Jon Haylett is the author of two novels. 'Cry of the Justice Bird' and 'Black Mongoose', both published by PaperBooks. He is also a short story writer who has won the Bridport Prize (2003) and the V L Pritchett Prize awarded by the Royal Society of Literature (2004). Now resident in Scotland, he writes a blog about the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, A Kilchoan Diary, and writes and publishes guides to, and histories of the local area.
Jon was born in Dar-es-Salaam, and was brought up in Dar-es-Salaam and Mombasa. He was educated in the UK, at Glengorse School and Bradfield College, took a degree in Geology and Political Institutions at the University of Keele, and gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Bristol University.
He and his wife Gill taught for twenty-seven years, in Rhodesia, Ludlow, Jamaica and Essex, Jon finishing his career as Senior Teacher at The Plume School in Maldon. They then bought The Ferry Stores in Kilchoan, a remote village at the western end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in Scotland.
Jon has written ten novels and some 40 short stories, many of which have been successful in international competitions. His books, 'Cry of the Justice Bird' and 'Black Mongoose', have been published as paperbacks and as ebooks. They are available from Amazon and from all major bookstores.
Born in Dar-es-Salaam in what was then Tanganyika Territory, Jon moved to Mombasa in 1950. His father was a ships' agent, his mother a shorthand typist. At the age of nine he was sent to prep, and then public school in England, returning to Mombasa for the summer holidays. His parents retired to Sussex when he was sixteen, while he went on to study Geology & Political Institutions at Keele University, and later took a PGCE at Bristol.
His life has been formed by movement, by changing scenery, new people and new places. Early on, as well as travelling within East Africa, his family went 'on leave' to the UK by air – in the early days the journey took three days – or by ship, via Suez or the Cape, those journey taking four and six weeks respectively. In his teens he became a great hitch-hiker, travelling thousands of miles across Central, North and East Africa. Ever since, with his wife, Gill, he has moved, living in Central Africa, the Caribbean and in wild places like Shropshire, Essex and Scotland.
Gill and Jon have not seen the world as tourists but from amongst a population with whom they worked. Early on, teaching enabled this through overseas contracts. In 1996 they broke from the regime of schools and launched into business, buying a village store on a remote peninsula in the beautiful West Highlands of Scotland.
Jon says, “Africa's influence is like the malaria I had many years ago. It stays in the bloodstream, it's unseen, it never goes away. African memories don't fade: the heat and vivid landscapes, the great, wide skies, the smell of dust and the fiery sunsets. As a child I spoke Swahili as fluently as I spoke English, and spent more of my day in the company of Africans than with my parents. Almost all my writing celebrates that enigmatic continent, that raw land of contrasts and the unpredictable, and its wonderful people.”
The writers who have influenced him come from two distinct groups. The first is the great adventurers, the wanderers, who wrote about what they had seen and achieved: men like TE Lawrence, Wilfed Thesiger, Thor Heyerdahl, the old African hunters and explorers JA Hunter and Lieut-Col JA Patterson, and African missionaries like Robert Moffat. The second group includes the best writers of adventure fiction, starting with the great H Rider-Haggard and continuing through novelists such as Alistair MacLean, Nevil Shute and Hammond Innes.