Marchant, Ian 1958-
MARCHANT, Ian 1958-
PERSONAL: Born 1958, in Newhaven, East Sussex, England; children: Eleanor, Esme. Education: Attended St. David's University College, Lampeter, Wales; Lancaster University, degree in history and philosophy of science, 1992.
CAREER: Novelist and travel writer. Arvon Foundation, North Devon, England, co-centre director. Has also worked as a bookmaker's cashier, second-hand book and record dealer, singer and songwriter with the band The Mood Index, frontman with the cabaret act "Your Dad," and performs solo comedy act as Hilary Spume FRSL.
(Editor, with Hilary Arksey and Cheryl Simmill) Juggling for a Degree: Mature Students' Experience of University Life, Unit for Innovation in Higher Education (Lancaster, England), 1994.
In Southern Waters (novel), Victor Gollancz (London, England), 1999.
The Battle for Dole Acre (novel), Weidenfeld and Nicholson (London, England), 2001.
Crypts, Caves, and Tunnels of London, Watling Street (London, England), 2002.
Parallel Lines, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2003.
Men and Models, New Holland Publishers (London, England), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: British writer Ian Marchant has been compared with such British comic geniuses as Michael Palin and Nick Hornby. His novels are filled with idiosyncratic characters, and his nonfiction also tends to focus on pursuits from train travel to model-making.
Marchant's first novel, In Southern Waters, follows the adventures of a group of quirky roommates in Brighton. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised the book by saying that "this debut from across the pond is great fun. Readers who fondly remember the '80s U.K. series The Young Ones will revel in the antics of these misfits and malcontents." In Marchant's second novel, The Battle for Dole Acre, chef Terry Whittaker leaves behind his troubled life in London to open a restaurant in the sleepy town of Pancester. There he becomes involved in an effort to stop the town council from building a parking lot on the Dole Acre Donkey Sanctuary.
Aside from novels, Marchant has also written critically acclaimed nonfiction. Parallel Lines is about the British love affair with train travel. Marchant traveled the rails, swapping stories with commuters and rail enthusiasts, and wove his personal experiences together with a history of the British rail system. G. E. Armitage, writing in the Spectator, called it "a book for everyone who has sworn never again to endure the frustrations, disappointments and turmoil of modern rail travel" and found in it "an account of Life-as-Journey as endured . . . between boyhood and manhood . . . between hope and despair." Nicholas Lezard of the Guardian enjoyed the book's humor and admired Merchant's ability to break "the mould of the blokey memoir," but found "the greatest and simplest pleasure of Parallel Lines . . . is in his observations of his fellow travellers. . . . His discomfiture is our entertainment."
In Men and Models Marchant takes on the lives of people who like to create models, their creations ranging from concrete dragons and a cowboy ranch to a Wurlitzer organ. Crypts, Caves, and Tunnels of London, a book aimed at young adults but with a crossover adult readership, explores the history of the network of tunnels under the city of London.
Marchant told CA: "my favorite writers include Charles Dickens, Jerome K. Jerome, G. K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell, Anthony Powell, Alasdair Gray, Richard Beard, Charles Palliser, Iain Pears, Henry Thoreau, Tom Robbins, Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, Isak Dineson, and Georges Perec." He went on to say that "I write for fun and profit, and I am a lucky man, so far, thank God."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Big Issue (London, England), July 9, 2001, Tina Jackson, review of The Battle for Dole Acre.
Guardian (Manchester, England), July 10, 2004, Nicholas Lezard, review of Parallel Lines, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2001, review of InSouthern Waters, p. 61.
Spectator, August 16, 2003, G. E. Armitage, "Stations of the Cross," review of Parallel Lines, p. 50.
Ian Marchant Home Page,http://www.ianmarchant.com (August 14, 2004).
University College, Chichester Web site,http://www.ucc.ac.uk/ (March 11, 2004), "Ian Marchant—Guest Writer Reads at UCC."