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Alex Matthews is another pen name of D. M. Mitchell, who was born in Yorkshire in the Dark Ages (OK, late 1950s). His hometown was a Yorkshire mining town, which has since suffered due to the pit closures following the Miner’s Strike of the 1980s. Back then, it was a thriving place. Home was usually a small back-to-back, and up until the 1970s they didn’t have inside toilets or bathrooms. So bath night was a galvanised tub brought in from the outside, with pots of water warmed on the fire and boiled in kettles. DM was the eldest of 6 children, and so he had to share his bath with a brother or two.
There was never much money. His father – a Polish man who was wounded fighting for the British during World War Two – worked for British Railways at a small station in Mexborough. He wanted his son to follow in his footsteps ‘making tea and doing next to nothing,’ as he put it. He avoided that career advice. But though money was always scarce, DM loved being with his two younger brothers, walking, cycling, getting lost, running around the dark alleys and streets until late and enjoying the kind of freedoms a lot of youngsters today sadly miss out on.
He was always the odd one out, especially at school. From an early age, he developed artistic skills that set him apart from the others – being creative in those days, and in that kind of environment, was largely frowned upon by your peers, so he had to learn to run fast and hide good from the many school toughs! He was writing stories in primary school, and never stopped. At the age of 10, his teacher prophesised he would one day become a writer, but it took him until he was going grey to finally realise that little prediction.
Being the eldest, (unable to attend art college where he had already secured a place) he had to leave school and get a job at 16 in order to bring money in to support the family. His first job was in a cycle-parts warehouse. He still has the cycle built for him by his manager, which, incidentally, is the cycle Vince rides in DM’s novel ‘Mouse’. After that, it was a quick succession of jobs – cinema projectionist, DIY store, printers, jewellers, supermarket, selling toys, second-hand books and antiques, flogging alarm systems, women’s underwear and badly made jerseys – he’s done it all!
He married - one of the best days of his life - and has three, now grown-up, children, whose births gave him the next best days of his life. He finally went to college in the 1990s, giving up a shelf-filler’s job in a supermarket to take his degree, graduating at the age of 40 with a First Class degree (which is currently filed away in his underpants and sock drawer). By this time, he’d already written a number of novels, each of them receiving good reviews from publishers and agents, but none making it over the final hurdle and getting published. In the meantime, he found work in the charity sector and moved down to Somerset in the South West of England where he gradually moved up the food chain to become something of a senior manager.
In 2011, his novel, Max, was published, which sold very well and received good reviews, getting into the top 30 bestsellers and prompting him to write and publish more. He’s been doing it ever since. A number of his books have since become bestsellers, and one of them (The Soul Fixer) was earmarked for a Hollywood movie.