Welcome to my website. I am a freelance writer, editor and researcher, the author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War, and a blogger and public speaker. Here you will find:
27 February 2014: Somme feature in El Pais highlights Tolkien and the Great War.
2014: Tolkien and the Great War to be published in German by Klett-Cotta (24 March), audiobook from Der Hörverlag; and in Spanish by Minotauro (June). Here co-translator Marcel Aubron-Bülles talks about the job, in German.
2014: I talk on location about Tolkien’s war in a BBC TV documentary on writers on the Somme.
6 April 2014: Founder’s Day talk on Tolkien, Exeter College, Oxford.
25 May 2014: International History Festival, Gorizia, Italy.
2–9 August 2014: I teach a week’s course on Tolkien and Oxford with Dr Maria Artamonova for the Oxford University Summer School for Adults, focusing on his backgrounds as a war writer and academic.
20 February 2014: Le Monde reviews ‘le passionant essai Tolkien et la Grande Guerre’ in a (subscription-only) piece on the literary impact of the war.
February 2014: Blog posts: Sam Gamgee and Tolkien’s batmen (now also in Portuguese) and The Tolkien brothers of Bumble Dell.
— The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessmentnow in paperback and ebook. Includes several contributions by me.
Journalism includes interviews with Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Carnegie-winning author Alan Garner (both pictured below by Joby Sessions) and recent features on the summer 2013 Bodleian exhibition, ash dieback, and the digital future of the Oxford English Dictionary.
I have also interviewed Newbery-winning novelist Susan Cooper, polemicist Naomi Wolf, Pulitzer winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Cook, and Britain’s most decorated living soldier Sir Tommy Macpherson, among many others. I first trained as a reporter on local papers in London.
Book reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, The Evening Standard, The Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere, dealing with modern historical fiction, contemporary short stories, fantasy, medieval literature, literary reference, biography, and lexicography.
Editing experience spans new media, newspapers and books. I was an Evening Standard sub-editor for many years, and I have copy-edited Agatha Christie, Simon Tolkien, Greg Iles and Jack Higgins for HarperCollins.
Research for Tolkien and the Great War took me to Oxford’s Bodleian Library where I examined Tolkien’s personal papers; to the British Library; to the National Archives at Kew; and to the battlefields of the Somme. I researched and wrote the chronology for Agatha Christie’s The Grand Tour, about her round-the-world 1922 trip, filling gaps she left in her account. Other topics include the lives of many friends and connections of Tolkien, particularly R.Q. Gilson, an artist and junior officer killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. I have traced my family to the early 18th century, and have used genealogy extensively in other biographical research.
6 January: Review, Peter Lewis’s A Rogue’s Gallery, Oxford Today.
6 December: Review, Ian Wilson’s Little Dictionary of Big Words You Should Know, for Oxford Today.
5 December: Lire special issue previews Tolkien et la Grande Guerre, with extract.
25 November: Report on the JFK anniversary talk by biographers Randall Woods and Godfrey Hodgson at Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute.
22 November: Tolkien Brasil gives me a regular guest column.
20 November: My appreciation of artist and friend Pauline Baynes – guest column at JJ Books.
14 November: Launch of Exeter College: The First 700 Years, including my contribution on ‘The Undergraduate Tolkien’.
13 November: On The Oxfordians, a new art group, for Oxford Today.
8 November: Talk to the Oxford Tolkien Society on how Tolkien’s experience in the First World War shaped Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
3 November: Long-form feature on the coincidental deaths of JFK, CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley 50 years ago at the Daily Beast. Previously presented as a talk to the Oxford CS Lewis Society and in short form in Oxford Today. I was later interviewed on the topic by Al Jazeera English.
24 October: Review of Alison Brackenbury's poetry collection Then, in Oxford Today.
17 October: Talk: Tolkien’s Dead Marshes, National Army Museum.
16 October: joined Twitter as @JohnGarthWriter.
6 October: ‘Battle of the Somme: the “animal horror” that inspired JRR Tolkien.’ In the Sunday Telegraph’s First World War supplement.
4 October: I talk to the Foreign Office’s Foreign Policy Counsellor in Washington, Jennifer Cole OBE, about her time at Oxford.
27 September: Online for the first time, my article Tolkien and the boy who didn’t believe in fairies, which uncovers the encounter that first taught him fairy-stories are not kids’ stuff. With previously unseen pictures. Now available in Spanish.
September: My Evening Standard article ‘Tolkien fantasy was born in trenches of the Somme’ is now in Portuguese.
31 August: I talk to Newbery medallist Susan Cooper on her new novel Ghost Hawk, at The Daily Beast.
29 July: Talk on Tolkien, British Studies at Oxford summer school, St John’s College.
29 July: Interviewed by Malcolm Boyden on BBC Radio Oxford on the 59th birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring.
3 July: Launched Facebook page, John Garth, writer.
July: Interview with outgoing Oxford English Dictionary editor John Simpson, in Blueprint. Read here.
July: Review of The Broken Scythe: Death and Immortality in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, in Tolkien Studies 10. Read here (Project Muse subscription only).
21 March: Opening talk at the Oxford Tolkien Spring School, on Tolkien’s life.
March: Visited the Oxford Literary Festival for Oxford Today, hearing Alister McGrath on C.S. Lewis and Lucy Hughes-Hallett on her Samuel Johnson Prize-winning biography of proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio.
— Reviewed Mark Atherton’s There and Back Again, on Tolkien and The Hobbit.
5 February: Talk on Tolkien, Oxford C.S. Lewis Society.
25 January: Reviewed Prajwal Parajuly’s The Gurkha’s Daughter, The Guardian.
January: Interviewed on BBC Online and ITV Meridian on Tolkien’s birthday.
December: Interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford’s James Cannon Show on the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
October: Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s only print interview from her historic 2012 visit to Britain — in Oxford Today, alongside my interviews with £75million university bursary donor Michael Moritz and biographer Michael Korda.
30 September: Gave a talk on Tolkien via live video feed to the National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.
19 August: At the Tolkien Society’s Return of the Ring conference I spoke about Tolkien’s close friend Rob Gilson and took part in a panel discussion about research.
3 August: Spoke on the BBC Radio 4 documentary Tolkien in Love about J.R.R. Tolkien’s reunion with his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt, their marriage, and their wartime separation.
16 June: Hungarian Tolkien Society conference in Budapest: talk on how the First World War shaped the portrayal of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Published in Hungarian in J.R.R. Tolkien: Fantázia és erköles, ed. Dr Pődör Dóra, Nagy Andrea and Füzessy Tamás.
15 June: Q&A with Michael Martinez of the Middle-earth and JRR Tolkien News website.
For older publications and appearances, please visit the relevant pages via the navigation bar at the top of this page.