Patrick McGrath (novelist)

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Patrick McGrath
McGrath in 2015
McGrath in 2015
Born (1950-02-07) 7 February 1950 (age 73)
London, England
EducationBirmingham College of Commerce
GenreGothic fiction
(m. 1991)

Patrick McGrath (born 7 February 1950) is a British novelist, whose work has been categorised as gothic fiction.

Early life[edit]

McGrath was born in London and grew up near Broadmoor Hospital from the age of five[1] where his father was Medical Superintendent.[2] He was educated at a Jesuit boarding school in Windsor from the age of thirteen, before moving to another Jesuit public school, Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, upon the closure[1] of his first school. In 1967,[3] at the age of sixteen, he ran away from this institution to London.[1] He graduated from the Birmingham College of Commerce with an honours degree in English and American literature in 1971,[3] awarded externally by the University of London, before his father found him a job later that year in Penetang, Ontario working in the Oakridge top-security unit of the Penetang Mental Health Centre.[3]

He has lived in various parts of North America and also spent several years on a remote island in the North Pacific, before finally settling in New York City in 1981.[4]

McGrath also worked as a teacher of creative writing to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall semester of 2006.[3] He also taught craft courses for a number of years in the MFA program at Hunter College, New York, and since 2007, has taught an MFA program at the New School in New York.[3]

His archive was acquired by the University of Stirling, Scotland.[5]


His fiction is principally characterised by the first person unreliable narrator, and recurring subject matter in his work includes mental illness, repressed homosexuality and adulterous relationships.[6]

His novel Martha Peake won the Premio Flaiano Prize in Italy[7] and Asylum was shortlisted for the 1996 Guardian Fiction Prize.[4]

He is also currently on the writing faculties of both the New School in New York and Princeton University.[3]

Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at Princeton, Joyce Carol Oates, makes the case that McGrath is transcribing the "nightmares of the 'shattered personality' that resonate within us all," calling his short stories "masterful and seductive, ... Bold, original, and disquieting tales are told by narrators who are themselves bizarre (a boot, a fly—to name just two) and are in most cases omniscient."[8]

On 27 June 2018, the University of Stirling, Scotland, conferred on him the degree of Doctor of the University "for Patrick McGrath's outstanding support of academic research."[9]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to actress Maria Aitken and divides his time between London and New York City.[10] He is the oldest of four siblings.[1]


Three of McGrath's novels and one of his stories have been adapted into films, two of which adaptations (Spider, 2002 and The Grotesque, 1995) were written by McGrath himself.[3] The film adaptation for Asylum, 2005 was written by Patrick Marber and a short film made of The Lost Explorer from Blood and Water and Other Tales was adapted by Tim Walker.[3] From The Wardrobe Mistress[11] to the current unnamed novel-in-progress on the Spanish Civil War,[12] McGrath shows increased interest in the fascistic tendencies in international politics and its effects on the psychology of characters. In the former, for example, the main character Joan Grice uncovers the man she had been living with since a long time, recently died, had been in the past a member of Mosley's British Union of Fascists. This revelation is so upsetting that causes her to get crazy, and her mental breakdown is signed by a murderous act. Similarly, in McGrath's Last Days in Cleaver Square (2021), the narrator, an old man called Francis McNulty—a Spanish civil war veteran—is haunted by Francisco Franco's ghost, which appears in his London garden, and later in his bed, too. He is so much obsessed by his hallucinations that at a certain point, while in Madrid, Franco's spirit causes him to commit a bizarre act of atonement.

Other works[edit]

  • Blood and Water and Other Tales (1989) (short-story collection)
  • Ghost Town: Tales of Manhattan Then and Now (2005) (linked short stories)
  • Writing Madness (entire collected short stories from 1989 to 2014, along with four decades of selected criticism; prefaced by Joyce Carol Oates with seven original engravings from Harry Brockway. A 2017 Bram Stoker Award finalist;[13] a 2018 World Fantasy Award winner ("Special Award – Professional").[14]

McGrath has also co-edited and wrote the introduction to a highly influential anthology of short fiction, The New Gothic.[3]

He has published many reviews and essays, including introductions to Barnaby Rudge, Moby Dick, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and In a Glass Darkly.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Mackenzie, Suzie (2 September 2005). "In pursuit of sublime terror". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. ^ Foreword to Penguin edition of Asylum publ 1996
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Oratofsky, Paul. "Patrick McGrath Novels". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b "McGrath, Patrick – ROGERS, COLERIDGE & WHITE". ROGERS, COLERIDGE & WHITE. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Rare Books in Scotland Business Meeting, Thursday 29 October 2015". The National Library of Scotland. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Patrick McGrath |". Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  7. ^ Phillips, Jayne Anne; McGrath, Patrick (1 November 2008). "The state of America after Bush, part 2". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  8. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol (2017). Writing Madness (1st ed.). Lakewood, CO: Centipede Press. pp. 13–17. ISBN 9781613471944.
  9. ^ "Honorary Graduates". University of Stirling. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  10. ^ Rennison, Nick (2005). Contemporary British Novelists. Oxfordshire: Routledge. pp. 91. ISBN 0-203-64468-9 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Olson, Danel (2020). "The Liar, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe: Resisting Political Terror, Anti-Semitism, and Revenants in Patrick's McGrath's _The Wardrobe Mistress_". Patrick McGrath and His Worlds: Madness and the Transnational Gothic: Routledge. pp. 152–166. ISBN 978-1-138-31119-0.
  12. ^ Zlosnik, Sue (2020). "Foreword". Patrick McGrath and His Worlds: Madness and the Transnational Gothic: Routledge. pp. ix–xiii. ISBN 978-1-138-31119-0.
  13. ^ "Announcing The 2017 Bram Stoker Awards Final Ballot Stubby the Rocket Mon". Macmillan. 5 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Patrick McGrath". Science Fiction Awards Database. Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2018.

External links[edit]