Book Reviews

Interview with Jon Mayhew


If you can’t wait for The Demon Collector there are FREE and terrific  downloadable stories available on the MORTLOCK website.










Jon! Am so excited about The Demon Collectors, did you mind me nagging you and nagging you for a copy?

Yes, I had to go to anger-management counselling to calm down and my left eyelid still twitches in an awkward way when I think about it, look!

I’d like to say I’m sorry but I’m so not,  I loved it. How do you feel about it? It’s your



second book, when your first, Mortlock, pretty much established you as a brilliant writer of creepy , fantastic tales  – were you nervous?

Very. I was putting the finishing touches to the Demon Collector as the reviews for Mortlock came in and I thought, “I just can’t match this.” I was quite down about it until Ele, my lovely editor at Bloomsbury contacted me to say that she loved it. I’m kind of at that stage with book 3 now.

Oooo, book three, is it nearly finished?  Could I have a copy? Uh oh, your left eyelid is twitching, urm, moving swiftly on… back to the book, the demons all sound very realistic , did you do a lot of research?

I did the basic internet stuff and then got hold of some texts on demons and riddles. Paradise Lost inspired me again. I love the scene in which Satan gathers all the fallen angels around him and they decide how best to fight God. Moloch was the demon who wanted to go back and start the battle again and he plays a crucial role in the book.

Other demons came from my imagination, as did the ‘folk tales’ that punctuate the book.

I loved those folk tales and the riddles, they root the book, lend it a kind of history;  it feels like a classic book. Is it true, about the riddles and the idea that demons are supposed to be related to the seven deadly sins?

Some demons did seem to be attached to certain types of sin, not necessarily a ‘deadly sin.’ Some were meant to encourage curiosity or over-confidence. In different cultures, however, the attachments become blurred and swapped around.
The use of riddles felt natural and the idea came from a long line of ballads called ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded.’ In these, a maiden has to answer a series of riddles to protect her virtue from a mysterious elfin or magical would-be lover. Scarborough Fair is the most well-known version. But some versions have her battling to save her soul.

There’s also a whole series of ‘False Knight on the Road’ ballads in which a little boy meets a demon in disguise and has to enter into a battle of wits or be taken away.


What did you think of my horse riddle? Did you get it? It was Nag! Ok so in a  battle of wits between me and a demon, I’d be dead wouldn’t I?  Think I’d be better of being one than battling one – if you were a demon – what would you be?

I would probably be a demon of sloth… if I could be bothered…

Do you have any suspicions about any one you know?

Hmmm. Well I know a few demons of envy… And some of gluttony too. I haven’t met a demon of lust yet…




Do you think we should run a demon poll, see what turns up? What are the seven deadly sins – sloth, greed, lechery…urm….

That might be fun: Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, Lust, Envy, Pride, Greed.

But in the 17th century, sloth replaced despair which I think is rather funny (in a warped way) It was more a question of semantics and interpretation but clearly there was appoint in time when it was no longer a sin to be miserable but it was a sin not to work hard! Wonder which boss thought that one up?

I think that might have been my dad. You deal with some pretty big stuff in this book – the way humans have obliterated species, judge everything by their own standards. You exorcising any of your own demons in writing it?

In a way. I always watch and read the News with mounting disbelief at the ability of mankind to find new ways to make others suffer. Every day brings more inhumanity, hence the questions Demon Collector raises.

I also have something of a bee in my bonnet about the way we as a nation sell our culture so cheaply. The riddles that the demons value were part of an oral tradition of music and story that has been largely lost and fragmented. Our culture has been boiled down to the cross of St George but how many people know what happens in the Mummer’s play featuring our patron saint? How many of us know what a mummer’s play is? So maybe the demons are a metaphor for our own culture and identity. It’s an important point because if we did know our musical and story traditions, we’d realise how much we have in common with our ‘celtic’ neighbours and the rest of the people of Europe! (Rant over)

You make a good point. I wonder if we felt more grounded in our own culture we’d be less afraid of others?

I like to think so. I think Britain is very accepting of other cultures but mocks and devalues its own. As a result we leave ourselves open to false ideas of what being ‘British’ or ‘English’ is and they’re usually unpleasant ones!

Thanks so much for talking to me Jon, now, about Book 3, you know, I could check it over for spelling mistakes…

Oy! Put that back! No peeking!

Oh alright then – how about setting us a riddle to be going on with?

Okeydokey! How about:

Riddle 1: What goes up a mountain and down a mountain but never moves?

Riddle 2: What has a front and sides but no back?

Answers in comments please. Let’s see how many of you would win in a Demon Battle of Wits.


8 thoughts on “Interview with Jon Mayhew”

  1. Brilliant interview – you’re both wonderful!
    1. A mountain track
    2. a hospital gown (or a gownless evening strap, I mean a backless evening dress)
    Right, I want a prize – how about a copy of The Demon Collector! 😉

  2. That’s the most entertaining interview I’ve read in ages – thank you both and thank you Mr Mayhew for reminding us to appreciate our cultures and traditions.
    As for the riddles:
    Number one is the mountain path and number two is the sea! Do I get the prize?! I’m slightly addicted to books about demons…

    1. Yay! We have a winner – only there isn’t a prize – I only have one copy of Demon Collector and you wouldn’t want it – it’s covered in gravy and tea stains and a few spots of blood where I walked into a bush while reading it….

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