Jay, Mike 1959-

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Jay, Mike 1959-


Born December 14, 1959.


Freelance writer.


Choice Cuts, Gavarnie (East Wittering, England), 1987.

It's in the Mail: Techniques for Collecting Debts, Video Arts (London, England), 1989.

Fantasies and Realities in Poetry, Paper Doll (Billingham, England), 1998.

(Editor, with Michael Neve) 1900: A Fin-de-siècle Reader, Penguin Books (London, England), 1999.

(Editor) Artificial Paradises: A Drugs Reader, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Bristol Rovers Football Club, Tempus (Stroud, England), 1999.

Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century, Dedalus (Gardena, CA), 2000.

The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of James Tilly Matthews and His Visionary Madness, Bantam Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Unfortunate Colonel Despard, Bantam Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals, including the Guardian, Independent, Arena, Fortean Times, and the International Journal of Drug Policy.


Mike Jay writes across a wide range of topics, from drugs to religion to feminism. In The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of JamesTilly Matthews and His Visionary Madness, he tells the story of the man believed to be the first individual diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. A pauper living in London at the end of the eighteenth century, Matthews attended a session of the House of Commons and shouted "Treason!" at the man who was then serving as home secretary. Matthews believed the government was part of a conspiracy to create a machine that controlled the thoughts of the populace, which he had dubbed the "Air Loom." Jay's book examines this bizarre event in history, describing Matthews's behavior and the treatment deemed appropriate in his day. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "Jay constructs a pertinent historical essay on justice and the mentally ill during times of terror and paranoia that resonates today." Nick Seddon, writing for the Spectator, called the book a "beautifully balanced and fiercely energetic account."

The Unfortunate Colonel Despard tells the story of Edward Marcus Despard, an officer in the Royal Navy during the latter half of the eighteenth century, and his participation in the campaign to gain land for the British in Central America. Library Journal reviewer Margaret Heilbrun remarked: "This is marvelous history, keenly expressed and accessible."



Booklist, April 15, 2004, Donna Chavez, review of The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of James Tilly Matthews and His Visionary Madness, p. 1413.

Contemporary Review, December 1, 1999, review of 1900: A Fin-de-Siècle Reader, p. 333.

Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 2004, Daniel Fierman, review of The Air Loom Gang, p. 86.

Financial Times, June 10, 2003, "In Brief—The Air Loom Gang," p. 36.

Library Journal, June 1, 2006, Margaret Heilbrun, review of The Unfortunate Colonel Despard, p. 130.

Publishers Weekly, March 1, 2004, review of The Air Loom Gang, p. 59.

Spectator, June 28, 2003, "The Logic of Lunacy," p. 36.

Wisconsin Bookwatch, November 1, 2004, review of The Air Loom Gang.