Jackson, Mick 1960-
JACKSON, Mick 1960-
PERSONAL: Born 1960, in Great Harwood, Lancashire, England; son of Robert (a foundry supplies company owner) and Kathleen (a librarian) Jackson. Education: Dartington College of Arts, B.A. (theatre studies), 1983; University of East Anglia, M.A. (creative writing), 1992. Hobbies and other interests: "Bee-keeping, running, collecting junk."
ADDRESSES: Home—Brighton, England. Agent—Derek Johns, A. P. Watt Ltd., 20 John Street, London WC1N 2DR, England.
CAREER: Author, screenwriter, and filmmaker. Singer/songwriter with bands Dancing with the Dog, Screaming Abdabs, and Dinner Ladies. Directed short documentary The Pylon People, short dramas Pieces of the Moon and The Walberswick Detectives,, and BBC documentary about pylon painters titled Silvering Up.
AWARDS, HONORS: Royal Society of Authors' First Novel Award, Booker Prize shortlist, and Whitbread First Novel Award, all 1997, all for The Underground Man.
The Underground Man, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Five Boys, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A collection of short stories for children, a variety of screenplays, and a third novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Upon graduating from Dartington College of Arts in England, Mick Jackson founded a music group and toured under a variety of band names such as Dancing with the Dog, the Screaming Abdabs, and the Dinner Ladies. He was the singer for the band and also wrote the lyrics. He played at concerts throughout the United Kingdom until his fellow musicians told him that his song lyrics were turning into short stories. From that point, Jackson quit the music circuit and tried his hand at writing fiction. He submitted some of his stories to the prestigious University of East Anglia, renowned for its creative writing program, and after his second attempt, he was accepted. His first published novel proved to those who supported his entrance to the university to be well worth their confidence, as Jackson's The Underground Man went on to be short-listed for the coveted Booker Prize.
The Underground Man is a fictionalized account of a real person, William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, the fifth duke of Portland, an eccentric man who lived in the mid-nineteenth century. The duke lived at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire, where he built a lavish system of subterranean tunnels, famous in Great Britain although the public has never seen them. The tunnels are long, and some of them are very wide—large enough for two carriages to fit side by side. Jackson's account of the duke's life is based, in part, on very limited actual recorded details, a larger portion on popular stories about the duke's eccentricities, and to a greater extent on Jackson's own imagination.
Jackson writes his novel in the form of a journal, as if the duke had kept a recorded history of his own psychological descent. This journal begins with a collection of incidents, which Mary Ellen Quinn for Booklist found, make the duke appear "to be nothing more than a harmless crackpot," at certain points of the story, but then, unfortunately, the journal entries grow "more disturbing" as the story works its way to the conclusion. The story reflects on the duke's "often hilarious hypochondria, his bright if useless observations . . . and his inevitable descent into madness," wrote Erik Burns for the New York Times Book Review.
Although the peculiar attributes of the duke's personality might keep the reader interested in this story, it is the intrigue that some reviewers found more fascinating. According to David Horspool, for the Times Literary Supplement, "Jackson's purpose in writing this story is to give his readers an insight into the workings of the Duke's mind." "Searching motivates the book," wrote Horspool, "from the Duke's reflections about the ways things work to the eventual unearthing of repressed memories and loss." At times, Jackson makes the duke appear amusing. At other times, the author makes his protagonist appear vulnerable. The mood of the novel becomes darker and darker as it moves along the erratic lifeline of this troubled man, until, as Horspool stated, the "shocking and gruesome" conclusion is reached. Lawrence Rungren, for Library Journal referred to Jackson's first novel as "a subdued, though peculiarly compelling, tale."
Five Boys, published in 2001, is Jackson's second novel, which Times Literary Supplement's Jonathan Keates described as "a work of striking originality, refreshingly unconcerned with emulating an established mode or idiom and triumphantly indifferent to stylistic influences." Both the story, which concerns a close-knit group of boys who live in England during World War II, and the style in which Jackson tells it are original. Through the novel, Jackson explores the life of the inhabitants of a small British village which has been largely deserted by the most able and disciplined men. Left behind are the wives and mothers, the old and frail men, and the children, who soon discover a new sense of freedom because their fathers are gone and their mothers are distracted by worry. Additional children have been sent to the village to get away from the threat of attack on the larger cities in the United Kingdom. The story is a reflection on how the war affected the villagers, with special attention paid to the boys who were too young to be sent to battle and now suddenly find themselves bonding with one another in a series of adventures.
The experimental form of Jackson's writing—Jackson loosely ties his story together in a series of separate vignettes—has been described in a variety of ways. Joanne Wilkinson, for Booklist, referred to Five Boys as a "vivid, episodic novel" with a "quirky cast of characters." Meanwhile, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called Jackson's book "an integrated collection of seriocomic short stories" and also stated that the creative form demonstrates "Jackson's writerly skill and imagination." On the other hand, William Skidelsky, writing for the New Statesman, found that Five Boys, like Jackson's first novel, "contains many bold, unconventional ideas, and is probably worth reading just for these." Skidelsky, however, questioned if Five Boys could really be classified as a novel because it lacks a "sustained focus." He believed that Jackson tried to pack too much information into his stories. Possibly, Skidelsky considered, Jackson's purpose in doing so is "to build up an authentically holistic picture of village life." Finally, there was the point of view of a Kirkus Reviews writer, who concluded that Five Boys is "destined to move and please all but the meanest of souls."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of The Underground Man, p. 1658; June 1, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Five Boys, p. 1684.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of Five Boys, p. 443.
Library Journal, June 1, 1997, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Underground Man, p. 148.
New Statesman, September 3, 2001, William Skidelsky, review of Five Boys, p. 39.
New York Times Book Review, July 20, 1997, Erik Burns, "Brain Surgery Made Easy," review of The Underground Man, p. 20; June 23, 2002, Tom Shone, "The Sting," review of Five Boys, p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, May 5, 1997, review of The Underground Man, p. 199; May 13, 2002, review of Five Boys, pp. 49-50.
Times Literary Supplement, January 31, 1997, David Horspool, "Subterranean Melancholy," review of The Underground Man, p. 21; September 7, 2001, Jonathan Keates, "Fun on the Home Front", review of Five Boys, p. 9.
Mick Jackson Home Page,http://www.mickjackson.com (August 2003).