Tolkien Jr writes his own book and there's not a hobbit in sight

By James Morrison
Sunday 16 December 2001 01:00

It will forever conjure up images of sweeping fantasies peopled by hobbits and orcs. But 28 years after the death of the author of The Lord of the Rings, the name Tolkien is about to grace the cover of a very different novel.

Simon Tolkien, the grandson of writer JRR, has just secured a six-figure deal with Random House US to publish his first book, a psychological mystery aimed at the American mass market. The thriller, provisionally titled The Stepmother, concerns the teenaged son of a politician who suspects that his father's second wife may have conspired to murder his mother.

News of the deal comes days before the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first instalment of the £210m Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Mr Tolkien, a 42-year-old criminal barrister from west London, said the novel was intended to be a tightly plotted "page-turner", rather than an attempt to imitate the epic adventure qualities of his grandfather's work.

"I think I've got a talent for dialogue and a lot of expertise of what happens in the courtroom, which is very useful for this kind of book," he said. "I like to write books that keep people turning the pages."

He added that, unlike his grandfather who was wary of Hollywood, his agent was already holding talks with "West Coast" studios about the possibility of turning The Stepmother into a movie.

Mr Tolkien said that, while his grandfather had been an inspiration to him as a child, his own literary preoccupations were different. His novel had more in common with the work of the legal thriller-writer John Grisham than those of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

"I've found it quite difficult being the grandson of JRR Tolkien," he said. "People see you as important simply because you are related to someone else.

"I would never write a fantasy book. What I am doing in relation to fiction bears no relation to JRR Tolkien."

News that Mr Tolkien is on the verge of his own publishing success comes after The Independent on Sunday revealed he had been excluded from the board set up to safeguard his grandfather's literary legacy following a family row. His father, Christopher, has refused to speak to him since he gave his blessing to the Lord of the Rings films three years ago.

The pair have subsequently been in dispute over other, unrelated, issues, about which Mr Tolkien has declined to comment further. These are believed to revolve around the division of the family estate.

Reiterating his claim that he was disowned for daring to disagree with his father, Mr Tolkien described his treatment as "morally unjustifiable", saying: "My grandfather died when I was 13 and was very fond of me, because I was the child of the family at the time. I think that if he knew how I was being treated now he would have been appalled."

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