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Martin Amis biography

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Martin Amis
Photo: Isabel Fonseca

Martin Amis

How to pronounce Martin Amis: AIM-is

Martin Amis Biography

Martin Amis is the son of another famous British novelist, Kingsley Amis, and although he credits his initial welcome into the publishing world to his father's influence, much has been written about this father and son phenomenon and their relationship as writers, including the story that Amis' father actually stopped halfway through reading his son's novel Money and threw it across the room. In an interview with The Paris Review in 1998, Amis confirmed the story saying, 'I'm almost certain that it was the introduction of a minor character called Martin Amis that caused my father to send the book windmilling through the air.'

His father's disapproval did not dampen Amis' spirits for long though, as he humorously explained: "He didn't like Jane Austen, didn't like Dickens, didn't like Fielding, didn't like Lawrence, didn't like Joyce, didn't like any Americans. And was ill-equipped to judge any of the Russians, the French, the South Americans, etcetera. So I began to feel a bit better about him not liking my stuff either."

Amis certainly gained a reputation for having confidence in his own writing in 1994, demanding (and getting) an unprecedentedly large advance for his novel The Information in the process of which he replaced his publisher Random House and his agent, Pat Kavanagh, wife of another acclaimed literary novelist, Julian Barnes. In the fall-out, novelist A.S. Byatt famously grumbled that Amis was being greedy, "simply because he has a divorce to pay for and has just had all his teeth redone."

Post 9/11, Amis has been outspoken on the subject of Islamic extremism and has faced criticism for suggesting Muslims should "suffer until they get their house in order," and supporting measures such as "strip searching people who look like they are from the Middle East, Pakistan, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children."

On BBC Radio 4 in 2013 he expressed regret for these and other provocative remarks he has made over the years, but given his record and press interest in him, it is not surprising to find that in 2007 The Guardian described him in one paragraph both as "Britain's greatest living author," and "the one time enfant terrible of British literature." Of his singular place as "the British literary maverick," he said at the time, "It's my dream to go from being the bad boy of English letters to the bad man of English letters. I thought that might happen after my father died but it still seems to be with me. So, I'll probably go to my grave as the bad boy of English letters."

With the publication of The Zone of Interest, his sixteenth work of fiction, it appeared that he was right. For in addition to a controversy about this work in Europe, it seemed Amis may have been immortalized in fiction in the work of David Mitchell. Claims that the character Crispin Hershey in Mitchell's novel The Bone Clocks is based on Martin Amis have been part of a long history of press interest that shows little sign of abating as the years go by.


by Kate Braithwaite, written as the "beyond the book" article for BookBrowse's review of The Zone of Interest; updated in 2020.

Martin Amis's website

This bio was last updated on 10/16/2020. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Books by this Author

Books by Martin Amis at BookBrowse
Inside Story jacket The Zone of Interest jacket Lionel Asbo jacket The Pregnant Widow jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Martin Amis but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Julian Barnes

    Julian Barnes

    Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England on January 19, 1946. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated in modern languages (with honors) in ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    House of Meetings

    Try:
    Arthur & George
    by Julian Barnes

  • Saul Bellow

    Saul Bellow

    Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec on June 10, 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    House of Meetings

    Try:
    Ravelstein
    by Saul Bellow

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