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Author Jon McGregor on Even The Dogs
Author Jon McGregor
Jon McGregor is one of the founding members of the Nottingham Writers' Studio

Booker nominated Jon McGregor's third novel is a stark portrayal of life on the edge of society.

Even The Dogs is about a group of characters whose lives are in a mess. It's a story about homelessness and addiction.

It is a work inspired by a death in Nottingham.

Having had the idea for the book it was Nottingham people who helped with the details, from former drug addicts to the Nottingham Coroner.

Jon McGregor said: "Although some of the locations and landmarks might be recognisable as being in Nottingham the overall landscape could be anywhere."

The book starts with a body being discovered in a flat. The body has been sitting there, undiscovered, for several days. The novel then explores the lives of his friends and associates. Mr McGregor said he initially started on the subject because he was interested in finding out more about the lives of the homeless.

"I guess that one of the aims is to give the reader a glimpse into this world and a sense of understanding it."

"There's no underlying moral purpose or message. It is a novel about a group of characters who are trying to get on with their lives despite the fact that their lives are in a terrible mess.

Nottingham

The 34-year-old lives and writes in Nottingham and he did most of the research in the city but has set the novel in an anonymous place.

Novels set in Nottinghamshire
The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan
The Underground Man by Mick Jackson
A Gun For Sale by Graham Greene
Darkness And Light by John Harvey
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence

"It would have been very easy to drift into writing a non-fiction book so by taking it away from Nottingham I forced myself to imagine much more of it. Also, I didn't want anyone that I spoke to to think that the book was about them in any way or featured them in any way.

"I didn't want to write a book about drug addiction in Nottingham and then just change all the names. I wanted to make up a story but just make sure I got the details right."

Research

The research for the book was done with the help of people who had been homeless and addicted to heroin in Nottingham and Sheffield.

The descriptions of heroin use are vivid. At one point one of the characters in the novel is struggling to find a vein in her body as she has been injecting for a sustained period of time.

"I was keen for the details to be accurate and be very detailed. Not to skim over the unpleasantness of it."

Whilst carrying out his research Jon McGregor said that what struck him most was the resourcefulness of those living on the streets.

Author Jon McGregor reading his third novel Even The Dogs

"It takes a lot of energy and creativity to make such screwed up lives carry on. And the kind of will people have to survive, year after year, dealing with that stuff, is weirdly impressive.

"It's much more complicated than 'poor little homeless man living on the streets'. It's much more nuanced. Everybody's got their own situation and their own needs."

The author also interviewed various professionals who work with those going through addiction in the city - a nurse based in Sneinton, a pathologist at the Queens Medical Centre, a Nottingham homeless charity worker, a case worker from a day centre in Hockley, the Nottingham Coroner and a policeman from Radford.

"The professionals were really generous with their time. Most of them I met in person and had a long chat about their jobs. Most of those read the first draft and helped with some feedback."

Blogs

Whilst researching other sections in the book, McGregor admits to snooping around social networking sites and blogs. He said that social media has made it easier to peer into people's lives.

"There was some stuff in blogs where people were talking about their own drug use and their experiences of rehab and experience with addiction. It wasn't particularly methodical research, it was just reading through a whole bunch of stuff, getting little snippets of ideas and information and getting a bit more of a feel of how it is for people, their own unmediated experiences.

"People seem to be losing their sense of boundaries more and more, what people are willing to put up on the internet, especially blogs. People seem to assume that only their friends are going to read it but anyone in the world could read it at any time."

People like Jon McGregor.

Biography

Jon McGregor's first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, won the Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham awards as well as being long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

The author's second novel, So Many Ways to Begin, published in 2006, was also long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Jon McGregor is appearing at the Lowdham Book Festival on 25 June. The eleventh Lowdham Book Festival (15 June - 1 July 2010) features over 70 writers, live music, festival food a book cafe and children's activities.




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