Jacob Ross

Jacob Ross




Jacob Ross is Associate Editor for Fiction at Peepal Tree Press, a leading independent publisher of Caribbean, African and Asian related fiction in the United Kingdom. He is also Associate Editor of SABLE Literary Magazine and a reader and tutor for The Literary Consultancy. For several years he has been a Judge for the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize as well as a judge of the VS Pritchett and Tom Gallon prizes. An established tutor of Narrative Craft, he runs numerous Creative Writing workshops both in the UK and abroad.

He is the author of two acclaimed short story collections, Song for Simone and A Way to Catch the Dust. He is also co-editor of several publications of fiction: Voice, Memory, Ashes; Riding and Rising, and Turf. Ross co-authored with Kwesi Owusu, Behind the Masquerade: The Story of Notting Hill Carnival, a seminal work exploring the history, sociology and creative infrastructure of London’s Notting Hill Carnival.

His first novel, Pynter Bender, was published in 2008. It won, and was also short-listed, for several awards including the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize (2009), Society of Authors ‘Best first Novel’, Caribbean Review of Books ‘Book of the Year’ and Metro’s Book of The Week. In 2006 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He received Grenada’s highest literary award for his contribution to literature in 2011.

He resides in Leicester.


Creative Work

From Pynter Bender

Six months after Pynter’s uncle, Birdie, broke out of prison, he climbed the foothills to watch the tractors leave – a slow, juddering procession of dirty steel, trundling eastwards towards the cleft between the hills that marked the beginning of the Drylands. He did not return home until evening, not until the thundering far off in the distance died completely and the smell of trees and the river replaced the fetor of machine oil.

The tractors had left a sloping expanse of wasted straw behind them, and the smell of exposed soil. They’d taken what remained of the Dry Season with them also, for the furnace of the valley cooled soon after, and now the people of Old Hope were turning up their heads to the softer skies of another Halfway Season.

This was their time, his aunt Tan Cee said: these days of quiet air, and light as brittle and pure as glass, when the moisture that the hills released was cool on the skin, when bananas bloomed momentously – the curved head of their single, elongated flower straining to lick the earth like giant scarlet tongues. And silk-cotton trees buried deep inside the climbing forests floated fertility messages on the wind – tiny seeds wrapped in bolls of cotton that were so thin and light it was like catching bits of solid air.

If Deeka, his grandmother, noticed this change, she did not show it. From the night that Birdie left them, she’d been searching for signs of his arrival somewhere. She studied the spiralling fall of leaves, the flutterings of the perishing moths inside the lampshade, the unsteady flight of seagulls – as if there ought to be some meaning in the rapid scribblings of their wings on the winds that drove them inland.

She hardly ate. She hoped aloud that Birdie had escaped to a country where he at least understood the language, which of course meant Englan’ o’ America.

Just when Pynter thought there would be no end to this grumbling, sour-faced vigil, the evening came when he watched his grandmother follow the flight of a single cattle egret that lifted itself from the gloom of the valley floor. It rose fast and steady, in a dazzling arc, like a streak of light against the smoke green of the hillside. It looped high and hard, seemed to hit a sudden wind up there above their heads, then it began descending in a dizzying whorl towards them. Deeka brought the palms of her hands together. She held them before her, her body pushed forward in a nervous, aching prayer. The bird settled like a fluttering fragment of tissue on the mango tree above the house.

His grandmother spread her arms and smiled. ‘Birdie’s awright,’ she said. ‘Leasways, I feel so now.’



This is an excerpt from the first of a trilogy of novels I've been working on over the past decade. Pynter Bender (Harper Collins, 2009) is the first installment and Ada Bowen or The Village Above the Wind,which I’m currently writing, is the second.

I describe my self as an Anglo-Caribbean writer - a way of acknowledging both my unavoidably visceral connection to the Caribbean, its people and its history and the incalculable depth of gratitude I owe to English Literature in terms of my development as a writer.

I live here, in Leicester - or more precisely Leicestershire - and I find the quiet, the landscape and the relative solitude are very conducive to writing. Much of setting/landscape are about the re/imagination of place. How do I, having lived away from the Caribbean for more than two decades, remember the sounds and silence of woodland, the exact sensations I experienced as a child from listening to birdsong, the flight pattern of a cattle egret, the smell of soil and cut grass or the ‘devastation’ left behind by the plough of tractors? I rediscover these experiences by looking out the window at the working farm next door, and by walking along the abandoned railway of Tilton Cutting, or Botany Bay Fox Covert in Leicestershire. Here too, in Leicester, my writing is supported by an astonishingly generous, active and very developed gathering of writers. I remain convinced that regardless of where we are in the world, of our particular cultural and social realities, the topography of the human heart remains the same everywhere.

The setting in this extract is a village named Old Hope, just after the cutting of the sugar canes. It is the Halfway Season – a period of three or four weeks, just after the rains arrive, that is strongly reminiscent of Spring in England.



Song for Simone, Karia Press, 1986
Behind the Masquerade: The Story of Notting Hill Carnival, Arts Media Group, 1998
A Way to Catch the Dust, Mango Publishing, 2006
Pynter Bender, Harper Collins, Fourth Estate 2009



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