in Marghera.

“You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen!”

I’m a bit lost at this and so my response is an underwhelming “No, I can’t.”

“Go on. What would be the most amazing thing you could see here?”

I’m still a bit stuck. My mind races through the possibilities. The complete print of “The Wicker Man”, thought lost for decades? A steak and kidney pie? A new Hawkwind album?

All of these go through my head. And then I suddenly think, “The book?”

“Yes. They’ve got about a dozen copies. How many shall I buy?”

I fight the urge to say “All of them.” It would, after all, be unfair to the good folk of Marghera. Just a couple, I suggest.

I put the phone down. I have work to do, but, quite obviously, none is going to be done now. I grab a very sleepy Mimi the cat and hold her in front of me. Haven’t you got a brilliant owner? Her legs scrabble through the air, so I put her down. I throw lots of balls for her in order to make up for all this unexpected activity.

I meet Caroline, laden with two heavy trolleys, at Piazzale Roma. It is chucking it down with rain, but I don’t care. All I want to do is get back home.

It looks beautiful. And more than that, it reads really well. The translation is excellent, and the “voice” feels like mine – or, more importantly, Nathan’s. Complimenti Marco Bisanti, we’ve never met, or even spoken, but you’ve done a wonderful job here.

Il Ponte dei Delitti is available from Thursday 21st September. Or right now from Panorama in Marghera. Ten copies remained at the time of writing.