Glenn Patterson was born in Belfast in 1961. He was educated there and at the University of East Anglia, where he earned his Master’s in Creative Writing. He is the author of ten novels—Gull (forthcoming, 2016), The Rest Just Follows (2014), Mill for Grinding Old People Young (2012), The Third Party (2007), That Which Was (2004), Number 5 (2003), The International (1999), Black Night at Big Thunder Mountain (1995), Fat Lad (1992), and Burning Your Own (1988)—and three works of nonfiction—Here’s Me Here (2015), Once Upon a Hill (2008), and Lapsed Protestant (2006). His plays and stories have been broadcast on the radio and performed on the stage, and his essays have appeared in the Guardian, Observer, Sunday Times, Independent, Irish Times, and Dublin Review.
Patterson has also received several awards, including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Betty Trask Award, the Arts Council NI Award in 1988, the Arts Council NI major individual artist award in 2006, and a Lannan Fellowship in 2009. Patterson is currently senior lecturer in the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast, prior to which he was writer-in-residence at Queen’s University Belfast, Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia, and writer-in-residence at University College Cork. He lives in Belfast with his wife and two children.
Patterson’s first novel, Burning Your Own (Chatto & Windus, 1988), concerns a young boy named Mal who lives in the outskirts of Belfast in the late 1960s. Mal befriends a boy named Francy, who revels in his own status as an outsider and exposes Mal to this world. Ultimately, Burning Your Own is a story of social unrest and innocence lost. It won praise from the Observer, which called the book “a passionately engaged portrayal of a troubled boy and city.”
In The International (Anchor, 1999), his fourth novel, Patterson revisits the subject of Irish social unrest. The novel—the events of which occur on January 28, 1967, the day before the inaugural meeting of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement—follows eighteen-year-old Danny, who tends bar at the International Hotel in Belfast. Having won his job after the shooting death of his predecessor, Danny is acutely aware of and must navigate the violently shifting society around him. After reading The International, Colm Toibin, author of such acclaimed works as The Master, declared Patterson to be “One of the best contemporary Irish novelists.” Writer A. L. Kennedy has called The International “A funny, moving, politically astute novel,” and The Sunday Tribune has said it “has all the makings of classic. Reading it is a humbling experience.”
Number 5 (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2003), which The Times called “An exceptional novel” and “a magnificent achievement,” spans a wider range of time than Burning Your Own and The International. Number 5 takes as its anchor a location rather than a character. Number 5 is a three-bedroom terrace house in suburban Belfast. The novel follows the occupants of this house from the 1950s to the present day, in the process foregrounding the shifting dynamics of Belfast itself. The Times Literary Supplement found Number 5 “Truly satisfying, gently astounding,” and the Observer thought it “Engrossing, extremely good . . . A superior read.”
The Mill for Grinding Old People Young (Faber & Faber, 2012) and The Rest Just Follows (Faber & Faber, 2014) are two of Patterson’s more recent novels. The former concerns Belfast in the 1830s as a city in flux while the latter follows the experiences of the Nimmo family in Belfast beginning in the 1970s. The Mill for Grinding Old People Young has been labeled “mesmerizing,” “A superb historical novel,” and “A sheer pleasure to read” by the Irish Examiner, Sunday Herald, and Sunday Business Post, respectively. The Rest Just Follows won praise from the Sunday Times as “Delicately drawn and acutely observed,” while Irish novelist and playwright Lucy Caldwell has dubbed it “Tender, human, and quietly devastating.”
In Patterson’s forthcoming book Gull (Head of Zeus, 2016), he explores the strange circumstances that brought maverick auto manufacturer John DeLorean to Belfast in the late 1970s to build one of the world’s most iconic cars.
Glenn Patterson holds the Charles A. Heimbold Jr., Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University for the spring 2016 semester, teaching a course in Creative Writing, with a special interest in writing for screen, and in ‘Belfast’ Narratives.