Meet the writers: Joe Thomas

From poets shortlisted for prestigious awards to novelists being adapted for television – this week we will spotlight five local writers making their mark on the literary scene. Today we speak with Joe Thomas

Gita Ralleigh, Ayisha Malik, Aea Varfis-van Warmelo, Caroline Druitt and Joe Thomas. Collage by Dara Coker

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas‘ latest novel, White Riot, was written as a “love letter to London, seething with outrage”, by The Times. Set in Hackney, the birthplace of the 45-year-old, it explores the themes of power and corruption. Thomas’ 2020 novel Bent was listed in The Guardian’s best books of 2020.

Joe Thomas. Pic: Oliver Holms

Three words to describe London’s writing scene?

Vibrant, changing, questing.

What are you working on at the moment? 

My current project is a series of novels – White Riot (2023), Red Menace (2024) and True Blue (2024) – about police corruption, institutional racism, the devastating effects of Thatcherism, and the counter-cultural movement of the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s. The novels are set in Hackney and Tower Hamlets from Rock Against Racism in Victoria Park to the Poll Tax Riots via Live Aid and the Wapping Dispute and show the divisive roots of gentrification, and they prefigure the political division of contemporary Britain.

Where do you write? 

I teach at City University and generally work at my desk there.

What book has left a lasting impression on you?

I think the books of David Peace and James Ellroy have most obviously influenced my writing in terms of their use of factual material to tell illuminating truths in a stylish and complex fashion. I’m currently reading Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks, a wonderful and inspiring London novel that is all those things.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your writing? 

Real life, particularly in terms of structural corruption and power.

Follow our series, Reading Between the Lines, this week to read more about literature across our boroughs and tomorrow meet writers Ayisha Malik and Aea Varfis-van Warmelo

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