Michael Cox was born in Northamptonshire in 1948. After graduating from Cambridge in 1971, he went into the music business as a songwriter and recording artist, releasing two albums and a number of singles for EMI under the name Matthew Ellis and a further album, as Obie Clayton, for the DJM label. In 1977, he took a job in publishing, with the Thorsons Publishing Group (now part of HarperCollins). In 1989, he joined Oxford University Press, where he became Senior Commissioning Editor, Reference Books.
His first book, a widely praised biography of the scholar and ghost-story writer M.R. James, was published by OUP in 1983. This was followed by a number of Oxford anthologies of short fiction, including The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (1986) and The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories (1991), both co-edited with R.A. Gilbert, The Oxford Book of Victorian Detective Stories (1992), and The Oxford Book of Spy Stories (1997). In 1991 he compiled A Dictionary of Writers and their Works for OUP and in 2002 The Oxford Chronology of English Literature, a major scholarly resource containing bibliographical information on 30,000 titles from 4,000 authors, 14742000.
In April 2004, he began to lose his sight as a result of cancer. In preparation for surgery he was prescribed a steroidal drug, one of the effects of which was to initiate a temporary burst of mental and physical energy. This, combined with the stark realization that his blindness might return if the treatment wasn't successful, spurred Michael finally to begin writing in earnest the novel that he had been contemplating for over thirty years, and which up to then had only existed as a random collection of notes, drafts, and discarded first chapters. Following surgery, work continued on what is now The Meaning of Night, and in January 2005, after a hotly contested UK auction, it was sold to John Murray.
The Glass of Time, a sequel to The Meaning of Night was published in 2008.
He died in March 2009 at the age of 60. The cause was hemangiopericytoma, a rare vascular cancer.
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What were your major influences when writing The Meaning of Night?
David Copperfield (with the original illustrations), quickly followed by Great Expectations, started my love affair with mid-Victorian fiction when I was eleven or twelve years old. I've been reading and researching Victorian fiction ever since, and constantly return to my original favourites Dickens (all), Wilkie Collins (all, but especially The Woman in White, The Moonstone, and Armadale), J.S. Le Fanu (Uncle Silas), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Lady Audley's Secret) and to the shorter fiction with which the magazines from the mid 1850s, like Temple Bar and Belgravia, are replete.
My literary taste has been shaped by these mid-Victorian authors, and by later professional storytellers, such as Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Buchan, and Rafael Sabatini, who followed them. Mix in a love of Victorian ghost stories, together with nineteenth- and early twentieth-century detective stories, and you have a pretty good idea of the novel's fictional foundations. Indeed, I rarely read anything published post-1930 (though I am a great admirer of Sarah Waters, the Flashman novels of George MacDonald Fraser, and of Tracy Chevalier's Fallen ...
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