A popular novelist more likely to be selected by tv hosts Richard and Judy (twice) than the judges of the Booker or Costa (never), Patrick Gale explores gay and straight characters' fraught ties with their biological relations and more hopeful futures with their makeshift, chosen families. The comic brio of his early work -- his debut The Aerodynamics of Pork was published simultaneously with his second novel in June 1986, when he was 24 -- gradually gave way to a more contemplative, poignant tone in later work. A major turning point was Rough Music [Kindle] in 2000, the first time he used the autobiographical detail of a father who is a prison governor and was rewarded with his widest readership and best reviews: "a masterstoke" (New Statesman); "a triumph" (The Times); and this from Richard Canning in the Independent:
"Patrick Gale is among the great, unsung English novelists. He has written a dozen books, each confirming a remarkable insight into his chosen subject, the vagaries of the human heart. His works attract large readerships – mostly women or gay men – drawn by the witty, pathos-filled analyses of how we conduct relationships, both within the family and outside. His novels form a quiet gathering, not a series of brash entrances. They impress confidently but gently, like those of the closest of his peers, Barbara Trapido, Helen Dunmore and Colm Tóibin…. If Rough Music sounds dark, it is rather – but marvellously so. Gripping, elegant and wise, it is Gale’s best book to date, and should not be missed."
Another breakthorough came three books later, in 2007, with his tv book club bestseller Notes from an Exhibition about the family of a brilliant bipolar artist mother. Again, high praise: "unutterably moving" (Daily Express), "quietly radiant intelligence, craft and integrity...powerful and surprising" (Sunday Times), "uplifting, immensely empathetic" (Guardian), "dense, thought-provoking, sensitive, satisfying, humorous, humane - a real treat" (Telegraph). A troubled character from that book reappears, happier, in his most recent novel A Perfectly Good Man, about the extended family of a priest who assists a young suicide. It was another R&J pick, a finalist for the Stonewall UK book award (losing to Winterson), and co-winner of the Green Carnation Prize (with Moffie). In 2000 he published a short biography of his friend Armistead Maupin, and last summer in a Guardian piece, Gale said Maupin "taught me that fiction need not thump tubs to change opinions and that a gently comic tone can work wonders."
A graduate of New College, Oxford, an avid gardener, chef, cellist, and whippet walker, he has lived in his beloved Cornwall for many years on a farm near Land's End with his husband Aidan Hicks.